Two of 2015's best small towns are just a few hours away

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Two of 2015's best small towns are just a few hours away

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Ga. Department of Economic Development
Tourists usually come to St. Simons Island to play golf, but the pristine salt marshes, abundant wildlife and historic sites make it more than just a resort for the sport of kings. C0769 St. Simons Island

Large cities are great places to visit, but they’re not everyone’s glass of tea.

If you prefer to spend your vacation somewhere smaller, you’re in luck – two of Smithsonian.com’s Best Small Towns 2015 are within four hours of Atlanta.

Smithsonian.com says it “worked with the geographical information company Esri to sort the nation’s small towns (those with a population under 20,000) according to their number of cultural attractions, historical sites, nature opportunities and food-and-drink destinations, then researched to find the places commemorating important anniversaries, openings, renovations, recoveries and other milestones in 2015.”

The number assigned to each small town, Smithsonian says, is not a ranking. That being said, Nos. 8 and 10 are close to home.

No. 8 on the list is Sevierville, Tennessee.

Hometown of country music icon Dolly Parton, Sevierville is about 3 1/2 hours from Atlanta and just minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains — America's most-visited national park. 

In addition to Dollywood, Parton's namesake theme park, visitors can take a zipline tour or explore colorful caves and underwater rivers

Sevierville is also home of the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, which includes aircraft from World War II and other conflicts.

If you're more a beachcomber than a mountain climber, head south for the No. 10 best small town: St. Simons Island.

St. Simons is more than just beaches; there is a lot of history packed in its 18 square miles.

In addition to the ruins of a British colony at Fort Frederica National Monument, you can explore one of the oldest churches in America, the 275-year-old Christ Church Frederica.

St. Simons is also home to Ebos Landing, where a group of slaves rebelled against captivity and drowned themselves in a creek in 1807.

The St. Simons Lighthouse is a must-see on the island. Climb the 129 steps to the top, and you'll be rewarded with views of neighboring Jekyll Island, the mainland (Brunswick) and the south end of the island.

And there's golf. St. Simons has two public courses. If you include nearby communities, however, there are more than 200 holes to be played.

So whether you head north to the mountains or south to the beach — or both — living in the big city makes it easy to visit two of the best small towns in the country.

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