Central cities are booming all over the US as Americans rediscover the benefits of walkable urbanism. But the boom isn’t confined to only big cities. Smaller cities are also enjoying a renaissance of their own.

Here are ten little cities near DC with genuinely great urbanism.


Frederick photo by Gray Lensman QX! on Flickr.



Frederick, MD: With stately historic buildings, fancy restaurants, rowhouse neighborhoods, and the best riverwalk in the region, Frederick is a bona fide quality city.


Hagerstown photo by J Brew on Flickr.


Hagerstown, MD: Less fancy and more blue-collar compared to Frederick, Hagerstown’s solid core of 19th Century streets is more like Baltimore than DC.


Cumberland photo by Dave Olsen on Flickr.


Cumberland, MD: If Frederick is a mini DC and Hagerstown a mini Baltimore, Cumberland with its sharply rising hills and narrow valleys is a mini Pittsburgh.


Annapolis photo by Charlie Stinchcomb on Flickr.


Annapolis, MD: With its baroque street grid, 18th Century state house, and as the home of the Naval Academy, Annapolis was an impressive town years before DC existed.


Winchester Handley Library photo by m01229 on Flickr.


Winchester, VA: Winchester has a successful pedestrian mall, and the most gorgeous library in Virginia.


Charlottsville photo by Ben G on Flickr.


Charlottesville, VA: Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall is even more successful than Winchester’s, while the University of Virginia contributes The Corner, an interesting student ghetto neighborhood, and Thomas Jefferson’s famous Lawn.


Staunton photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.


Staunton, VA: 19th Century warehouse town sister to nearby Charlottesville’s academic village.


Fredericksburg photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.


Fredericksburg, VA: Similar in size and scale to Old Town Alexandria, if it were 50 miles from DC instead of right across the river.


York photo by Joseph on Flickr.


York, PA: Probably the most substantial city on this list, York is a veritable museum of 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century buildings. And its surrounding Amish countryside offers an object lesson in sharing the road.


Gettysburg photo by Tom Hart on Flickr.


Gettysburg, PA: The battlefield is justifiably more famous, but downtown Gettysburg is a charming little place, often overlooked.

Not enough? Don’t miss Ellicott City, Manassas, Leesburg, Martinsburg, Warrenton, Front Royal, Culpeper, Harrisonburg, Brunswick, Harper’s Ferry, and many more.

To qualify for this list, I excluded cities large enough to have tall buildings downtown (sorry Baltimore, Richmond, Harrisburg, and Wilmington) and any city close enough to DC be accessible via Metro (Alexandria, Silver Spring, Kensington, etc). Otherwise the list is essentially subjective.

We first ran this post about two years ago, but we wanted to share it again!

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.