There’s a trove of unique fashions, handmade products and quirky Americana on offer in small towns from coastal Maine to California wine country. Furthermore, setting out to shop is an opportunity to connect not only with a region’s heritage but also with vibrant communities. You’ll come upon mom-and-pop shops on Main Streets as well as flea markets buzzing with live music. And we suspect you’ll return home loaded up with keepsakes—original, affordable and authentic to a place.
Shaped by ancient glaciers, the mid-coast is quintessential Maine: lobster shacks, lighthouses and seaside villages. Take Wiscasset, about 45 miles northeast of Portland; its charms include historic homes and shops such as Birch (72 Main St.; 207-522-4045). A couple opened it in 2016 and have embraced nautical chic by stocking linens and accessories that draw from the surrounding seascape. North on scenic Route 1, Indian Trail Antiques (23 Indian Trail Rd., Newcastle; 207-586-5000) is a red barn with vintage machinery and furniture dating back to the 1700s. In Rockland, the arts scene includes two museums but also Archipelago: The Island Institute Store (386 Main St.; 207-596-0701), which has featured hundreds of Maine artists, including Lisa Hall, known for her sea-glass jewelry. Fourtwelve (412 Main St., Rockland; 207-596-2412), a few doors down, sells denim and organic cotton fashions.
Sonoma County, California
Wine, first and foremost, attracts visitors to Sonoma County—and you can meet winemakers as well as chefs and artisans in one open-air marketplace at The Barlow (6770 McKinley St.; 707-824-5600), in Sebastopol. Within the market, La Follette’s on-site tasting room is notable for its pinot noir and for its bocce court. Two other standouts: William Cofield Cheesemakers for British-style cheese, and Soap Cauldron for small-batch bath products. In Santa Rosa, Made Local Marketplace (529 Fourth St.; 707-583-7667) has ballooned from 35 to more than 600 vendors who display everything from handwoven scarves to pottery. For fine-dining accessories, head to Lime Stone (315 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-433-3080), a shop in Healdsburg with stemware, place mats and throws sourced by chef Charlie Palmer and his wife, Lisa. And for that boho coastal look, you can try on maxi dresses at Petaluma’s Ooh La Luxe (109 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, or 1019B Santa Rosa Plaza, Santa Rosa; 707-774-6494), owned by twin sisters with a taste for California-made.
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Staunton’s Beverley Street has been singled out with a Great American Main Street award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Your shop hopping should include three stops, starting with Black Swan (1 E. Beverley St.; 540-712-0123). First-edition reads as well as rare records fill the music and book shop’s interior. Redwood & Co. (10 E. Beverley St.; 540-569-2191) launched with a line of soaps made from goat milk and essential oils and has added home furnishings to the mix. And Made by the People for the People (15 E. Beverley St.; 540-255-6870) considers itself a modern general store. If you’re detouring north to Harrisonburg, swing by The Lady Jane Shop (117 S. Main St.; 540-421-3252) for vintage clothes. On Saturdays you can grab lunch at the Farmers Market (228 S. Liberty St.; 540-476-3377) a few blocks away—after all that shopping, you’ve earned a little downtime.
Greenville, South Carolina
An exciting food scene is bubbling up in this Blue Ridge Mountain town, with notable restaurant openings such as an outpost of Sean Brock’s Husk. For Southern flavors you can bring back with you, head to The Cook’s Station (659 S. Main St.; 864-250-0091) on South Main Street to browse biscuit mixes, rubs and grits—plus dinnerware. The family-run business even offers cooking classes. A neighboring mainstay, Joe’s Place (640 S. Main St., Suite 101B; 864-558-0828) is the kind of indie bookstore that hosts game nights and sells art by area talent. A few blocks over, creative types work along the Reedy River at Art Crossing Studios (300 River St.). Mark Mulfinger, for example, produces batik fabrics often inspired by nearby sights such as the Brandon Mill water tower. Back on South Main Street, The Pink Azalea (17 S. Main St.; 864-233-2919) is monogram central (conveniently available the same day).
Ann Arbor, Michigan
After 11 years teaching in New York City, University of Michigan grad Diana Marsh returned to Ann Arbor to pursue her dream of opening a store stocked with jewelry, vintage collectibles and beauty products, to name a few. Today you can visit her at Thistle & Bess (222 N. Fourth Ave.; 734-369-6092), in historic Kerrytown. It’s a short walk to Today Clothing (215 S. Fourth Ave.; 734-548-8301), whose menswear selection is curated by Michigan natives Kevin Pearson and Eric Hardin. Turn two corners to up your accessories game with bold silk ties at The Pangborn Collection (335 S. Main St.; 734-214-1200). On Sundays, April through December, Kerrytown has the added appeal of the Artisan Market (315 Detroit St.; 734-913-9622), with open-air stalls (for viewing pottery, candles and other handmade products) as well as live music and food. Cherry Republic (223 S. Main St.; 734-585-5231) finds all kinds of inventive uses for northern Michigan’s famous bounty, from flavored wines to mustards.
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Generations of craftspeople and artists have made their homes among the small towns of the Berkshires. In Lenox, the Hoadley Gallery (21 Church St.; 413-637-2814) reflects the good taste of Stephanie and Thomas Hoadley (a noted potter). Here, shoppers can examine glassware, paintings and textiles. It’s a six-mile drive to Charles H. Baldwin & Sons (1 Center St.; 413-232-7785), in West Stockbridge. The owner’s family has been producing pure vanilla extract the same way—using beans sourced from Madagascar and aging the liquid in oak barrels—since 1888. Novelties await at Williamstown’s Where’d You Get That?! (100 Spring St.; 413-458-2206), where the whimsical kids’ toys and gifts induce smiles. The Berkshires’ modern side is on display at Germain (635 S. Main St.; 413-644-8868), in Great Barrington. The studio–meets–retail space showcases the talents of interior designer Elena Letteron and fashion designer Anne Johnston Albert.
RCI® affiliated resorts near the featured destinations include:
Surrounded by a championship golf course with sweeping views of West Penobscot Bay. 220 Warrenton St., Rockport, ME
Plenty of outdoor space-an expansive lawn and a picnic and play area-to keep children entertained. 733 Post Rd., Wells, ME
After a day of horseback riding on-property, cozy up on your private balcony overlooking the mountains. 276 Brodie Mountain Rd., Hancock, MA
Seemingly endless activities, including an on-site miniature-golf course, tennis courts and a game center. 190 Meadow St., South Lee, MA
A Blue Ridge Mountain getaway with units that sleep up to 12. 1822 Resort Dr., McGaheysville, VA
Shares amenities with Woodstone at Massanutten. 1822 Resort Dr., McGaheysville, VA
For member reviews and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.
Non-RCI affiliated resorts in some of the featured destinations include:
Metro Hotel and Café
Eclectic French-inspired accommodations that include two Airstreams. 508 Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma, CA; 707-773-4900; metrolodging.com; doubles from $109 a night
Pettigru Place Bed & Breakfast
A redbrick historic home with a garden in downtown. 302 Pettigru St., Greenville, SC; 864-242-4529; pettigruplace.com; doubles from $140 a night
The Kensington Hotel
A pet-friendly option with 200 rooms. 3500 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI; 800-344-7829; kcourtaa.com; doubles from $109 a night
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: Fall 2017