A small town in North Carolina is “big on charm” — and ranks No. 1 in the state.

Blowing Rock, nestled in the mountains, tops the list of places that offer visitors unique experiences in a smaller setting, according to results published March 6.

To create the list of best small towns, Southern Living partnered with researchers at Proof Insights to conduct an online survey. More than 20,000 readers voted on their favorite destinations across the region from July 12 to Aug. 23, 2023, the magazine told McClatchy News in an email.

Southern Living, which mainly focused on places with no more than 50,000 residents, said the highest-ranking town in each state won a South’s Best award. The magazine praised the winners for being “small in size” but “big on charm.”

A small town in Western North Carolina ranks No. 1 in the state. This file photo was taken in 2006.

A small town in Western North Carolina ranks No. 1 in the state. This file photo was taken in 2006.

“The one thing they have in common? They’re all worth a trip, so put them on your bucket list and plan a road trip this year,” the magazine wrote in its report.

What makes Blowing Rock a fan favorite?

Blowing Rock — home to roughly 1,000 people — reigned supreme in North Carolina as it received a nod for its dining options and proximity to outdoor scenery.

“Follow the Blue Ridge Parkway for beautiful mountain panoramas, or stay in town for ice cream from Kilwin’s and your choice of laid-back dinner spots,” the magazine wrote. “Legend has it that author Jan Karon based her Mitford series on Blowing Rock — visit, and experience the charm for yourself.”

In an article that was updated March 2, Southern Living also said Blowing Rock boasted a “storybook downtown” and nearby accommodations that range from cabins to more luxurious hotels.

The recent praise might not come as a surprise, as Blowing Rock ranked among Southern Living’s “best tiny towns” last year. One of its restaurants also has earned spots on a nationwide list from the travel website Tripadvisor, McClatchy News reported.

So, how did other small towns fare this time around? Rounding out the top five:

  • Beaufort at No. 2

  • Boone at No. 3

  • Hendersonville at No. 4

  • Mount Airy at No. 5

Also in the rankings, Wilmington was No. 1 in a separate category of the South’s favorite up-and-coming cities. But when it came to the “South’s Best Cities” category, no North Carolina city rose above top-ranking Charleston, South Carolina.

Blowing Rock is roughly a 90-mile drive west of Winston-Salem.

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