Sunset over Lake Norman from Parham Park, in Davidson, North Carolina.

10 Best Towns in North Carolina to Visit in 2024

Admitted to the Union in 1789, the “Old North State” of North Carolina is indeed an important region of America’s East Coast. With its stunning ocean views, beautiful natural features, and intriguing American history, North Carolina and its welcoming towns are undoubted treasures for any traveler. Whether taking in the seaside breezes or soaking up some famed Southern charm, a sojourn to some of North Carolina’s loveliest towns is a great way to get acquainted with Americana. For those looking to start their 2024 travel plans on the right foot, choosing to visit these splendid towns may be just what is needed for a vacation full of wonder and relaxation.

West Jefferson

Downtown West Jefferson, via Bonita L. Harless on Wikipedia
Downtown West Jefferson, via Bonita L. Harless via Wikipedia.

The home of a modest population of just over 1,000 inhabitants, West Jefferson, was founded in the early 1900s. It maintains a genuine feeling of old-world charm, all within the stunning framing of the Appalachian Mountains. Full of welcoming local businesses, restaurants, and galleries that are typical of Anytown, USA, West Jefferson’s relaxed atmosphere makes it an excellent stop for anyone looking to escape the busyness that is big city life. Visit such landmarks such as the Old Barn Winery or the Antiques on Main store or take a tour of the Ashe County Cheese factory for a most delectable time! Meanwhile, a stop at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, or the “Church of the Frescoes”, is a peaceful and beautiful outing. With artwork in the style of the great Renaissance masters adorning the inside, it is a touching and moving sight that will impress even casual art lovers.


McAdenville, NC. Wide angle of Main Street.
McAdenville, NC. Wide angle shot of Main Street.

Incorporated in the 1880s, McAdenville, or “Christmas Town USA”, is one of the best examples of genuine community spirit in action. Home to just under 900 inhabitants, this town in Gaston County invites visitors with a most charming Historic District that includes a variety of 19th-century edifices, particularly those designed in the Victorian style of architecture. Add great local and tasty eateries, novelty shops, and other friendly businesses, and McAdenville will surely leave a great impression on the young and old. And, of course, visiting during the Yuletide period is particularly special. The town is decorated with lights and other items, making it a truly spectacular sight to behold! Viewing some 400 trees and hundreds of wreaths in addition to the stunning light shows and passing through McAdenville during Christmastime will leave one with a very special set of holiday memories.

Banner Elk

Fall colors in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
Fall colors in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

Banner Elk is a picturesque locale that is situated right at the base of Beech Mountain. Established in the 1840s, today, just over 1,000 residents call the town home, which is a delightful place to enjoy some fantastic outdoor activities. Spend time at Watauga Lake, where fishing, swimming, sailing, hiking, and even some white-water rafting entertain locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, the winter sports enthusiast can also enjoy Banner Elk as the home of the Sugar Mountain Resort. Find some great ski and snowboard slopes here that are perfect for the seasoned alpinist and the beginner. In addition, some of the historic landmarks to discover in this charming town include the Chester and Lowe House and its stone wall façade and the Elk Hotel (1856), listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the area’s natural beauty, this history makes Banner Elk a most rewarding stop for anyone traveling through the northwestern part of North Carolina.

Little Switzerland

The beautiful landscape near Little Switzerland.
The beautiful landscape near Little Switzerland.

With a populace of just some 111 residents, the community of Little Switzerland is indeed small but is delivers on wonder and charm. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, this scenic place established in 1910 is filled with inviting little restaurants, boutiques, galleries, churches, and loads of pleasant mountain vistas. In addition, such sites on the National Register of Historic Places like the Church of the Resurrection (1912), add to the pretty appeal of this most quaint North Carolina destination. It may be more of a road stop than a place of a more prolonged stay, but Little Switzerland is undoubtedly a place of magic that any visitor to the “Old North State” will not want to pass by.

Blowing Rock

Autumn view of Broyhill Park and Mayview Lake in downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Autumn view of Broyhill Park and Mayview Lake in downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Beautifully located within the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Blowing Rock lies near the border with Tennessee. Nearly 1,400 residents call this community home, where charming small-town allure and unique cultural attractions make it a splendid place to visit. Stop by the Tweetsie Heritage Railroad Wild West Theme Park, where a fun and immersive step back to the 19th century and vintage locomotive rides will surely delight tourists of all ages. Meanwhile, in the town center, an assortment of cute souvenir shops, galleries, and other local culinary delights fill the landscape for an authentic snapshot of the small-town USA. And do not forget about the Blowing Rock land formation, a rocky outlook where wonderfully panoramic views can be enjoyed.


Lake Norman at sunset, at Parham Park in Davidson, North Carolina.
Lake Norman at sunset, at Parham Park in Davidson, North Carolina. 

A part of the Charlotte metropolitan area (North Carolina’s largest city), Davidson is a welcoming and delightful college town with just over 15,000 residents. Home to Davidson College (1837), this friendly town is terrific for cyclists and pedestrians, and a welcoming array of cafes, restaurants, shopping outlets, bookstores, and other galleries fill out the ambiance nicely. In addition, outdoor lovers will undoubtedly appreciate the nearby Lake Norman, where fantastic opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, and even old-fashioned sunbathing are always popular. Meanwhile, an afternoon at the Saturday Farmer’s Market continues to be one of Davidson’s most beloved attractions, where a particular dose of North Carolina is on hand for all to enjoy.

Mount Airy

A group of tourists stroll down Main Street in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
A group of tourists stroll down Main Street in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Image credit LisaCarter via Shutterstock.

With a modern history dating to the 1750s, Mount Airy maintains a fascinating and welcoming historic ambiance for all to discover. Situated near the border with Virginia, just under 11,000 residents call Mount Airy home, known for its mild winters and hot summertime temperatures. Visit such listings on the National Register of Historic Places like the Renfro Mill (1893) or the William Carter House (1834), which reflect architecture from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Add in a great assortment of locally run restaurants, stores, and other galleries, and Mount Airy beautifully demonstrates what a smaller town is all about. And do not forget about the famous Autumn Leaves Festival, which celebrates the Fall through vendors, music, food, and entertainment for all ages!


The skyline of Boone, North Carolina.
The skyline of Boone, North Carolina.

The seat of Watauga County with just over 19,000 inhabitants, Boone was founded in the 1870s and named for the famed frontiersman Daniel Boone. Located within the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone is always abundant with natural wonder. Visit open-air spaces like the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, and the calm and relaxing Watauga River in a town where hot summers and mild winters are the norm. In addition, an afternoon on the pretty campus of Appalachian State University (1899) is a pleasing experience, while the whole family can enjoy a ride on the Tweetsie Heritage Railroad. On this scenic journey, a connection to the previously discussed town of Blowing Rock makes for a beautiful day trip outing.


Horse and carriage in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina
Horse and carriage in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina.

Established in 1713, the historic coastal town of Beaufort is North Carolina’s fourth oldest colonial settlement. The seat of Carteret County, where nearly 4,500 people call Beaufort home, is filled with loads of famed Southern charm, intriguing history, and stunning natural ambiance. Visit the Beaufort Historic District and take a horse drawn carriage through its storied streets and past its assortment of 18th and 19th century edifices, or head down to the North Carolina Maritime Museum for a most immersive experience. Here, great exhibits highlighting such historical events as 18th-century piracy and the Civil War will satisfy history enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. And do not forget about the nearby Newport River, where, in addition to fun on the water, some great restaurants and walking trails are ready to delight all who come.


Tuckasegee River between Bryson City and Dillsboro.
Tuckasegee River between Bryson City and Dillsboro. Image credit PhotoZeal via Shutterstock.

Scenically situated along the banks of the Tuckasegee River, the small community of Dillsboro boasts a very modest population of just over 200 permanent residents. Established in the 1880s as a rail town, what Dillsboro may lack in size, it compensates for with plenty of old-world charm and a rustic ambiance. Visit or spend a night at the Jarrett House Hotel (1884), included on the National Register of Historic Places, and then take a fun ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. At the latter, splendid views of the same-named mountains and river make it a most pleasing excursion for solo travelers and families. With a cute array of tasty locally run diners and other stores, Dillsboro is a small town with an extraordinary reputation.

A part of the famed “Thirteen Colonies” of early colonial America, the “Old North State” of North Carolina remains an important cultural and geographic center of the nation’s eastern coast. From mountain vistas, Atlantic Ocean panoramas, fascinating American history, and welcoming Southern charm, North Carolina is a beautiful place to discover. Though major cities are always top of mind, the state's smaller towns are too great a destination to be overlooked. Whether it is the historic streets of Beaufort or the Christmas atmosphere of McAdenville, these and other picture-perfect North Carolina towns are fantastic ways to get better acquainted with the state in 2024.

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