Tourists pass The Sunset Tee's & Hattery shop on Main St. in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Image credit Nolichuckyjake via Shutterstock

8 Lovely Small Towns to Visit in North Carolina This Summer

North Carolina is one of the best destinations to visit this summer. This stunning state is home to numerous natural beauties like the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic coast. North Carolina's charming small towns offer residents and tourists a blend of natural beauty, history, and culture, making them the perfect spot for a summer vacation. Thankfully, these eight quaint towns highlight everything North Carolina can offer visitors looking to get outside this summer. From Waynesville in the far west of the state to Edenton on the coast, discover eight small towns that are lovely for summertime getaways full of outdoor activities or cultural exploration.


Downtown Waynesville North Carolina NC Drone Skyline Aerial.
Downtown Waynesville, North Carolina.

The welcoming town of Waynesville is a relaxed place, making it ideal for a summer vacation. With a population of 10,140, this charming small town has many locales to explore.

Venturing to the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts allows visitors and locals to view local crafts and history. The museum's pottery collections are particularly notable, reflecting the craftsmanship of the western region of the state as well as the renowned Seagrove area, famous for its generations of pottery making. This museum has a sizable collection of wood carvings, including elaborate animal carvings and everyday items such as bowls and spoons. The various and interesting programs Haywood Arts Regional Theatre (HART) offers cater to individuals seeking talented live entertainment. This local gem provides a cultural touchstone with varied productions throughout the year.

Nature lovers will be pleased by Lake Junaluska, a scenic lake with walking trails and a delightful garden nestled in a stream cove in the heart of the area. Just past the spring on Stuart Circle, find this garden, which features over 500 native plants and trees of the Southern Appalachian mountains, supplying a serene and picturesque setting for a nice stroll or a quiet moment of reflection.


Tryon, North Carolina Trade Street
Downtown Tryon, North Carolina. Image credit Janet Gray, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some call Tryon "the friendliest town in the south," so it is no surprise how this area of North Carolina attracts families and individuals looking for their next excursion. With a population of just 1,562, this community owns a mix of recreational activities for travelers yearning for an outing that combines relaxation and adventure.

Anyone interested in art and music should visit the Tryon Fine Arts Center. This venue hosts live events, from small-scale musical concerts to theatrical shows. The center offers a rare chance to interact with artists by hosting enlightening interviews with musicians. Just a short drive from the town center, Pearson’s Falls is a breathtaking waterfall and botanical preserve with a serene escape into nature. The well-maintained trails and lush forests lead to the stunning 90-foot waterfall. Explore the preserve and encounter a diverse array of native plants and wildlife, making it alluring for all ages.

Harmon Field is the place to be to truly appreciate the summer sun. This expansive 36-acre park has a wide range of recreational facilities, including ball fields, soccer fields, a quarter-mile track, tennis courts, and equestrian facilities complete with rings and stables. The playground and picnic shelter are convenient amenities that can be used here. The park also features a charming cabin available for special events, making it a versatile venue for gatherings.


Boat docked near the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, North Carolina.
Boat docked near the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, North Carolina. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock

On the north shore of Edenton Bay, Edenton is North Carolina's second oldest town, making it rich with history.

With a population of approximately 5,000, this small town is an underrated spot for a summer getaway. The Historic Edenton State Historic Site is one of the town's premier attractions. This extensive historic attraction features guided tours that take people through architectural styles spanning 250 years. Notable landmarks include the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can stroll through Edenton's historic streets and feel its vibrant past come alive, making it an essential destination.

It goes without saying that Edenton Bay must be explored as it is one of the most popular locations in the town. Wandering around the bay grants visitors breathtaking landscapes and a visible maritime history. Not to mention, there are boat tours around the coast that deliver a neat perspective of the town and its aged shoreline, all while providing a peaceful yet exciting experience. Another attraction is The Cupola House, which protected Edenton Bay's north shore, serving as a marvel of architectural and cultural history. This aged property honors those who preserved its magnificence with its exquisitely restored formal gardens.


Magnolia Place in the center of Pinehurst Village, North Carolina.
Magnolia Place in the center of Pinehurst Village, North Carolina. Image credit KAD Photo via Shutterstock

In the center of North Carolina, behind the massive long-leaf pines, sits a New England-style community that draws tourists with its amenities.

Pinehurst, North Carolina, is a charming tiny town with 17,581 residents that is ideal for a summer vacation. It has a wide range of things to suit every interest. Visitors can begin by seeing how a fascinating past is maintained and presented in these archives by paying a visit to The Tufts Archives. Located in a wing of the Given Memorial Library, the archives are open to the public, researchers, media, and scholars at no charge. This institution possesses photographs, documents, and artifacts that tell the story of Pinehurst from its founding to the present day.

Guests will find the Village Arboretum to be worth a day to truly take in all of its beauty. The arboretum includes a restored longleaf pine forest, a large meadow, a perennial garden, a magnolia garden, a woodland garden, a flowering tree garden, and an open-air pavilion, making it a very alluring location for a stroll or picnic. For accommodations, the Carolina Hotel, Holly Inn, and The Manor are all conveniently close to the historic downtown shops and restaurants.


Home of Quaker Alexander Dixon, now the town visitor center, Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Home of Quaker Alexander Dixon, now the town visitor center, Hillsborough, North Carolina. Image credit LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES via Shutterstock

Hillsborough is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which just goes to show how this quaint town is packed with cultural history with only a population of 9,660.

This town beckons visitors to tour its countless outdoor activities and scenic spots that are sure to delight and educate any visitor. The trails winding through the woodlands of the Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area are a setting fit for hiking and exploring. In addition, the town has two fishing ponds and is near the Eno River, so guests have plenty of alternatives for where to spend a sunny day. Visitors should not miss the top overlook since it offers a breathtaking view, especially after dusk. The Riverwalk, a paved and ideally situated urban greenway that spans for approximately two miles along the Eno River, is another attraction in Hillsborough.

Popular for walking, jogging, and cycling, this trail links trails east of town with Gold Park in western Hillsborough. The Riverwalk connects several areas by foot, making it simple to go throughout the town and take in the sights while enjoying the beauty of the river and surrounding nature.

Blowing Rock

Downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock

Found along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock is a town with formations and sweeping views of peaks, forests, and the Johns River Gorge. Its population of just 1,376 shows visitors that it is a delightful small town.

Known for its breathtaking views, rich history, and vibrant downtown, Blowing Rock offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors. The town's most popular feature is the Blowing Rock, a stunning cliff with amazing views. For those wishing to capture beautiful images for memories, this natural landmark is highly recommended.

Another place that guests should visit is the 3,500-acre Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a historic estate with farms and forests. The park features 25 miles of carriage paths that can be used for horseback riding, hiking, and other outdoor activities. For another opportunity for remarkable pictures, the park opens visitors to the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ensuring an unforgettable summer vacation.

New Bern

new bern north carolina town riverfront scenes
Riverfront, New Bern, North Carolina.

Excellent for a summer visit, New Bern is a waterfront community with a population of 31,291.

One of New Bern’s most iconic attractions is Tryon Palace, a meticulously reconstructed colonial governor’s mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens. This living history museum transports visitors through time, from the formation of the coastline to the lives of the people who shaped the region's history. No visit to New Bern would be complete without stopping by the Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola. This attraction is where Caleb Bradham first created the drink that would become Pepsi. Step back in time and learn about the history of its inventor and the early days of one of the world’s favorite soft drinks. Enjoy a fountain Pepsi, browse through a variety of gifts and souvenirs, and soak in the nostalgia of this beloved beverage’s origins.

Visitors tired from all of the walking and the heat will find many restaurants to eat at in this town. Enjoy a family-friendly meal at the Cow Cafe, or opt for the salad bar at Captain Ratty’s; Michael’s Pub & Patio is an affordable hot spot with trivia for visitors of all ages.

Bryson City

Scenic Views from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, North Carolina- Tuckasegee River Excursion
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, North Carolina.

Bryson City is a small town surrounded by beautiful mountains, streams, waterfalls, and lakes within the Great Smoky Mountains. This community has a population of just 1,558 but is packed with a wide variety of activities for a special summer visit.

Visitors can hop on board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad's beautiful train trip to see breathtaking views of valleys and river gorges as it winds through the mountains. Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its waterfalls and streams. This area is a haven for hikers since several loop trails wind through forests and lead to cascades.

For those who prefer biking, Deep Creek also has one of the few park trails where mountain biking is permitted. The park is convenient for family vacations due to its well-kept campground and shaded picnic areas. After a day outside, it is recommended to unwind and taste refreshing beverages at Nantahala Brewing Company, where visitors can experiment with the flavors available in the tasting room.

When planning the next trip to North Carolina, everyone ought to consider stopping by one of these eight small towns. Visitors can observe all North Carolina's little communities offer, including breathtaking scenery like the Great Smoky Mountains. Every town has its own fabulous attractions to discover, whether choosing to hike gorgeous trails, explore a lovely downtown area, or just take in nature. There is much to see and do in these North Carolinian towns, providing visitors with a summer for the books.

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