Western North Carolina mountain town ranks among the best in the United States

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North Carolina is home to one of the best small towns for tourists to visit, according to a new report.

sjasper@newsobserver.com

A mountain destination in North Carolina is one of the best small towns in the country to visit, according to a new ranking.

Banner Elk has earned a spot on a list of places with the best entertainment, natural settings and other qualities that lure tourists to more intimate spots, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

“Our picks for the 15 best small towns to visit this year all have a population of 25,000 or less, a high density of cultural offerings and natural beauty, and a compelling reason to visit in 2022,” the magazine said. in a report released Friday. , June 3.

Of the destinations across the country that were recognized, Banner Elk was the only location in North Carolina to make the list. The town of about 1,000 people is in the western part of the state, near the tourist hotspot of Grandfather Mountain and about 75 miles northeast of Asheville.

In the report, the town was praised for its proximity to mountain attractions, including hiking trails and ski resorts. The city, which dubs itself the “Ski Capital of the South,” also has attractions for those who don’t want to hit the slopes.

“The city’s Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster has provided endless fun since its 2020 debut, with gravity driving each two-person car along its winding 2,390-foot track at speeds of up to 27 miles per hour. “, said the magazine in its report. . “For a slightly more low-key adventure, enjoy a tour of the Apple Hill Family Farm, a working alpaca farm.”

Banner Elk has also been recognized for its “quirky” Woolly Worm Festival, which highlights the black and red caterpillars each October. If you’re working up an appetite, the magazine also suggests you visit the area’s renowned wineries and restaurants.

This isn’t the first time Banner Elk has garnered national attention. In May, a treehouse in the city was named the most searched place in the country on Airbnb.

Other locations ranked among the most attractive for travelers this time around were: Cambria, California; Winslow, Ariz.; Africatown, Alabama; Chatham, MA; Everglades City, Florida; Canon City, Colorado; Bemidji, Minnesota; Gallup, New Mexico; Chillicothe, Ohio; Newport, Rhode Island; St. Genevieve, Missouri; Cape May, New Jersey; Livingstone, Montana; and Cartersville, Georgia.

Simone Jasper is a reporter who covers breaking news for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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