High Country Association of REALTORS News

Magazine: 3 High Country towns among region's best

Western North Carolina magazine opened the new year with a report on the 13 best small towns in its region. Three locales within the High Country made the list - Blowing Rock, West Jefferson and Banner Elk. Each has its own unique atmosphere in the shadows of a mountain landscape.
4. Banner Elk {pop. 1,028}WNC magazine cover January 2016
Flanked by Beech and Sugar mountains, home to the state’s two biggest snow resorts, Banner Elk is the region’s quintessential ski town and much more. The biggest event to jam the tiny downtown is October’s Woolly Worm Festival, where worm races determine which woolly caterpillar’s stripes will predict the coming winter weather. Hordes of visitors and like-minded locals attend, among them students from Lees-McRae College. The resurgent LMC, where a summer theater series highlights tourist season, recently welcomed its biggest-ever freshman class. And the stone structures on campus are historic landmarks that are increasingly appreciated on walking tours offered through the Civil War-era Banner House Museum.

7. Blowing Rock {pop. 1,241}
The town is a vibrant mix of tourists and locals, with many of the latter having roots multi-generations deep. Their history and more is as close as a visit to the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum. And of course, Blowing Rock and its environs are a veritable wonderland of outdoor activities. A top Blue Ridge Parkway site, Moses Cone Park, has miles of white pine-shaded trails for walking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. Just off Main Street, the Glen Burney Trail dips into a waterfall-laced wilderness, and a paved path circles Cannon Lake.

10. West Jefferson {pop. 1,299}
As West Jefferson tips over the 100-year mark in 2016, this High Country town has much to show for its accomplishments. In addition to what is perhaps its most popular attraction, the Ashe County Cheese factory and store - where you can watch the process and purchase cheeses, jams, and preserves - West Jefferson holds a surprising number of arts offerings. The entire downtown is essentially considered the arts district, containing public artworks and 18 craft shops and galleries.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, Mount Jefferson State Natural Area sits to the west and offers hiking trails—including a kid-friendly trail—along with picnic areas and nice views over the town. The Bowie-Seagraves Municipal Park keeps families active with tennis and basketball courts, a playground, baseball field, and walking trail.

Late last year Outside magazine, which covers travel, sports, health, fitness and other topics, named the Boone area as one of the best places to live in America.