This tiny town is a destination, not just a stop along the way.

Photo: MyLoupe/UIG/Getty Images

If ever there were a town boasting the same historical charm and endless saw-toothed ridges as Asheville, sans the crowds and vast food landscape, it would be its more modest neighbor—Sylva, North Carolina.

Don't get us wrong, we absolutely adore “the Paris of the South.” But just an hour away, flanked by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Plott Balsam Mountain region of western North Carolina, lies a bustling gem once deemed a small-town stop-off. Today, however, many recognize Sylva as a destination in its own right. An array of shops and restaurants, a stellar view of cosmic glory and high elevation, and a green scene unlike that of most Southern towns is what draws visitors to this hidden gem. With a population of a mere 2,600 people, the town is made up of an eclectic bunch. During lunch time, you may see retirees, students (Western Carolina University is only five miles away), or hikers stroll into its homey eateries. 

Since summer presents the perfect atmospheric opportunity to be a little more adventurous, here are six reasons why you should plan your next trip to Sylva to fulfill your wanderlust. 

1. Books still matter here.

If you don’t consider summer reading to be a thing of the past, Sylva is a storybook oasis. Neil Gaiman once wrote, "A town isn't a town without a bookstore." Luckily, you don’t have to experience that written void here, since Sylva has three downtown bookstores. Not to mention, the old stately building of the Jackson County courthouse is now home to the county library overlooking Main Street.

2. You can taste local beer at the microbreweries.

In April, North Carolina celebrates its annual beer month with sudsy-related events on the Ale Trail. Sylva has three breweries, all within walking distance of each other. German beer can be found at Heinzelmännchen Brewery any time of year. Innovation Brewing is for the younger set and has at least 37 beers on tap. And although The Sneak E Squirrel is the new brewery on the block, it has gained quite the following for its signature dark Porters.

3. During summer, there are free live concerts.

Experience live music while it’s nice outside at the Bridge Park Pavilion, a public venue that hosts a free concert series entitled “Concerts on the Creek” every Friday night.

4. You can eat like a local at non-chain restaurants.

You won't find any franchises among the dozen or so restaurants in downtown Sylva. Authentic, upscale fare can be enjoyed at Lulu’s on Main. For flicks and eats, check out Mad Batter Food and Film, which shows free movies while you chow down. When it comes to the best of the best, we hear the burgers are insanely delicious at the Cosmic Carryout food truck. 

5. Outdoor adventure is waiting at every footstep.

Around Sylva, outdoor activities abound, including Pinnacle Park, a 2,900-foot climb that’s easily accessed on a scenic hike of a seven-mile swath. Those who love to fish can find joy at the Nantahala River, which has scheduled water releases and stream-dwelling rainbow trout.

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6. You can try your luck just 15 miles away at the casino.

Do you know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em, like our favorite country music trio Kenny, Dolly, and Willie? Then head to Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino and place your bets before leaving Sylva. You just might get lucky. 

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