One of our favorite small towns, this mountain community is rustic yet refined.
Why We Love It: It’s rustic yet refined. Within the Nantahala National Forest (near the area where Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina all meet), Highlands is a quiet mountain retreat about three hours away from the big-city bustle of Atlanta and four hours from Charlotte, North Carolina. Its downtown and the surrounding country-side are filled with fine art galleries, white-tablecloth restaurants, and some of the state’s most scenic fall color spots.
Our Favorite Inn: The Main Street Inn
Set in the middle of the downtown historic district, The Main Street Inn has been welcoming guests for 125 years. The white clapboard Federal Farmhouse-style building houses 20 small but comfortable rooms (several with queen-size beds and king-size showers). Rates start at $135.
Best place for Dinner: Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro
Seventeen years ago, Wolfgang and Mindy Green offered only 20 wines when they opened their restaurant that combines tastes of Europe and New Orleans. Now their cellar holds nearly 700. It’s easy to find the perfect wine to go with one of Wolfgang’s specialties, such as grilled venison tenderloin (wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon with a sun-dried cherry demiglace) or Cajun barbecued shrimp (a variation of the dish he once made at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans).
City Center: Main Street and South Fourth Street
Antiques lovers come from all over to attend the nightly auctions at Scudder’s Galleries on Main Street (Monday-Saturday June-November). Before the bidding starts, browse through the elegant dinnerware and decorative arts found at nearby Acorn’s in the Old Edwards Inn and Spa, or join the rock hounds at The Highlands Gem Shop searching for gemstones and crystals.
Scenic Spot: Waterfalls
Dozens of waterfalls tumble throughout West North Carolina, with two—Glen Falls and Bridal Veil Falls—located about 3 miles from downtown. Bridal Veil is the easiest to reach. (You can actually drive under it.) Getting to the base of the 145-foot, multilevel Glen Falls requires a little more effort; it's about a 2-mile hike, but the scenic spot is certainly worth the walk.