Asheville, WNC towns rank on 'Southern Living' magazine's 2023 South's Best lists

ASHEVILLE - A public vote has elevated Western North Carolina to the top of several lists of “bests,” beating out competitors across the South.

Southern Living’s seventh annual South’s Best Awards recognizes readers' favorite Southern destinations and experiences with categories including the Top 50 Southern small towns, cities, hotels, state parks and BBQ joints.

A few Western North Carolina winners made the top 10 cuts with several more earning recognition.

Asheville ranked No. 3 on the South’s Best Cities.

Blowing Rock ranked No. 5 for the South’s Best Small Towns.

The Best State Parks In Every Southern State list includes Chimney Rock State Park, located southeast of Asheville, ranked No. 8.

And an Asheville brewery claimed the title of the best brewery in North Carolina.

Best Southern cities

On the South’s Best Cities list, Asheville landed in the No. 3 position, under Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia.

Asheville’s Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Mountains were mentioned as leading attractions, as well as its craft beer industry.

The Biltmore Estate, June 10, 2022.

“In addition to the city’s many breweries–you’d be hard pressed to find another region as richly steeped in the stuff–it’s a hub for hiking as well as arts and culture, with several arts districts offering gallery and studio space for the city’s creatives,” Southern Living said.

The WNC city ranked higher than Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans, and Greenville, South Carolina, which placed at No. 7.

Charlotte and Raleigh ranked 11th and 12th, respectively.

More:Asheville hotel, restaurant receive Forbes Travel Guide's 2023 Star Award

More:Asheville ranked #10 on list of Best Food Destinations in U.S. in 2023

Best Southern towns

On Southern Living’s list of the Top 50 best Southern small towns, St. Augustine, Florida, ranked at No. 1 followed by Beaufort, South Carolina; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Dahlonega, Georgia; and Blowing Rock, which ranked at No. 5.

Blowing Rock, located northeast of Asheville, is popular for what Southern Living described as its “4,000-foot cliff that overlooks a spectacular gorge, distant peaks, and dense forests.”

It also received mention as a one of the South's Best Tiny Towns with a population of 1,397.

The South’s Best Small Towns list continued with Fairhope, Alabama; Tybee Island, Georgia; and Sanibel, Florida.

Other North Carolina towns to make the list are Beaufort with a No. 11 ranking, Hendersonville at No. 12, and Boone made the cut at No. 45.

Best Southern state parks

Chimney Rock State Park earned the No. 8 spot on the list of the Best State Parks in Every Southern State, noted for its 315-foot spire of Chimney Rock, an ancient rock formation that offers breathtaking views.

“After seeing the 75-mile views to Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge, hikers can set off on one of the many trails around the Rock, including Hickory Nut Falls, where ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ was filmed, and catch a glimpse of the area’s peregrine falcons,” Southern Living stated.

Alabama’s Gulf State Park topped the list at No. 1 followed by Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida.

Best Southern food, beer

Southern Living named Asheville's Highland Brewing Company as the South's Best Brewery in North Carolina.

Next year, Highland Brewing Company – touted as Asheville’s first brewery since Prohibition — celebrates its 30-year anniversary. Ahead of the milestone, the business is making improvements to its taproom at the S&W Market and main campus at 12 Old Charlotte Highway.

The Best Locally-Owned Restaurants In Every Southern State 2023 list named Angus Barn in Raleigh-Durham, ranked No. 8.

The Top BBQ by State includes Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina.

More:Which Asheville restaurant ranks on Yelp's list of top pizzerias in all of US & Canada?

More to explore

Southern Living’s 2023 South’s Best Awards winners were determined by readers’ votes in an online survey Southern Living developed and conducted on the publication’s website,

Southern Living editors then compiled the lists of nominations.

Southern Living's double issue, on sale March 17, will feature its South’s Best Award winners and NBC "Today’s" Hoda Kotb, who is the first celebrity to grace the cover of the magazine.

The 14 Southern state participants were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

The South’s Best Award winners will be highlighted in Southern Living’s double issue, on sale March 17. NBC "Today’s" Hoda Kotb is the first celebrity to grace the cover of the magazine. Inside, Kotb shares what she loves about New Orleans, which ranked sixth on the South’s Best Cities list.

The flip side of the issue showcases St. Augustine, Florida.

View the full lists at

Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Asheville, WNC towns rank on 'Southern Living' 2023 South's Best lists