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Many would argue that the heart (and soul) of any state is in its small towns—cozy hamlets packed with originality and distinctive charm that, despite their size, often offer visitors a much-welcomed respite from the big city bustle and the rush of larger, more popular tourist destinations.

And there is something to be said for small southern towns in particular—whether it's their signature hospitality or stunning natural beauty; their relaxing vibes or quaint settings, places like the NC spots Sylva and Dillsboro are bursting with a dynamic life all their own. Close to all the area’s best outdoor activities, spectacular scenery, and local attractions, these Appalachian gems are the perfect place to soak up big-time mountain vibes and small-town appeal that makes them a one-two punch for vacationers everywhere.

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Outdoor Adventures In The Blue Ridge Mountains

One of the best reasons to visit the dynamic duo of Sylva and Dillsboro is to embark on some of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ most iconic outdoor adventures. From bucolic mountain settings perfect for relaxing retreats to more adventure-laden forays packed with adrenaline rushes, the side-by-side spots have something for everyone looking for idyllic outdoorsy vibes, Appalachian-style.

  • For travelers who want to get their feet wet, Wolf Creek Lake has all manner of adventures on the water, including swimming, boating, kayaking, wildlife watching, and fishing. The lake’s elevation also boasts some amazing local scenery, too. Tuckasegee, Jackson County
  • The nearby Tuckasegee River is another nearby angler’s paradise—and a great place to find adventure during whitewater rafting season. Hit the rapids from spring through early fall
  • Both Sylva and Dillsboro make great home bases for exploring many of the area’s top outdoor attractions, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Jackson County is also home to a number of nearby waterfall hikes, including Whitewater Falls and Silver Run Falls, all within a half hour away.

RELATED: Gatlinburg: An Adventurous Getaway In The Great Smoky Mountains

Historic Streets And Small Town Charm

Though visitors undoubtedly flock to Sylva and Dillsboro for their stellar outdoor activities and fresh mountain air, these two historic towns have their fair share of history and bucolic charm, too. Stroll the charming streets to discover southern charm at its finest, including a plethora of local shops and attractions.

  • Visit Sylva’s historic Jackson County Courthouse, now the public library. Built in 1914, this iconic Jackson County staple is also a great place to get a sweeping view of Sylva’s charming downtown. 401 Grindstaff Cove Rd, Sylva
  • Shop local at the lovely City Lights Bookstore, or stop in at The Farmhouse, a hip mercantile and great place to grab an afternoon cup of joe. Jackson Street and West Main Street, Sylva
  • Get a dose of local history at the Appalachian Women’s Museum, celebrating the extraordinary lives of women throughout Southern Appalachia. 100 W Hometown Pl, Dillsboro
  • Browse the eclectic wares of the Front Porch General Store, or get crafty nearby cooperative Dogwood Crafters with their impressive gallery of regional, handmade arts and crafts. Church Street and Webster Street, Dillsboro
  • Take a historic roundtrip train ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and enjoy the scenic splendor of The Great Smoky Mountains. The Tuckasegee River Excursion is a four-hour, roundtrip excursion departing from Bryson City with a layover in Dillsboro.

Dual City Eating And Drinking

There are (delicious) culinary treasures around every corner in both Sylva and Dillsboro, where both hometown charm and Southern staples sit side by side with warm, welcoming local establishments bursting with small-town hospitality.

  • Enjoy the farm-fresh, made-from-scratch menu at the delightfully delish Foragers Canteen, a popular spot in Dillsboro known for such epic treats as Deep-Fried Devil Eggs and the Boxcar Piggy Pulled Pork Sandwich. 42 Depot Street, Dillsboro
  • Experience NC craft brewing at its finest at Innovation Brewing—whose tasty brews have a home in both Sylva and Dillsboro
  • Authentic Texas-style BBQ is on the menu at the family-friendly Haywood Smokehouse, a great spot to grab a hearty sandwich, an ice-cold brew, and people-watch on the patio. 403 Haywood Rd, Dillsboro
  • The elegantly rustic Lulu’s has something for everyone: from a plethora of vegan and vegetarian options to sumptuous steaks and seafood, this charming spot also offers al fresco dining for those who want to soak up Sylva’s bustling mountain town vibes. 678 West Main Street, Sylva
  • Southern Italian specialties with an Appalachian twist are on the menu at the family-owned gem Ilda—be sure to try Karen’s Meatballs! 462 W Main Street, Sylva

RELATED: Experience The Great Smoky Mountains By Train On This Scenic Railroad

Lodging In Sylva And Dillsboro

Because the two towns are less than ten minutes apart, either one is a great place to set up camp for both outdoor adventures and downtown exploring.

  • The Whistle Stop Inn is a historic B&B located in a lovely 19th-century farmhouse right in the heart of Dillsboro. 364 Haywood Road, Dillsboro
  • The Dillsboro Inn is a stunning riverfront property with posh suites and idyllic surroundings. 146 N River Rd, Dillsboro
  • A cozy cabin is the perfect setting to enjoy the outdoor splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains, and Panther Creek Cabins in nearby Cherokee is the best place to max and relax creek side. 3415 Wrights Creek Rd, Cherokee
  • A secluded retreat awaits guests at the Moonshine Creek Campground. Offering a variety of campsites set in tranquil wooded settings, this spot is perfect for those who want to unplug and unwind. 2486 Dark Ridge Road, Sylva

North Carolina is positively packed with popular vacation destinations. From the bustling, iconic burgs like Asheville to the singular ocean-side beauty of the Outer Banks, the stunning southern state has something for every traveler. However, there’s something special about the small-town vibes found in NC’s cozier towns, like the side-by-side spots of Sylva and Dillsboro. Centrally located near some of the state’s best scenery and outdoor attractions, these lovely hamlets are full of charm and brimming with singular mountain town history and hospitality.