Best Southern Small Town: New Albany, Mississippi

Eureka Springs wins runner-up spot

Moss-draped oaks, rocking chairs on front porches, cold glasses of sweet tea and good old Southern hospitality – these are just some of the things that come to mind when you picture small towns in the Southern United States – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

  • Highlands
    North Carolina

    Aptly named Highlands, one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi, has served as a cool mountain escape for travelers for over a century. Excellent restaurants, shopping and a thriving art scene mean there's plenty to do in the picture perfect town itself, and the surrounding region offers a multitude of outdoor activities.
    Photo courtesy of Diligent Terrier / Wikimedia Commons

  • Wilson
    Arkansas

    Founded during the late 19th century, the town of Wilson sits along Arkansas's portion of the Great River Road. Visitors staying in or passing through town can enjoy some local flavor at the Wilson Cafe or brush up on regional history at the worthwhile Hampson Archeological Museum State Park.
    Photo courtesy of Wilson, Arkansas

  • Lewisburg
    West Virginia

    Built around a natural spring in 1872, the town of Lewisburg draws visitors with its Civil War connections, historic downtown, cozy B&Bs and excellent shopping. The town is also home to its very own Carnegie Hall, one of four performance halls built by Andrew Carnegie that's still in use today.
    Photo courtesy of Justin Brockie / Flickr

  • Sanibel Island
    Florida

    Leisurely and laid back Sanibel Island, a barrier island off Florida's Gulf Coast, is renowned as one of the world's best destinations for shelling. It's common to see early-morning beach goers doing the "Sanibel Stoop" in search of treasure. The island is equally well-known among bird watchers and naturalists, who come to explore the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and spy manatees, dolphins, otters and rare birds. Almost half the island is set aside as wildlife preserve and night skies are blissfully dark.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Madison
    Georgia

    Despite its small size, this town an hour east of Atlanta boasts more than 45 specialty shops and 160 antique dealers, all with a distinct Southern small town feel. The historic district's oak-lined streets, Antebellum homes, gardens and churches make Madison one of the prettiest small towns in the South.
    Photo courtesy of Madison CVB

  • Lexington
    Virginia

    Situated in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, the town of Lexington is home to both the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. This lends it the cultural vibrancy of a college town despite its small size. Attractions of note include Stonewall Jackson House, Lee Chapel and the George C. Marshall Museum.
    Photo courtesy of Steve Shires / Lexington and Rockbridge Area Tourism

  • Travelers Rest
    South Carolina

    Situated just a few minutes north of Greenville along the scenic Swamp Rabbit Trail, the town of Travelers Rest – TR for short – is home to several excellent restaurants, breweries, antique and specialty shops, all clustered at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Recent revitalization efforts have further enhanced this South Carolina small town.
    Photo courtesy of Josh Tremper / Flickr

  • Blowing Rock
    North Carolina

    A popular stop along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway since the 1880s, the town of Blowing Rock feels like a quiet New England village, complete with bark-sided buildings, an ice cream parlor and a picture-perfect town park.
    Photo courtesy of Blowing Rock

  • Eureka Springs
    Arkansas

    Located in the picturesque Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs has ample outdoor pursuits – hiking, fishing, and camping – while in-town attractions run the gamut. A resort town since the 1800s, it’s a haven for lovers of Victorian architecture as well as those with a passion for the paranormal. Its 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is widely lauded as “America’s Most Haunted.” Amid its famously winding streets, visitors will find myriad shops and restaurants where they can soak up its small-town charm.
    Photo courtesy of Eureka Springs / Flickr

  • New Albany
    Mississippi

    Set on the banks of the scenic Tallahatchie River, New Albany is the gateway to the Tanglefoot Trail, Mississippi's longest Rails to Trails path. The vibrant downtown area, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has just about everything you'd want in a small town – galleries, antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and an old-time soda fountain.
    Photo courtesy of Matthew Nichols / Flickr

10Best editors and a panel of local travelers in the know selected 20 of the best small towns with populations under 10,000 (according to the latest census data) in the region. We considered over 100 possibilities and narrowed it down to a collection of small towns representing each state in the region. For the last four weeks, 10Best and USA TODAY readers have been voting daily for their favorites, and the results are in.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Southern Small Town are as follows:

  1. New Albany, Miss.
  2. Eureka Springs, Ark.
  3. Blowing Rock, N.C.
  4. Travelers Rest, S.C.
  5. Lexington, Va.
  6. Madison, Ga.
  7. Sanibel Island, Fla.
  8. Lewisburg, W.V.
  9. Wilson, Ark.
  10. Highlands, N.C.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Linda Gillis (Treasure Coast Newspapers), Elizabeth LaFleur (The Greenville News) and our team of 10Best Local Experts were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of Southern travel.

Other towns nominated in this category included Abbeville, S.C.; Apalachicola, Fla.; Breaux Bridge, La.; Dahlonega, Ga.; Gruene, Texas; Jonesborough, Tenn.; Magnolia Springs, Ala.; Middleburg, Va.; St. Franciscville, La. and Water Valley, Miss.

Congratulations to all these winning Southern small towns!

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