Best Southern Small Town (2015)


While cities like Charleston, Memphis and Atlanta make excellent destinations, there's something simply charming about the South's smaller towns and villages.

  • Natchitoches, La.

    Natchitoches, La.

    Welcome to “Nack-a-Tish,” B&B Capital of Louisiana and quaint setting for the ensemble-cast classic, Steel Magnolias. Natchitoches is the oldest town in the state. Its historic district is loaded down with shopping, dining and other attractions while ample annual events – many incorporating Native American, Creole and Louisiana cultures – draw visitors by the busload. Some of the city’s most popular center on music, including jazz and zydeco, others on regional staples like good ‘ol Louisiana barbecue.
    Photo courtesy of Natchitoches

  • Abingdon, Va.

    Abingdon, Va.

    From shopping to foodie pursuits and beyond, there’s all kinds of play to be had in Abingdon, whether you’re watching one on the stage of its celebrated Barter Theatre or finding active to-dos in the great outdoors. Cyclists, hikers and historians enjoy the spoils of the 34.3-mile Creeper Trail, a working train line that’s enjoyed a successful rails-to-trails conversion, and Main Street, with its shops and galleries, keeps the historic downtown buzzing every day of the year.
    Photo courtesy of

  • Bardstown, Ky.

    Bardstown, Ky.

    Bardstown bills itself as “strong in spirit.” And while its small-town American spirit is not lacking, it’s the other famed Kentucky spirit – bourbon – they’re also alluding to. Bardstown, in fact, is the head of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, home to five distilleries total, including heavy hitters such as Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam. Underage or tee totaling visitors, however, will find there’s still plenty to do, including shopping, golf and historic attractions.
    Photo courtesy of Bardstown

  • Dahlonega, Ga.

    Dahlonega, Ga.

    Despite the Wild West’s ample claim to gold rush fame, Dahlonega was actually the first city in the nation to enjoy a run on gold prospecting. Since then, its woodsy, mountainous terrain has evolved into a beautiful getaway destination just an hour north of metropolitan Atlanta. Beautiful architecture, waterfall and wildlife hikes and an impressive roster of wineries and annual festivals are just a few of the things that keep visitors coming back.
    Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development

  • Natchez, Miss.

    Natchez, Miss.

    This historic Mississippi-River town of Natchez is home to stunning antebellum homes and staggering slave-trade history, both of which make it a riveting small-town destination for visitors, Civil War buffs in particular. Tours of historic homes and carriage rides allow guests to drink in the town’s many stories as they admire the beautifully preserved architecture. Wonderful local restaurants and taverns allow for both drinking and eating – and in many cases, live music, as well.
    Photo courtesy of Chris M Morris / Flickr

  • Eureka Springs, Ark.

    Eureka Springs, Ark.

    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

  • Beaufort, S.C.

    Beaufort, S.C.

    The charm of South Carolina’s second-oldest city is well preserved in its 304-acre National Historic Landmark District, where the Low country charm drapes over the architecture like so much Spanish moss on a live oak. Coastal Beaufort is rife with active attractions from the seaside to the golf course; myriad bed and breakfasts, shops, galleries and historic attractions are draws as well. African-American history abounds in places like the Penn Center, one of the nation’s first schools for freed slaves.
    Photo courtesy of anoldent / Flickr

  • Berkeley Springs

    Berkeley Springs
    W. Va.

    Less than two hours’ ride from the DC/Baltimore area, Berkeley Springs is worlds away from big-city bustle. Visitors discovered the power of this mountain enclave’s natural warm springs ages ago and have been coming ever since, seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. You can still spend time at centuries-old baths at Berkeley Springs State Park, but myriad modern options abound, as well, along with lovely inns, dining venues, shopping options and cultural events.
    Photo courtesy of Alex Barth / Flickr

  • Floyd, Va.

    Floyd, Va.

    A popular stop along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, Floyd is an artist’s enclave where the Friday Nite Jamboree is just one of the regular toe-tapping events that visitors enjoy. Galleries and studios abound and regular events allow buyers (and art-loving lookie-loos) to enjoy multiple venues on one visit with ease. Floyd’s lovely Mabry Mill, featuring a working blacksmith, wheelwright, grist mill and whiskey still, keeps history alive and interactive. Not to mention fun.
    Photo courtesy of Woody Crenshaw

  • Fredericksburg, Texas

    Fredericksburg, Texas

    Within an easy drive of both Austin and San Antonio, the town of Fredericksburg is a hub of culture amid the beautiful, flower-laden Texas Hill Country. Visitors split their time between indoor and outdoor attractions; its myriad art galleries and spectacular wildflowers are dynamic draws for visitors near and far. As the foodie culture here continues to flourish – the region is home to more than 30 vineyards – folks will likely find it necessary to extend their stays.
    Photo courtesy of


For the last four weeks USA TODAY 10Best readers have been voting daily for their favorite Southern small towns in the 10Best Readers' Choice awards, and now the results are in!

It was a very close race between the top two finishers, but in the end, Natchitoches, La. (population 18,275) took home top honors. “Nack-a-Tish,” B&B Capital of Louisiana and quaint setting for the ensemble-cast classic, Steel Magnolias, is the oldest town in the state of Louisiana.

Runner up for Best Southern Small Town is Abingdon, Va. (population 8,206), located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and home to the Barter Theatre and Virginia Creeper Trail.

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

  1. Natchitoches, La.
  2. Abingdon, Va.
  3. Bardstown, Ky.
  4. Dahlonega, Ga.
  5. Natchez, Miss.
  6. Eureka Springs, Ark.
  7. Beaufort, S.C.
  8. Berkeley Springs
  9. Floyd, Va.
  10. Fredericksburg, Texas

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg (, Tanner Latham ( and Lacy Morris (10Best Editor) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of travel in the American South.

Additional nominees for Best Southern Small Town included Apalachicola, Fla.; Destin, Fla.; Leiper’s Fork, Tenn.; Marfa, Texas; Middleburg, Va.; Monroeville, Ala.; Mooresville, Ala.; Sanibel, Fla.; Tybee Island, Ga. and Wimberley, Texas.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo



AlertThe Experts

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Tanner Latham

Tanner Latham

Tanner Latham

Lacy Morris

Lacy Morris

Lacy Morris