Highlands, North Carolina
Where: 2 hours from Greenville, SC
Who should go? Outdoor enthusiasts, epicureans
Small-town style: Striped awnings on Main Street
There’s nothing small about Nantahala National Forest. Stretching 500,000 acres across the southwestern corner of North Carolina, the heavily wooded wonderland is home to towering peaks and rivers ripe for whitewater rafting. Tucked inside, you’ll find Highlands, a miniature mountain town sitting at 4,100 feet, where the roar of Bridal Veil Falls replaces the din of the big city. But Mother Nature isn’t the only thing of note here. Highlands is known for its arts scene, high-end boutiques, and nationally recognized restaurants, which have earned the town its reputation as the “Aspen of the East.” Browse the permanent collection at The Bascom, a visual arts center that also offers year-round ceramics classes, before enjoying a taste of Italy at Ristorante Paoletti, which features more than 40 wines by the glass. Doze off at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, award-winning accommodations with Blue Ridge Mountain views and an 18-hole golf course.