North Carolina has charming small towns within a short drive of Charlotte, with many attractions that draw visitors here. Some of these small towns centered mainly in Rutherford, began in 1885 when RR Haynes and SB Tanner built a cotton mill and mill village with houses, a school, company store and churches for their employees.
Other textile industrialists imitated Haynes and Tanner and built mills and villages as well. This gave birth to several small town communities that developed together to become what they are today. Below are 10 small towns within a short drive of Charlotte, North Carolina that are worth visiting.
At Spindale, the brick buildings that have stood for generations are testament to when it was a textile center in the 1900s. Today it is called Restaurant Row by locals because of the many outlets in the town center that include barbecue, Japanese, American, pizza and bistro.
My Sweet Love Vineyard also caters to visitors who enjoy tasting locally produced wines. Spindale is also a vibrant shopping area.
The Foundation Arts and Conference Center or Spindale Recreation Center hosts musicians and art performances for visitors to watch.
Spindale also has parks, a library, fitness centers, playground, among other recreational places to explore.
Bostic’s crown jewel is the picturesque South Mountains Game Lands, an outdoor paradise with 20 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, joggers and horse riders.
The Washburn General Store, established in 1831, is the oldest continuously owned family business in South Carolina and is worth a visit to learn the secret of its longevity.
History buffs can also visit the Bostic Lincoln Center, which exhibits documents that suggest Abraham Lincoln was born in Bostic, not Kentucky.
Do you need a drink? Stop by the Blue Ridge Distilling Company and taste their brand of Defiant Whiskey.
Other places to visit in Bostic include Hud Carp Lake, Bostic City Hall, Max Gunter Park and The Wagon Wheel Dance and Meeting Place for music, dancing, fun and sandwiches.
Considered the oldest school of any small town in Rutherford County, Ellenboro has less than a thousand residents and is a landscaped paradise. This town has Randall’s Ellenboro Restaurant, where visitors enjoy delicious Southern cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After the meal, visitors can visit the Ellenboro Train Depot Museum, which displays old train parts and historical artifacts from the past, or visit a local amusement park.
Ellenboro is the epitome of country town living.
7/10 Chimney Rock Village
Chimney Rock Village combines urban and rural living. This small town also has the picturesque Chimney Rock State Park, where nature lovers can hike, bird watch, rock climb and picnic, and host events such as weddings.
There are also activities for children, such as supervised rock climbing. Visitors picnic or stroll the Rocky Broad Riverwalk, which leads to a miniature golf course, a gem mine, and restaurants, including one with a spa.
Chimney Rock Village also has places where visitors can get tattoos, take vintage photos, see Civil War markers, and where iconic movies were filmed.
Shops selling unique Appalachian crafts and other souvenirs to take home are also here, plus places for treats like ice cream.
Founded in 1787, Rutherfordton has many fun things to do for visitors. Museums, antebellum homes and historic homes are today repositories of Rutherfordton’s rich history.
The Bechtler House was a private mint that produced over $2 million in gold coins in the early 1800s and is where Christopher Bechtler struck the nation’s first dollar coin.
Children (0 to 10 years old) can visit the KidSenses Interactive Children’s Museum to learn, play and explore in a safe yet creative environment.
The Rutherford County Visual Arts Center has artwork for sale by 200 local artists. Parks, nature trails for hiking, farms, historical landmarks, fishing clubs, golf courses, theater, lake, wellness spas, gold trails are other attractions that await visitors in Rutherfordton.
There are also plenty of places to eat and drink in Rutherfordton too.
5/10 Forest City
Forest City epitomizes Southern charm, rich history, modernity and country living. Residents are innovative and entrepreneurial, as evidenced by the mom-and-pop restaurants, antique shops, and modern boutiques that dot the historic downtown.
Since 1930, Forest City has continued the annual tradition of lighting a million lights for holiday celebrations on Main Street. Forest City also has spas and wellness centers, outdoor parks, golf courses, farms, museums, and recreation centers, and visitors will have plenty to do here while indulging in Southern hospitality.
4/10 Lake Lure
Visitors to Lake Lure will have plenty to do in this beautiful outdoor paradise with natural wonders such as mountain cliffs, a tranquil lake, a forest, parks and a river.
In this quaint lake town, visitors enjoy forest hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, ziplining, mountain biking, golfing, and rock climbing.
On the lake, visitors also fish, boat, kayak, paddle and water ski. Such diverse recreational activities have made Lake Lure a favorite travel destination for visitors who love multiple adventures concentrated in one place.
Founded in 1893, Ruth Town is among the smallest towns in Rutherford County and is home to the 21.58-mile Thermal Belt Rail Trail.
Along this lush and scenic trail, visitors hike, bike, run and rollerblade. During the holidays, the town of Ruth hosts colorful light displays.
This small town also has beautiful murals for art-loving visitors to see.
The origins of Cliffside date back to 1899, when Raleigh Rutherford Haynes, a textile industrialist, decided to build a town near the Second Broad River.
The town became a thriving textile center and all the homes and most of the businesses here were owned by the Cone Mills Corporation. From the 1960s the textile industry failed and later collapsed and the textile factory was closed.
Today, memories of that textile era exist through prints and images. Touring Cliffside allows visitors to relive its former glory when it was a thriving center of textile production.
The historic and picturesque small town of Columbus has several attractions awaiting visitors, including one of the oldest courthouses in North Carolina. The famous House of Flags museum, with more than 300 flags, and the Polk County Historical Museum are also here.
Natural attractions to explore via road trips include Shunkawauken Falls, White Oak Mountain Road, Sunset Rock, The Blue Wall Passage trails, plus lush recreation parks.
Visitors can end their tours by stopping by Russian Chapel Hills Winery to sip local Columbus wines.