Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
What do you think of when you hear the words “Main Street?” A quaint little street, lined with shops and cafes? Well, that is just what you will find in these North Carolina cities that have the quaintest downtown areas. Whether you’re looking for a unique gift, a good Southern meal or just a great place to people watch, these downtown locales are sure to fit the bill.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Davidson, NC, located about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, is a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly college town. And although the town itself is only 5 square miles, it’s the downtown area that holds the most charm. Along its Main Street, you’ll find not only Davidson College, but also several charming restaurants including Kindred and The Famous Toastery, a hip coffee shop, an independent bookstore, several unique gift shops and even an old time soda shop. Just across the street, in front of the town’s public library, is a large green space that is frequently used for town events, as well as a great spot for picnicking and reading. On Saturday mornings, be sure to check out the farmer’s market that sets up just behind Main Street and offers everything from donuts and flowers to veggies and soaps.
With the Blue Ridge Mountains providing a picturesque backdrop, downtown Boone feels like something off of a postcard or out of an old movie. You’ll find an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, live music venues, coffee shops, gift shops, apparel shops and arts & crafts shops here, with pockets of green space scattered in between. There are also several unique finds in downtown Boone like Insomnia Cookies – a 24 hour cookie bakery that delivers, F.A.R.M. Café – a pay-what-you-can community kitchen, and Café Portofino – a casual dining restaurant located in the original maintenance station for the historic Tweetsie Railroad.
If you ever watched The Andy Griffith Show, you’re probably familiar with the town of Mayberry. But did you know there is a real Mayberry in NC? It is, in fact, Mt. Airy, NC – the hometown of Mr. Griffith himself. And when you walk the streets of this downtown, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. In fact, it was rated one of the friendliest cities in the country by USA Today. In addition to plenty of tributes to the show like The Blue Bird Diner, Floyd’s Barber Shop and Wally’s Service Station, you’ll also find tons of gift shops, antique stores and restaurants, as well as a winery, old time movie theater and a live music venue. But perhaps the best thing to do in downtown Mt. Airy is take a ride in a real Mayberry squad car, while you learn all about the town its connections to the famous show.
Centrally located in the middle of the state, the town of Hillsborough, NC is not only convenient to get to from other major cities, but it’s also been ranked as one of the coolest towns in the nation. It was also named as “America’s Little Literary Town” by the Wall Street Journal, due to the large number of writers that live there. Hillsborough is a haven for artists as well, and has several art galleries and studios scattered throughout the downtown area. There is also an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and several farmers markets.
Also known as “Race City USA,” Mooresville, NC is located on the north side of Lake Norman, about 45 minutes from Charlotte. Although the downtown section of Mooresville was once nothing more than a train depot, it is now a popular tourist destination in and of itself. While still maintaining its old time feel, downtown Mooresville is now home to a variety of specialty shops selling jewelry, clothing, hand-crafted leather goods, even olive oils and vinegars. You’ll also find several popular restaurants like J.J. Wasabi’s that serves sushi and other Asian cuisine, and Epic Chophouse, a fine dining establishment that serves steaks, seafood and other fine foods. Also located downtown is the Mooresville Ice Cream, who has been producing the DeLuxe Brand since 1924.
No other town epitomizes the vision of a quaint, storybook mountain village quite like Blowing Rock, NC. It’s no wonder it’s been named the “Crown of the Blue Ridge.” With a charming downtown area that includes over 100 shops and boutiques, several art galleries, a plethora of restaurants and even a couple authentic taverns and pubs, there’s something to do here for every age and interest. Visitors will also want to stop in at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum to learn about the town’s rich mountain heritage while enjoying the visual arts.