Our quest to have our readers select the happiest towns in the mountains began with a set of criteria applied to just under 100 cities and towns in our coverage area (the mountain regions of Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina).
To narrow the field, we applied the following minimum happiness-based standards (eliminating 35 of the original 96 towns and cities (all data gathered from city-data.com):
- Cost of living index at no higher than 110 (with 100 being average).
- Percent of population that is married at 30 or above.
- Average commute at less than 30 minutes.
- Crime rate at under 600 per 100,000.
- Unemployment at under 10 percent.
- Percent of population with a bachelor s degree above 10 percent.
- Median household income not lower than $20,000.
We then divided that list of 61 mountain cities and towns into the three population categories of 50,000 and up; 10,000 to 49,999; under 10,000, and turned those lists over to our readers for voting.
Below is the complete lists of finalists, presented in order of votes received. For more details on the top 3 towns in each population range subscribe before May 5, 2016 to receive our May/June 2016 issue as your first copy, or log in to your digital subscription today.
Our congratulations to all of the happy towns!
1. Asheville, NC*
2. Roanoke, VA*
3. Harrisonburg, VA*
4. Greenville, SC
5. Johnson City, TN
6. Knoxville, TN
7. Chattanooga, TN
8. Kingsport, TN
*What Voters Said:
"What a great place! Culture, beauty, arts, and great people." – Andrew Elstein; Jacksonville, FL
"A stunning mountain town, very close to two national forests and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so the outdoor hiking and exploring opportunities are endless. Asheville is a vibrant, truly beautiful city, and attracts artisans, naturalists, and discerning professionals and visitors of all stripes to it. Happiness abounds in Asheville!" – Gary White; Lincoln, NE
"Small town attitude but big town necessities. Great hospitals, restaurants. People are so friendly and down to earth." – Teresa Dumas; Charlotte Hall, MD
"Biking, running on all the Greenways. Hiking the AT on one side, or the Blue Ridge Parkway on the other. Mountains all around. Close proximity to all this plus great restaurants, a vibrant cultural scene, a railfans mecca, our own symphony orchestra, ballet, big name acts at the civic center.... and I'm running out of space." – Bruce Wessel; Snowshoe, WV
"Residents are friendly, welcoming, and have good values. The scenery is gorgeous. Many cultural events, good dining, great entertainment, outdoor activities, and the JMU community all make for a great town!" – Mary Brittingham; Mechanicsville, VA
"Harrisonburg is the perfect blend of a college and sleepy mountain town. People here are still friendly, the city is very easy to live in, and you feel safe." – Dozel Bodden; Harrisonburg, VA
1. Boone, NC*
2. Charlottesville, VA*
3. Staunton, VA*
4. Hendersonville, NC
5. Sevierville, TN
6. Blacksburg, VA
7. Winchester, VA
8. Elizabethton, TN
9. Beckley, WV
10. Martinsburg, WV
11. Bristol, TN
12. Gaffney, SC
13. Clemson, SC
14. Maryville, TN
15. Ashland, KY
16. Waynesboro, VA
17. Christiansburg, VA
18. Radford, VA
19. (TIE) Easley, SC; Greeneville, TN
21. (TIE) Cleveland, TN; Oak Ridge, TN
*What Voters Said:
"Boone is the happiest town I have ever visited. The people are friendly, there are many things to see and do. The beauty alone makes me happy. I have visited this town for almost twenty years and it makes me happy to be there." – Lotte Washburn; Sebring, FL
"Nowhere else in the country can you choose to live directly on a ski slope, on a golf course, in a fly-fishing resort, in a historic rural district, in a country club with its own airport, in a rustic mountain lodge at 5,000 feet or in a beautiful urban college town. From horse farms to city lofts, Boone has it all." – Lynne Melby; Iron Station, NC
"I voted for Charlottesville, VA. because I have been there many times and the folks are friendly, cheerful, and seemingly happy. It also has a very unique downtown mall, and lots of very good restaurants." – Beverly Boswell; Ronceverte, WV
"Amazing restaurants, wide variety of great local music, lots of world renowned music plays there, close proximity to many incredible wineries and historical locations." – Frank Vretos; Charlottesville, VA
"Although small, Staunton is full of beauty and history. From Woodrow Wilson's home and the quaint downtown buildings and shops to the still running outdoor evening band concerts in its gorgeous park, Staunton offers peace and friendliness in a setting of natural beauty in the mountains. The local population exudes friendliness and a welcoming atmosphere from the bed and breakfasts to meeting in their local restaurants and shops." – Doreen Kimball; Lakeland, FL
"I enjoy going to Staunton to dine and attend plays at the American Shakespeare Festival Center. The people of Staunton seem to really like living there." – Larry Davis; Lewisburg, WV
Population less than 10,000
1. Lewisburg, WV*
2. Blowing Rock, NC*
3. Floyd, VA*
4. Marlinton, WV
5. Gatlinburg, TN
6. Abingdon, VA
7. Jonesborough, TN
8. Brevard, NC
9. Lexington, VA
10. (TIE) Black Mountain, NC; Waynesville, NC
12. Blue Ridge, GA
13. Banner Elk, NC
14. Pigeon Forge, TN
15. Bryson City, NC
16. (TIE) Marion, VA; Wytheville, VA
18. (TIE) Bridgewater, VA; Dahlonega, GA
20. Fayetteville, WV
21. Cherokee, NC
22. (TIE) Big Stone Gap, VA; Wilkesboro, NC
24. Jefferson, NC
25. Robbinsville, NC
26. Pulaski, VA
27. Hiawassee, GA
28. Paintsville, KY
29. Murphy, NC
30. Dillard, GA
31. Williamsburg, KY
*What Voters Said:
"Autumn in Lewisburg is picturesque as the vibrant colors explode across the mountains! And the people are down-home quaint and full of hospitality! I fall in love every time we visit!" – Suesan Humphreys; Winchester, VA
"I really don't know why, but the minute I pull into this beautiful little historic town I am immediately happy. It is my favorite place ever." – Susie Albright; Charlotte, NC
Blowing Rock, NC
"Blowing Rock is a portal to another time. When you go there, it's like stepping back to 1930 - no one's in a hurry, you stop and enjoy an ice cream on a park bench, there's not a stranger to be found." – Sheri Moretz; Boone, NC
"Our favorite place to visit. We go there 2-3 times per year and just recently purchased a vacation/retirement place there. Truly a hidden gem in the mountains." – Deborah Summey; Folly Beach, SC
"Everyone you meet in Floyd acts like they are cousins from way back - there are no strangers! It's a real delight to be treated like family, even if it's only for a day." – Lorraine Covington; Clemmons, NC
"Floyd is a magical place. Where else can you enjoy a music festival as hip as Floydfest and enjoy a sweet treat at the local country store known for its live bluegrass shows all in the same day?" – Jennifer Bonds; Riner, VA
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