Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on October 11, 2023.
Our readers and social media followers nominated and voted for their Best of NC over a four-week period.
After tallying thousands of individual nominations and votes, we’re excited to announce the winners.
For 2022, we will also share NC Tripping’s picks for the Best of NC!
Here’s the order in which we’ll present winners to you:
- “Getaways” Category (Most Romantic Place to Stay, Most Family-Friendly Place to Stay, Best Beach Town, Most Romantic Getaway, and the Most Underrated Getaway)
- “Outdoors” Category (Most Outdoor-Friendly Destination, Best Park, Best Camping, and Most Beautiful Waterfall)
- “Food and Drink” (Best Food City, Best Breakfast Restaurant, Best Barbecue Restaurant, Best Ice Cream Shop, Best Doughnut Restaurant, Best Hot Dog Restaurant, Best Brewery, Best Winery, and Best Distillery)
- “Community” (Friendliest Small Town, Most Fun City, Best Annual Festival, Best Museum, and Best Locally Owned Business)
Before we announce the winners, we first want to thank everyone who participated, including the local businesses and destinations throughout the state.
Now, without further ado, here is The Best of NC 2022 as decided by you!
Best of NC “Getaways” Winners
For the Best of NC’s “Getaways” category, we combined last year’s “Romantic Getaways” and “Best Place to Stay” into “Most Romantic Place to Stay.” Let’s see who came out on top there and elsewhere among our readers’ favorites and ours, too!
Most Romantic Place to Stay in North Carolina
Winner: The Omni Grove Park Inn (Asheville)
Runner-up: The Beaufort Hotel
Finalists: The Swag (Waynesville) and The MacPherson House (Fayetteville)
NC Tripping’s Pick: The Omni Grove Park Inn (Asheville)
We enjoyed an anniversary stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn and agree with our readers on this one. The Swag has long been on our radar and we look forward to learning more about it in 2023 and beyond.
NC’s Most Family-Friendly Place to Stay
Winner: Great Wolf Lodge (Concord)
Runner-up: Chetola Resort (Blowing Rock)
Finalists: Blockade Runner (Wrightsville Beach) and The Sanderling Resort (Duck)
NC Tripping’s Pick: Great Wolf Lodge (Concord)
Great Wolf Lodge in Concord wins the inaugural “Family-Friendly Place to Stay” and we couldn’t agree more with this. There are rides for all ages (parents included) and tons of fun beyond the amazing waterpark.
NC’s Best Beach Town
Topsail Island won “Best Beach” in 2021 so it’s no surprise that Topsail Beach would win “Best Beach Town” in 2022.
NC’s Most Underrated Getaway (Town or City)
If you’re a part of our Facebook Group, you’ve probably seen an outpouring of support for New Bern whenever a question is asked about small towns. Stay tuned because we’re not done mentioning New Bern, either.
Elkin has been one of our favorite towns for a while and it was the first one that came to mind when trying to pick our best.
The Best of NC “Outdoors” Category
If you know us, then you know that the “Outdoors” category is one that we keep a close eye on.
NC’s Most Outdoor-Friendly Destination (City or Town)
Asheville dethroned reigning champion Boone, but it was a close vote. It’s highly possible that High Country neighbor Blowing Rock split the vote, but we won’t hold it against them for being an awesome outdoor destination.
NC’s Best Park
Winner: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Runner-up: Hanging Rock State Park
Finalists: Stone Mountain State Park and DuPont State Recreational Forest
NC Tripping’s Pick: DuPont State Recreational Forest
This year, we welcomed all parks to this “Best of NC” vote, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park took it home. The other three vote-getters still made some noise, showing the amazing outdoors that await in North Carolina.
We enjoyed beautiful waterfall hikes at DuPont State Recreational Forest on more than a few occasions in 2022 and can’t wait to revisit them.
NC’s Best Place to Go Camping
Winner: Hanging Rock State Park
Runner-up: Price Lake Campground (Blue Ridge Parkway)
Finalists: Bear Den Family Campground and Cabins (Blue Ridge Parkway) and Byrd’s Branch Campground (Elkin)
NC Tripping’s Pick: Bear Den Family Campground and Cabins (Blue Ridge Parkway)
Hanging Rock State Park might not have won “Best Park” but it took home the gold for “Best Place to Go Camping.” The state park’s facilities beat out a few wonderful campgrounds, including two along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway.
NC’s Most Beautiful Waterfall
Linville Falls repeated as champion of “NC’s Most Beautiful Waterfall.” It’s one of the state’s most photographed waterfalls, so we won’t argue with our readers and followers here.
Crabtree Falls is just a special one to NC Tripping and will be hard to take down unless another waterfall can sway us.
The Best of NC “Food and Drink” Category
Hopefully, this category doesn’t anger too many people, as we’ve found restaurants to be one of the most passionate topics on our website and social media pages. Just check out Christina’s Tiktok about Roast Grill in Raleigh for example.
NC’s Best Food City
Asheville retains its title as “NC’s Best Food City,” even though Raleigh put up quite a fight. As both cities continue to serve amazing dishes, we’ll be there for as much of it as possible.
NC’s Best Breakfast Restaurant
Winner: Blue Ridge Biscuit Company (Black Mountain)
Runner-up: Press Crepes and Coffee (Graham and Durham)
Finalists: Scrambled (Greensboro) and Melanie’s Food Fantasy (Boone)
NC Tripping’s Pick: Shelby Cafe (Shelby)
Blue Ridge Biscuit Company fills up quickly, so if you want to try “NC’s Best Breakfast Restaurant,” get there as soon as they open. That’s true for all of these eateries, including our pick The Shelby Cafe.
NC’s Best Barbecue Restaurant
Winner: Lexington Barbecue (the Restaurant in Lexington)
Runner-up: Sam Jones BBQ (Winterville and Raleigh)
Finalists: B’s Barbecue (Greenville) and Fowler’s Southern Gourmet (Fayetteville)
NC Tripping’s Pick: Skylight Inn (Ayden)
Lexington Barbecue repeated as champion of NC barbecue, one of the most hotly debated topics in the state. We went against our readers and followers, though, and stayed faithful to Skylight Inn in Ayden.
NC’s Best Ice Cream Shop
“NC’s Best Ice Cream Shop” was a new addition and Boombalatti’s came out on top. Sunny Sky’s is a very popular runner-up, though. We see this being a very competitive category in future votes.
NC’s Best Doughnut Restaurant
It’s really hard to argue with Britts here. Have you really been to Carolina Beach if you haven’t had Britts during a summer visit. With so many doughnut shops on our minds, Tepuy in Raleigh stands out to NC Tripping.
Read More: 15 of the Best Day Trips in North Carolina
NC’s Best Hot Dog Restaurant
Winner: Snoopy’s Hot Dogs & More (Raleigh)
Runner-up: The Trolley Stop (Wilmington)
Finalists: Hap’s Grill (Salisbury) and Hot Dog World (Hendersonville)
NC Tripping’s Pick: The Roast Grill (Raleigh)
Snoopy’s in Raleigh is a Capital City favorite and worthy of winning “NC’s Best Hot Dog Restaurant.” The Roast Grill also deserves a shot and don’t even think about bringing your own ketchup.
NC’s Best Brewery
Winner: Booneshine Brewing Company (Boone)
Runner-up: Salty Turtle Beer Company (Surf City)
Finalists: Fullsteam Brewery (Durham) and Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom (Hope Mills)
NC Tripping’s Pick: Fullsteam
With an abundance of breweries from the mountains to the sea, this is probably the hardest category to make a pick. Booneshine is usually the first place we stop in Boone, so you did well in select this one.
Fullsteam in Durham continues to produce interesting new releases to go with their mainstays. We were excited to see the moon pie-inspired Workingman’s Lunch return in 2022.
NC’s Best Winery
Grandfather Mountain Winery retained its title from last year in a very tough vote. With their mix of excellent High Country scenery and wonderful wines, we couldn’t be happier for them winning “NC’s Best Winery.”
There were so many choices but we went with JOLO in the Yadkin Valley.
NC’s Best Distillery
Winner: Mystic Farm and Distillery (Durham)
Runner-up: Call Family Distillers (Wilkesboro)
Finalists: Southern Grace Distilleries (Mount Pleasant) and Durham Distillery
NC Tripping’s Pick: Southern Distilling Company (Statesville)
Mystic Farm and Distillery has built an impressive selection of liquor, but their Heart of Mystic Single Barrel Bourbon is in our top 3 of ABC Store purchases.
2021 winner Southern Distilling Company’s Southern Star Single Barrel High Rye is also at the top of our list and deserves a mention among the Best of NC.
The last of our four categories is “Community.” This is where we give shoutouts to small towns, cities, and destinations within each.
NC’s Friendliest Small Town
Finalists: Elkin and Waynesville
NC Tripping’s Pick: New Bern
Swansboro is just a jewel of a town, with a beautiful view of the water just a few steps away. Catch a sunrise or sunset here and definitely take a boat out to Bear Island because the views from that secluded patch of sand will always be on our minds.
Christina and Carl debated this one for hours but we came to an agreement on New Bern.
NC’s Most Fun City
Finalists: Charlotte and Raleigh
NC Tripping’s Pick: Charlotte
Asheville finished its sweep of awards with a repeat as “NC’s Most Fun City.” Well Played Board Game Cafe returned to bolster this mountain town’s assortment of fun things to do.
We picked Charlotte largely because of the ease that you can get around via the Light Rail. Christina also saw Lizzo there this year and what’s more fun than that experience?
NC’s Best Annual Festival
Winner: The NC State Fair (Raleigh)
Runner-up: Woolly Worm Festival (Banner Elk)
Finalists: Lexington Barbecue Festival (Lexington) and Cheerwine Festival (Salisbury)
NC Tripping’s Pick: Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree (Ocracoke)
The NC State Fair took 2022’s award for “NC’s Best Festival” and it’s hard to dispute the state’s largest festival winning this.
However, Carl and Kiddo’s experience at Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree this year pushed that awesome event to the top of our list.
NC’s Best Museum
Winner: NC Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh)
Runner-up: Museum of Life and Science (Durham)
Finalists: Greensboro Science Center and Museum of the Cherokee People (Cherokee)
NC Tripping’s Pick: NC Museum of History (Raleigh)
The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is such an awesome place to visit throughout the year. We’ve been taking our kids there for years and hope that never changes.
We also love the NC Museum of History which you can easily combine with 2022’s winner.
NC’s Best Locally Owned Business
Winner: Farmer and the Dail (Snow Hill)
Runner-up: Locopops (Durham)
Finalists: Cook’s Sports (Wilkesboro) and Carolina Packers Bright Leaf (Smithfield)
NC Tripping’s Pick: All Businesses in NC
Farmer and the Dail made a comeback after being down in the voting to Durham local’s favorite Locopops. It’s probably the next place we’re visiting, so you’ll be seeing more of it from us.
We really couldn’t narrow it down to one business because we have met and befriended so many owners and employees in 2022. Local businesses keep this state moving in a great direction and we’re so grateful for them all.
Best of NC Changes from 2021 to 2022
In an effort to continue improving The Best of NC, we made the following changes and updates to the contest:
- Number of Votes: In 2021, we allowed multiple votes per person. In 2022, we decided to make the contest one vote per person.
- New Categories: The first Best of NC featured 20 categories, and for 2022, there are 24. New categories include:
- Getaways: “Best Place to Stay” was changed to “Most Romantic Place to Stay” and “Most Romantic Getaway” was moved to “Most Romantic Place to Stay.” “Most Family-Friendly Vacation Spot” became “Most Family-Friendly Place to Stay” in 2022.
- Outdoors: “Best State Park” was changed to “Best Park,” so any park could qualify.
- Food and Drink: “Best Ice Cream Shop,” “Best Doughnut Restaurant,” and “Best Hot Dog Restaurant” were added.
Ready for the Next Best of North Carolina?
Again, we want to thank everyone who participated in this Best of NC. We love sharing how passionate you are about this wonderful state we call North Carolina.
While we wait to launch the next Best of North Carolina, stay tuned for more articles and social media posts from us. You can also subscribe to receive our weekly email newsletter.
In the meantime, what do you think of these winners? Also, what categories would you like to see next year? Please let us know here in the comments or by email.
Don’t forget to share your picks for the Best of NC in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!
More of The Best of NC
These award winners and finalists have featured in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a few of our guides to help you explore this amazing state.