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Escape to Edenton, N.C.: Must-See Sights in One of America’s Prettiest Small Towns

A boat sails into Edenton Harbor.

Guest blogger and frequent visitor Emily McMackin reveals what makes Edenton one of America’s prettiest small towns, along with its can’t-miss sights, shopping and cuisine.

Everyone needs a hideaway. A place you discover all on your own and find yourself wanting to return to as often as possible. For me, that place is Edenton, N.C.

I first came to Edenton on a work trip. My job as a magazine editor often takes me places I would have never visited otherwise — and that’s what brought me to this town of 5,000 near North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

A few weeks before my visit, Edenton was named one of “America’s Prettiest Small Towns” by Forbes magazine — and it was obvious why. The first time I turned down North Broad Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, I felt like I was crossing into another time.

Lush oaks, elms, sycamores and magnolias towered above the road like a canopy, draping columned homes in curtains of green. Crepe myrtles colored yards in rainbows of pink and filled the air with fragrance.

Nearly every house had a spacious front porch with a swing and an American flag fluttering in the breeze. I was tempted to trespass just so I could sit on one for a little while.

Right away, I was captivated by Edenton’s storybook beauty, but I soon discovered more about this town that I loved. Here are three reasons I keep coming back and why you are sure to fall in love with it, too.

Steeped in Stories

Grand historic homes line North Broad Street, Edenton's main thoroughfare.

Edenton folks are natural-born storytellers, but perhaps that’s because they live in a place so rich in history. Established in 1712, this waterfront town is the second oldest in North Carolina and served as its first Colonial capital until 1743.

Almost every street has a historical marker, including two for National Historic Landmarks. Downtown is full of restored homes spanning two centuries and showcasing a range of architecture, including Jacobean, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian styles.

For a small place, Edenton has played a big role in shaping American history. History buffs won’t want to miss:

Chowan County Courthouse: Built in 1787 with funds raised by Declaration of Independence signer Joseph Hewes, this Colonial courthouse is the most intact one left.

Cupola House: Constructed in 1758 for one of the royal governor’s agents, the home is known for its gardens, modeled after their original 1769 layout.

Barker House: This mansion was home to Penelope Barker, leader of the Edenton Tea Party, America’s earliest group of female political activists (a teacup-themed memorial to the ladies can be viewed nearby). From rockers on the back porch, tourists can admire watercolor reflections of historic homes across Edenton Bay.

Edenton Harbor: Part of the Maritime Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail, Edenton’s Harbor on the Albemarle Sound has a deep history. Visitors can walk the docks where Edenton native Harriet Jacobs, whose Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl memoir documented her harsh treatment as a slave, secretly boarded a boat bound for Philadelphia and sailed to freedom in 1842.

Haven for Hospitality

Spend the evening at The Pack House Inn and enjoy a breakfast of blueberry pancakes the next morning.

If you love bed and breakfasts, Edenton is for you. Innkeepers are famous for their attentiveness. One of my hosts got up before sunrise to brew coffee and put out sweet bread for me when I left early one morning to catch a flight.

Some of them, like bed and breakfast owners and New England transplants David and Dora Drohen, moved to Edenton after falling in love with it themselves. For a memorable stay, book a room at:

Granville Queen Inn Bed and Breakfast: Guest chambers in this turn-of-the-century Victorian house come with antiques, crystal chandeliers, fireplaces and private balconies. Don’t miss rocking on the grand front porch or breakfast in the plantation room, where delicacies like poached pears, crepes, sausage puffs and frozen amaretto cream baskets of mixed berries are served.

The Pack House Inn: Given the best innkeepers award by Bed and Breakfast Directory, this 1915 tobacco packing house includes period furnishings, canopy beds, fluffy bathrobes and a kitchen stocked with an endless supply of homemade treats. Guests receive a chilled bottle of Chardonnay upon arrival and can choose between blueberry pancakes or egg souffle for breakfast, with sides of home fries, grits, sausage links and fruit cocktail.

Turn back time with a visit to the Downtown Cafe & Soda Shoppe and order a milkshake, sundae or float.

Delectable Dining, Specialty Shopping

A downtown stroll is mandatory to the Edenton experience. Holly trees line brick sidewalks, where locals stop to shoot the breeze. The marquee of restored 1925 art deco Twin Taylor Cinema lights up each evening as it did 80-plus years ago, and 19th-century commercial buildings house some of best restaurants and antique stores. Foodies should try:

Waterman’s Grill: Savor the finest Carolina cuisine — crab cakes, seasoned shrimp, stewed tomatoes and corn pudding — in a candlelit yet casual setting. Have a glass of muscadine wine and save room for pineapple upside-down cake!

Downtown Cafe & Soda Shoppe: Scoot a red patent leather stool up to this old-fashioned soda fountain and enjoy a sundae, milkshake or float in this former pharmacy-turned-cafe.

Edenton Coffeehouse Bakery & Cafe: Linger over a used book and a latte, smoothie or frappuccino at this coffee bar and its adjoining bookstore (appropriately named The Garden of Good Readin’). The cafe bakes its own biscotti and has daily soup and sandwich specials. My recommendation? Try the apple chicken salad.

Love souvenir shopping? Don’t leave town without stopping by:

Edenton Bay Trading Company: This bayside shop sells everything from sea salt truffles and Carolina wines to coffee-table books, handmade jewelry and beachy collectibles. I bought my souvenir there — a shell box with red velvet lining. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of Edenton and all its hidden gems.

Visit for yourself to see what treasures you can uncover in one of America’s prettiest small towns!

For even more visuals or to create a travel board for your trip to Edenton, check out our latest Pinterest board featuring Emily’s picks!

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What to See and Do in Savannah—and Why You Should Come Back

Spanish-moss-draped oaks are everywhere in Savannah.

Beneath the Spanish-moss-draped oaks and behind the Southern drawls, resident Michelle Ryan says Savannah’s got can’t-miss dining, shopping and historical attractions.

Savannah always seems to be getting some sort of stamp of approval as a top destination. Most recently, Travel + Leisure magazine tapped it as one of the Top 10 Best Cities in the U.S. and Canada. Just a few months ago, it made travel planning site TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Travelers’ Choice U.S. Destinations.

No wonder a steady stream of visitors pass through its uniquely laid out downtown on foot, on trolley tours and on horse-drawn carriages. There’s more to Savannah than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Paula Deen—though those are big reasons that get visitors in the city limits to start.

Below those Spanish-moss-draped oaks and behind those Southern drawls, there’s a wealth of good eating, shopping, sightseeing and merriment to enjoy. Here’s the can’t-miss guide on what to see, eat and do if you visit Savannah. (Note: Falling under its charming spell is not optional.)

Great Food

Just the fact that Savannah is a coastal Southern city ought to give this one away. But you’ll find a lot more than great fried chicken (and all the fixin’s) and seafood here. So much so that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few places, but this is at least a delicious start.

Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room: With National Geographic and Taste of the South magazines’ blessing, you can’t go wrong here. Fried chicken, corn, Savannah red rice, cornbread and more is served community style. Better get there early. The line starts forming at 10:30 a.m. for lunch.

Vic’s on the River: For a great view of the Savannah River—and the occasional cargo ship passing by—treat yourself to a fried shrimp po-boy (with a side of Old Bay-seasoned fries). It may be the best you’ll eat this far east of New Orleans.

The Olde Pink House: Some of the best food in town is served in this old (and, yes, pink) home. Don’t miss the BLT Salad, which made Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” cut. For added ambiance and entertainment, head down to the tavern area for a drink or dinner. The wait is worth it.

Sweet Treats

What’s lunch or dinner without dessert? If you’re craving sugar after a meal or just because, you’ll be glad to know Savannah’s got a sweet tooth too.

Leopold’s Ice Cream: Cool off with a scoop (or two) in this family-owned ice cream shop decorated with movie posters and Hollywood props. Tutti-Frutti is a signature flavor, but since The Toronto Sun put Leopold’s in among the top 10 ice cream shops in the world, any flavor should be pretty good.

Savannah Candy Kitchen: During a stroll along River Street, stop in for pralines, peanut brittle, divinity or fudge. Be sure to get extra. That sugar high will wear off and you’ll want more later.

Lulu’s Chocolate Bar: You can even have your chocolate with an array of from-scratch desserts and drink it too with a wide selection of candy- and dessert-inspired martinis.

Shopping Sprees

After all that eating (and eating), you’ll need to walk off the calories, and there’s no better way than exploring what the downtown shops have to offer. The presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design means there’s shops that cater to both the fashionista and the art lover.

Striking out on your own is part of the fun there, but specifically, don’t miss:

Nourish: Find all-natural soaps, moisturizers and more for you and your pet in this corner store. It’s worth a walk-through for the aromatherapy alone.

For a unique lunch experience, sign up for a Kitchens on the Square cooking class.

Kitchens on the Square: Need a useful—or just a fun—kitchen gadget? This place is full of ‘em! For a unique experience, register for one of the store’s cooking classes. The lesson ends with a yummy lunch.

Rich History

There’s a lot of stories to be told in Savannah—if only the walls could talk! As “America’s Most Haunted City,” it wouldn’t be a surprise if they do. Whether you’re a ghost hunter or a history buff, you won’t want to miss:

Fort Pulaski: Notable for the warfare innovations tested here by the Union Army during the Civil War, this site was one of many—and also the most Southern point—on the Underground Railroad.

First Headquarters Museum: Girl Scouting is special to Savannah in that Juliette Gordon Low founded the organization here more than 100 years ago. In addition to her birthplace and adult home, this museum contains scouting memorabilia on the site where some of the first meetings were held.

Guided Tours: Get an overview of the city’s past (haunted or not) on one of the many trolley tours, carriage rides, hearses or pub crawls.

Unique Events

You can take in any of the hot spots on this list year-round, but you’ll want to plan ahead—or keep coming back—to enjoy two of Savannah’s most unique attractions.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Everyone is Irish at least for the day during Savannah’s largest annual event—and the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration and parade in the U.S. Even the fountains go green!

Savannah Film Festival: Held annually in the fall, this week-long event features work from award-winning and up-and-coming student filmmakers. You never know what stars you’ll see in Savannah!

For even more visuals or to create a travel board for your trip to Savannah, check out our latest Pinterest board featuring Michelle’s picks!