These three North Carolina spots are named on USA Today’s 10Best lists

·3 min read

USA TODAY readers voted three North Carolina spots among the best in North America in the categories for “Small Town For Adventures” and “Best Aquariums.”

The annual 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards are determined by readers’ votes. Initial selections came from travel experts choosing the top 20 nominees in a number of categories, including best art museum, best farmers market, best outdoor water park and more.

As of June 21, many 10Best categories are still pending, and results will be announced over the next few weeks.

All categories, winners and pending winners can be found at

Two NC small towns win best for adventures

Boone and Beaufort took home readers’ choice awards for best small towns for adventure.

Boone, NC: This mountain town is a part of Watauga County. It takes roughly 3 hours to drive from Raleigh to Boone.

“Nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina at 3,333 feet, this college town is the highest elevation of any city over 10,000 population east of the Mississippi River. As a result, Boone is at the heart of outdoor adventure activities,” USA TODAY 10Best said. “There are plenty of hiking and rock climbing sites in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nearby Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi, and Grandfather Mountain and Blowing Rock are popular day trips. The rivers are also ideal for fishing, or you can take a whitewater rafting trip down the French Broad River.”

Boone came in at #5 on the list. Savannah, Illinois took the top spot.

Beaufort, NC: This quaint coastal town is a part of Carteret County. It takes roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive from Raleigh to Beaufort.

“‘From the wild horses on Shackleford Banks to boating, fishing and kayaking the many waterways and marshes of the Inner Banks, Beaufort, North Carolina is an outdoors Mecca,’ say 10Best contributors Cele and Lynn Seldon. The Boathouse Marina offers easy access to the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean, and it’s also possible to drop a kayak into Taylor’s Creek for a paddle. Charter companies facilitate offshore fishing and diving, and the Rachel Carson Reserve sets the scene for wildlife watching,” USA TODAY 10Best said.

Beaufort came in at #9 on the list.

Downtown Beaufort, NC
Downtown Beaufort, NC

For the full list of winners, visit

North Carolina wins for best aquariums

North Carolina Aquariums: Four spots in North Carolina made the top 10 readers’ choice list for best aquariums in North America, judged by their high-quality exhibits and visitor interactions.

“This foursome of aquariums – Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher and Jennette’s Pier – each offer a unique experience,” USA TODAY 10Best said. “Walk through a sunken ship or explore wetland wildlife on Roanoke Island, learn about loggerhead turtles at Pine Knoll Shores, come nose to nose with an albino alligator at Fort Fisher and get interactive at Jennette’s Pier.”

The four spots collectively came in at #10 on the list. The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri took the top spot.

For the full list of winners, visit

Visitors at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores watch a Live Dive program in the Living Shipwreck display in 2006.
Visitors at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores watch a Live Dive program in the Living Shipwreck display in 2006.