Whoever said small-town life was a small life never lived in Burnsville, NC. The town offers living situations and outdoor experiences that go above and beyond the norm, presenting you with many opportunities to Live the Life You Choose.
“Burnsville is kind of a cool place to be,” said Jamie McMahan, Yancey County Planner. “Our outdoor recreation has always been some of the best you’ll find on the east coast. The local art is some of the best in the nation. Downtown here—you can walk through the square, do a ‘360,’ look around—it’s Norman Rockwell. I mean, you can’t beat it.”
Burnsville (population 1,673) is the largest of the 11 mountain townships in Yancey County, as well as the county seat. Located in the center of the county, Burnsville is 35 miles northeast of Asheville and 50 miles southwest of Boone, NC.
“You’re close to Asheville if you want the hustle and bustle, and if you don’t want the hustle and bustle, you’re just 35 minutes away,” said McMahan. “It’s the reason we have a lot of folks who live here, [who] both enjoy Asheville and Boone, but they want to be where life is a little slower. You can get to know your neighbors, and that’s what I think about when I think of Yancey County and Burnsville.”
Burnsville’s picturesque town square, lined with shops and municipal buildings, has been a community gathering place since 1833. “You can see anything from people painting watercolors to folks reading books, kids throwing Frisbees” in the well utilized public space. “It’s a village common, if you will,” said McMahon.
Radiating our from the square in each cardinal direction are the many shops, restaurants, art galleries, and services of Main Street, Burnsville. “The retail merchants that you’ll find on Main Street are 100% independent retailers,” said McMahon. “All do a very thriving business, making it a sort of a very pedestrian friendly, very walkable, very energetic place downtown.”
Much of that energy can be attributed to Burnsville’s thriving arts scene. The community supports 500 local artists through nonprofits, festivals, and the acclaimed Penland School of Crafts. That’s more artists per capita than any other place in the nation! The area’s extraordinarily rich artistic output features everything from fine art to traditional arts and crafts, including basket makers, glassblowers, metal smiths, painters, papermakers, potters, quilters, sculptors, and weavers.
The renowned Penland School of Crafts is located just minutes from Burnsville on the border of Yancey and Mitchell Counties. Innovative artists—both emerging and established—come from all parts of the country and represent the creative mission of the school. In addition to a sales area, there is a gallery on campus with an ongoing series of invitational shows.
The performing arts have a strong presence here, as well. Founded in 1947, the Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville is the longest-running community theater in North Carolina. It produces a wide range of performances and distinctive productions for their audiences that often are crafted and performed by artists who live in the community. This commitment makes the theatre experience at the Parkway Playhouse unique.
“But most recently, we’ve actually had sort of a tech surge,” said McMahon. “Yancey County is also the only county in North Carolina to have 100% connectivity by fiber to the home. So no matter wherever you live in our rocky terrain here in Yancey County, because we’re pretty mountainous, you can be served with up to a full gig of service by fiber connection.”
In fact, Burnsville is located among some of the highest mountains to be found in Western North Carolina—and in the eastern U.S., for that matter. The county is bordered by Tennessee to the north and a stretch of the Appalachian Trail to the south. Just a few miles from Burnsville looms Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi (6,684 feet above sea level). The mountain is surrounded by the 2,000-acre Mount Mitchell State Park, which is full of choice spots for hiking, camping, picnicking, and outdoor education.
“We draw a lot of people who come to Burnsville who plan other outdoor recreation,” said McMahon. “[There’s] a lot of people looking for fishing, hunting, hiking. We’re ideally located centrally to all those sorts of things. Burnsville is sort of the place where you can come hang out, have a coffee, do some shopping, if you’re not sweating on the trails somewhere, trying to pull a trout out of a stream nearby.”
For these and many more reasons, Burnsville and Yancey County offer living situations and outdoor experiences that go above and beyond the norm. In turn, these experiences are attracting a growing community of people to the area.
“It’s a very wide and diverse group of folks who come here,” said McMahon. “We have a lot of native-born folks who grew up here and realize it to be the best place in the world. We have a lot of people who come here as soon as they can, as I like to put it—so, as soon as they discover Burnsville and Yancey County. So, a lot of folks who come from, really, all over the country have settled here and make it, really, a vibrant community.”
“To watch Burnsville change, as it’s changed and evolved and grown as a small town—I think it’s the ideal small town,” said McMahon. “And if you like that kind of small town life, you want to take it a little slower, a little easier—you couldn’t find a better place to be.”
See the beauty and excitement of Burnsville for yourself! Read more about Burnsville, see more photos, or search for homes in the area, from our Beverly-Hanks Burnsville community page.