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No. 1 on the ‘Most Dubious List Ranking Cities’ list

Visitors stroll the waterfront boardwalk, dotted with shops and restaurants, in downtown Beaufort, N.C. An online list of “Top 18 Small Cities in North Carolina” lists it as No. 1. That list is a reverse-order repeat of an older one, “Top 21 Small Cities in North Carolina,” that had Beaufort at No. 18.
Visitors stroll the waterfront boardwalk, dotted with shops and restaurants, in downtown Beaufort, N.C. An online list of “Top 18 Small Cities in North Carolina” lists it as No. 1. That list is a reverse-order repeat of an older one, “Top 21 Small Cities in North Carolina,” that had Beaufort at No. 18. PAUL V. BROWN

The website 101usa.com is a list compiler – healthiest U.S. cities, best public high schools in Georgia, top haunted American cities, etc. – geared to those who like their qualitative input short, sweet and ranked.

It now has a list of “Top 18 Small Cities in North Carolina.” Take a look. What do you make of it?

1. Beaufort

2. Morrisville

3. Chapel Hill

4. Morganton

5. Apex

6. Lenoir

7. Garner

8. Brevard

9. Clemmons

10. Marion

11. Hendersonville

12. Black Mountain

13. Tryon

14. Valdese

15. Blowing Rock

16. Wake Forest

17. Boone

18. Asheville

The big question might be why Asheville weighs in at No. 18: It regularly tops various vacation-destination lists. For that matter, why is it on a list of “small” N.C. municipalities?

Many of the other entries on the list are well-known as places where scenery, colleges and/or affluence create a great weekend getaway ambiance.

Remove those factors, and you’ve still have winners: Morganton, Lenoir, Marion and Valdese, for example, are all fun places to explore – and easy drives from Charlotte. Clemmons, just outside Winston-Salem, and an easy Interstate drive (I-77 North to I-40 West) is famous for Tanglewood Park, which offers year-round delights and literally shines when Christmas season rolls around. Beaufort, near Morehead City, is the historic (and good-eating) charmer near Morehead City. It’s also the ferry connection to the Shackleford Banks – a place everyone should experience.

The head scratchers on the list? Morrisville, Apex and Garner – three suburbs of Raleigh. Their inclusion on this “best” list clearly is due to rapid growth, income and education. The sprawl factor. Wake Forest, also in Wake County, at least has Falls Lake State Recreation Area.

Would you drive to these places if you didn’t have to? (Before you answer, be aware that Morrisville’s claims to fame include being the headquarters of the N.C. State Board of Dental Examiners and the onetime headquarters of defunct Midway Airlines.)

Notable absences from this list include Murphy, Waynesville, Bryson City, Shelby, Belmont, Hillsborough, New Bern, Manteo... and many other worth-visiting places.

There’s no indication of who exactly assembled “Top 18 Small Cities in North Carolina,” nor what criteria was used.

That said, the item-by-item text is identical to an older list – “Top 21 Small Cities in North Carolina” at www.citiesjournal.com – which has three additional towns... and which ranked the other places in reverse order.

The takeaway: Take “best of” lists with a grain of salt.

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