Date: October 28, 2016
New River Valley, VA – This summer, five towns (technically four towns and one city) were voted to top spots in the Happiest Mountain Towns reader poll by Blue Ridge Country magazine. Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, Floyd, and Pulaski all received top honors in the magazine’s rankings which used quantitative data like unemployment rates and commute times as a baseline, but also accounted for readers’ passions for their hometowns.
The initial 96 towns were whittled down to 61 for readers to choose from, and the coverage area included the mountain regions of Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina. Blue Ridge Country vetted the 61 initial choices by setting “minimum happiness-base standards” (i.e. a commute of <30 minutes, a below-average cost-of-living, unemployment rate below 10%, etc.), but then left the poll open for readers all over the nation to vote for their favorites.
In the 10,000-49,999 category, three New River Valley towns cracked the top twenty: Blacksburg (#6), Christiansburg (#17), and Radford (#18). Blacksburg and Christiansburg, both located in Montgomery County, are strongly affiliated with Virginia Tech and the many companies that have spun-off from or located near the research university. Radford, of course, is closely tied to Radford University and its award-winning business, nursing, education, and liberal arts programs.
All three places boast a low cost-of-living, easy accessibility to the outdoors (the 7-mile Huckleberry Trail connects Blacksburg and Christiansburg and the New River snakes its way along the edge of Radford’s downtown and campus corridor), and a strong arts community.
Floyd (#3) and Pulaski (#26) clinched a top spots in the <10,000 category. Heralded by Southern Living as one of the South’s Best Small Towns, the top tier ranking is no surprise. What Floyd lacks in numbers, it makes up for with style, small town charm, and impactful events. Floyd’s innovative business climate offers start-ups, entrepreneurial ventures, and artisanal producers a welcoming place to do business.
Pulaski, a former furniture and textile manufacturing town, has undergone a massive revitalization initiative including the renovation of the Jackson Park Inn, clean-up of Peak Creek, and improvements to Calfee Park, the ninth oldest professional Minor League Baseball Park in use in America. While many diverse manufacturing jobs still exist in Pulaski, other home-grown business are sprouting up and the town is working to attract a mix of industries.
Both towns offer unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities like paddleboarding the Little River, biking the New River Trail State Park, or hiking the region’s trails. They also both promote large community farmers markets and music-oriented events like the Floyd County Store Friday Night Jamboree.
To learn more about the poll, its methodology, and to see how the New River Valley stacks up, visit Blue Ridge Country.