Located deep in the heart of western North Carolina, the quaint little city of Statesville has a lot to offer despite its small size. Founded in the 1750's after the establishment of Fort Dobbs during the French and Indian War, it later served as the temporary state capitol, after Raleigh fell to Union forces toward the end of the Civil War. Thereafter, the little town flourished, becoming the state's leading producer of tobacco and whiskey. The charm of the Old South can still be found in the historic buildings dotting the city's downtown area, where antique shops, fine art galleries and even a day spa can be found, as well as a wide array of cuisine, from traditional Southern BBQ to modern Japanese and Thai. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors flock to Statesville for the Carolina BalloonFest to enjoy live music, drink local wine, and watch hundreds of hot air balloons of all shapes and colors take to the sky for races and design competitions, some offering rides to the public. Another year-round attraction is the nearby Emerald Hollow Mine, where a 1,686-carat emerald crystal was found, the largest ever in North America. For just $5, visitors can buy and wash buckets of ore taken straight from the mine, which might contain emeralds or other precious stones worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars! But even if you don't leave with a pocketful of precious jewels, a visit to Statesville will leave you marveling at this hidden gem.