Highlands is an incorporated town in Macon County in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Located on a plateau in the southern Appalachian Mountains, within the Nantahala National Forest, it lies mostly in southeastern Macon County and slightly in southwestern Jackson County, in the Highlands and Cashiers (pronounced "cashers") townships, respectively. Highlands was founded in 1875 after its two founders, Samuel Truman Kelsey and Clinton Carter Hutchinson, drew lines from Chicago to Savannah and from New Orleans to New York. They felt that the place where these lines met would eventually become a great trading center and commercial crossroads.
Highlands is becoming more and more a two-season community; a summer-season community and an ever growing winter-season community. The summer season (generally March through November) draws large numbers of Southerners from the oppressive summertime heat and humidity found throughout much of the region to enjoy the beautiful mountains, cool days, fine dining, and hometown Main Street experience. More and more the town is increasing its winter season draw through its offering of arts, culinary, holiday and romantic events.
The town is dotted with many antique dealers, a well-known auction house, restaurants (six of which have received awards from Wine Spectator), shops, and inns, as well as several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. For the performing arts there are four theaters: The Highlands Playhouse, the Instant Theatre Company (founded in 1981), the Highlands Community Players, and the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center, which hosts touring groups. For the visual arts there is The Bascom - A Center for the Visual Arts, a new facility named for the artist and playwright, Louise Rand Bascom Barratt.
The historic (NRHP-listed) Lee's Inn, with an enormous tree growing through the middle of its dining room, was lost to an electrical fire in the 1980s and was not rebuilt. The historic Old Edwards Inn (also NRHP-listed) continues to operate as an inn and spa catering to the affluent.