The downtown area is often the heart and soul of a town. This is a place for locals to gather, tourists to explore, and where events take place. Some cities and towns have vibrant downtown areas that are bustling with activity, while far-flung neighborhoods are where the action is at in other places across the country.
But in this article, we’re focusing on places in the U.S. that have beautiful downtown areas worth checking out. Some of these places are big cities, while others small and mid-sized towns. But one thing that they all have in common is that downtown is the place to be to embrace the culture and spirit of the local people.
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Greenville, South Carolina
A unique and beautiful place in South Carolina to visit is Greenville, which has a lovely downtown area that’s perfect for strolling around on a nice day. Expect to find lots of sidewalk cafes, a quaint Main Street, and even a waterfall. Falls Park on the Reedy is a photogenic spot that’s romantic and next to a multi-use trail for walking, jogging, and biking. This is a busy place among workers during the day but also a top place to come for dining and entertainment in the evenings. There are about 10 blocks of buzzing downtown space that has over 100 independent restaurants. This is an artsy downtown area that has museums and performers, especially at The Peace Center. Centre Stage, meanwhile, hosts plays, concerts, and comedy shows.
The city of Sedona has a bit of a reputation for stunning rock formations, New Age crystals, and mysterious vortexes. But this is also a place with an exciting downtown area to explore. Main Street is a fun place to walk around and shop for souvenirs. Admittedly, it’s a bit touristy and pricey, but you can’t beat the location and browsing the unique mom-and-pop shops. You’ll also find impressive art galleries and a fudge shop surrounded by the natural red rocks of the nearby mountains. Then plan to get out of town to explore the hiking and biking trails to really appreciate the nature that surrounds Sedona. Top attractions are the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Red Rock State Park, the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts, and the Verde Valley Wine Trail.
Milwaukee is a great place to visit because it feels like a big city and a small town at the same time. When you visit the downtown area, you can check out the river walks and stop at restaurants, breweries, and shops along the way. It’s also fun to take a kayak or canoe down the river and dock up to the back of restaurants from the water. You’ll also find museums and venues like the Pabst Theater downtown and have access to the beach at Lake Michigan. This is a welcoming spot for nearby Chicagoans because the downtown area is easy to navigate and more relaxed.
Mount Dora, Florida
Mount Dora is a much smaller place than many of the cities on this list, but it’s a charming town that puts downtown on center stage. One of the best places to start your exploration of Mount Dora is Donnelly Park, which is in the middle of town. Have a picnic or check out a local festival here. The Fall Craft Fair and the Mount Dora Arts Festival are popular events. Otherwise in the downtown area, you’ll find antique stores, a rail depot, and lots of historic architecture. It’s unlike anywhere else in Florida really, and don’t miss the outdoor flea market on Saturdays and Sundays called the Renninger’s Florida Twin Markets.
To experience one of the oldest and largest downtown areas in the nation, visit Philadelphia and plan to spend several days in this area. Here you’ll find everything from cultural venues to business headquarters and convention centers. It’s a great place to learn about American history, find incredible restaurants, and observe the architecture that has been evolving over time. You’ll also find residential neighborhoods in the downtown area that add color and flavor to this part of town and often surprise first-time visitors.
Vermont is a place known for farm-to-table restaurants, quaint towns, and friendly people. The downtown area of Burlington has lots to offer residents and guests who want to dine, drink, shop, and get exercise. There is an excellent trail for biking that runs through town and several breweries to stop at along the way. Church Street Market is located downtown and an open-air mall that’s home to festivals, street musicians, shopping, and dining. Overall, this is a great city for outdoor enthusiasts who want some art and culture along with their nature. Other fun things to check out in Burlington include the Waterfront Park, the Burlington City Arts Center, the Frog Hollow Craft Center, and an odd structure known as the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet.
Seattle has a picturesque downtown setting that offers lovely views of the water and is very clean and inviting. Here you’ll find a refreshing mix of history and contemporary in the attractions, architecture, and events. Landmarks to check out if you’ve never been to Seattle before include Pier 59, the Salmon Bay Bridge, and the Space Needle.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Art galleries, local restaurants, and parks make downtown Colorado Springs a great place to be. You’ll find a nice mix of old and new architecture here with pedestrian-friendly streets and pleasant landscaping. There are lots of places to eat downtown, as well as co-working spaces that attract remote workers and budding entrepreneurs. As with many places in Colorado, this down is an outdoor lover’s paradise. So makes sure to spend some time in Acacia Park, which is in the center of downtown, and America the Beautiful Park in the southwestern corner of downtown.
Lots of East Coast cities have thriving downtown areas that have withstood the test of time. One of them is Boston, which has a very interesting downtown area that is full of Revolutionary War-era historic sites, public squares, and parks. There are narrow and winding roads that are charming and quaint even amidst the big city setting. Many public and private businesses are headquartered in downtown Boston, which makes this area packed and busy during weekdays. The Charles River brings some peace and serenity to downtown Boston.
Chicago is a big city, but some large urban areas pour considerably more time and effort into their downtown areas than others. The downtown part of Chicago is huge and has a little bit of everything – government centers, private businesses, tourist attractions, high-end restaurants, dive bars, museums, theaters, and residential high-rises. The Chicago river runs through downtown, and Lake Michigan creates the border of the city. These waterways provide recreation and beauty to an otherwise landlocked city. Top places to visit downtown include Grant Park, Millennium Park, Navy Pier, Oak Street Beach, and the Lakefront Trail.
A smaller town that has put big effort into its downtown area is Plano, Texas. The city began revitalizing the downtown in the 1990s when a new city hall, fire station, and courthouse were built. A light rail station was later added, and today there are lots of shops and restaurants here. What makes this downtown area interesting is that the buildings have a unique vintage look. Unlike many cities and towns around the country, downtown Plano has emerged as a top place to live for young professionals and families.
Buckhannon, West Virginia
The West Virginia city of Buckhannon has a thriving downtown and welcoming hospitality. It’s located near Civil War sites and the Allegheny Mountains, which makes it an ideal destination for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts. The historic district downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and there are lots of festivals that take place in this part of town. Jawbone Park also has farmer’s markets, live music, and handmade crafts for sale on Fridays in the summer and fall. While you’re in the area, don’t miss Audra State Park, the Buckhannon Antique Mall, and the Little Hungary Farm Winery.