Historic town - Deadwood, South Dakota

These Towns in the United States Have the Best Downtown Areas

The United States is home to beautiful and historic downtown areas. While some of the bigger cities like New York and Chicago are well traveled, there are also small towns that embody the spirit and authenticity of America with their downtowns. These downtowns have a little bit of everything from history, art, and even rumors of ghosts. 

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Historic buildings in Fernandina Beach, Florida
Historic buildings in Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, is a gorgeous locale that revels in its history that the downtown area proudly shows off. Along with its history, Fernandina hosts many events throughout the year including the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in the spring and Dickens on Centre in the winter. There is a relaxed atmosphere while walking around Fernandina and the historic buildings and sites are a treasure to see. 

This historic downtown has great dining options along with boutique shops and antique shops tucked beside historic houses like the Lesesne House, built in 1860. The town is steeped in culture and the arts, and the Amelia Island Theatre showcases the local talent. 

Concord, North Carolina

Street view in downtown Concord, North Carolina
Street view in downtown Concord, North Carolina, via Rick C Lanier / Shutterstock.com

The Concord downtown area is a unique mix of modern urbanism and historical significance. The area was populated by the Cabarrus textile industry in the late 19th century, which led to the development of the residential area. Concord embraces this history by preserving it and continuously building modern residential apartments and condos. 

The bulk of the downtown architecture is quaint brickwork which has aged gracefully. Interspersed between the historic buildings is a library, music shop, and eateries. Among the more popular dining options is dessert. There are multiple places to indulge in decadent desserts like The Sweet Life and Chocolatier Barrucand, which is what the downtown area is known for.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Historic buildings in Bar Harbor, Maine
Historic buildings in Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor is a quaint town on Desert Island on Frenchman Bay. It is a gateway to the beautiful mountains and cliffs of Acadia National Park, which is the primary draw of the region. However, there is a gorgeous downtown area that is the heart of the town. 

Charming Main street hosts bright color clapboard buildings and restaurants that serve fresh lobster and blueberry infused dishes (the state fruit). The next visit should be The Village Green, home to a quaint gazebo and old fashioned light posts. The Shore Path is also a popular destination that winds around the natural beauty of this place and allows the visitor to taste the salt tinged air. 

Carmel By The Sea, California

Street view in downtown Carmel, California
Street view in downtown Carmel, California, via Manuela Durson / Shutterstock.com

Carmel By The Sea is a small beach community on the Monterey Peninsula. This picturesque town is known for its museums, library, and the Carmel Mission. There are several fine dining and wine tasting shops throughout downtown. 

The town's website boasts that "every day is a work of art", and the town embodies that spirit. There are several art galleries worth visiting, and the town is home to artists, writers, and other creatives because of its natural beauty and culture. One of the best ways to visit downtown is through a paid walking tour which frequents the galleries and artist workshops. 

Lake Placid, New York

Main Street, located in Lake Placid in Upstate New York state
Main Street, located in Lake Placid in Upstate New York state, via Karlsson Photo / Shutterstock.com

Lake Placid is a small village in the Adirondack Mountains near the lake of the same name. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the area for mountain biking, kayaking, and skiing, but the downtown area should not be overlooked. Main Street is reminiscent of an Alpine village and is home to boutiques, outlets, and eateries. 

Along with the shopping, the downtown area is a thriving arts and culture center with a beautiful view of Cobble Hill and Mirror Lake from the middle of Main Street. Downtown Lake Placid has enough shopping and nightlife to warrant a weekend visit and offers lodging in the heart of downtown. The prettiest time of year to visit is in the fall, when the foliage changes to breathtaking colors. 

Williams, Arizona

Street scene with classic car in front of souvenir shops in Williams, one of the cities on the famous route 66
Street scene with classic car in front of souvenir shops in Williams, one of the towns on the famous route 66, via Jordi C / Shutterstock.com

Williams is a gateway to the Grand Canyon and along the historic Route 66. Along with stunning scenery, there is the Route 66 museum, the Grand Canyon Railway, and the Bearizona Wildlife Park. There are also six blocks of historic buildings and Route 66 memorabilia to explore. 

Williams is in the heart of Arizona's pine country and boasts four seasons of weather which makes it attractive to outdoor enthusiasts. The kitschy motor lodges bring a feeling of nostalgia and the small diners and shops represent a fun yet bygone era of Americana. 

Covington, Kentucky

Downtown Covington in Kentucky
Downtown Covington in Kentucky, By EEJCC - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Centered between the Ohio and Licking Rivers, Covington has a quaint downtown with plenty of waterfront attractions. Just a bridgewalk away from downtown Cincinnati, Covington has a thriving culture that it is proud of. Downtown has a small town charm with big city amenities, and many consider it the gateway of southern dining. 

Though there are various attractions and things to do, Covington prides itself on its restaurant scene, and for good reason. The nightlife is booming, and this is when the downtown area is truly alive. This is a foodie's paradise and the best ticket in town is the Covington Restaurant Pass which allows visitors to enjoy many of the area's most coveted restaurants. 

Deadwood, South Dakota

The beautiful town of Deadwood, South Dakota
The beautiful town of Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood is a historic old western town settled in 1876. It has been featured in movies and television and has a charm that few towns can claim. Downtown looks like a Hollywood movie set, and there are unique shops, historic buildings, and haunted mines for visitors to explore. 

The town has a rich history seeped in western lore. Characters such as Wild Bill HIckock and Calamity Jane once called these streets home, and the town embraces these characters while celebrating their past. As part of this celebration, there are live reenactments and walking tours so that one can fully grasp the American history that only Deadwood can offer. 

Montpelier, Vermont

Main street of Montpelier in Vermont
Main street of Montpelier in Vermont, via BackyardProduction / iStock.com

Montpelier in the Green Mountains offers the best of Vermont. Beautiful natural scenery, farm to table dining, and history. The historic State House is downtown and is one of the best preserved in the country. Along with the historic buildings, there is also a 200 acre park, the North Branch River Park.

This is the United States' smallest capitol and, by all appearances, a fact that the locals revel in. The small town aesthetic is appealing to the history buff, the foodie, and the nature lover at the same time. And, fun fact, it is the only capitol in the US without a McDonalds. The prettiest tme of year to visit is in the fall because of the natural beauty. 

A downtown area should embrace and exemplify the best the town has to offer, and these areas exceed expectations. From quaint shops and gastronomic masterpieces to legendary figures who once roamed the streets, these downtown areas offer the best of Americana and small town charm. Montpelier and Bar Harbor have stunning natural scenery while others like Fernandina and Bar Harbor wear their history like a badge of honor. Though the more populated citites are more well known, these smaller downtowns hold their own in terms of attractions and historical sites to visit. 

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