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fritz

downtown USA - the 10 best

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I think US central cities pale in comparison to European and even Canadian cities, but which are the 10 best? I think of these as the most desirable to live in - having all of the important shopping/dining/entertainment etc. This applies only to the downtown core!

not in order.

NYC

Boston

Philadelphia

Minneapolis

Chicago

San Diego

San Francisco

Portland

Seattle

Denver

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I have never been to West Coast, so here I just some I thought are the best..

Washington DC

Miami Beach

NYC

Boston

Chicago

Philadelphia

Pittsburg

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This is a rather broad topic and depends upon what you are looking for. Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC are two of the most unique cities in North America and have very liveable, walkable downtowns which offer a great deal considering their size.

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These are my favorite 10 US city centers (in order), but this is a very ambiguous topic, and the sizes vary greatly in my selections (it's a mixed bag)

NYC, NY

Chicago, IL

San Francisco, CA

Santa-Fe, NM

Asheville, NC

Nashville, TN

Lexington, KY

Boston, MA

Austin, TX

Minneapolis/St Paul, MN

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No particular order:

Larger Cities:

New York, NY

New Orleans, LA

Seattle, WA

San Antonio, TX

Austin, TX

Smaller Cities:

Pensacola, FL

Flagstaff, AZ

Asheville, NC

Bisbee, AZ

Santa Fe, NM

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I agree that many of the best are smaller cities, but think it is the big cities that have had the most trouble keeping the core vibrant. I agree downtown Pittsburgh is nice, but not sure it is that livable? It is amazing that the US has so many big cities, but very few nice downtown areas.

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Not 10, but

NYC

Chicago

Miami

New Orleans

Seattle

San Antonio

Boston

Philadelphia

Also, I think that Nashville will become a good place to live downtown within the next couple of years, after Viridian and those many projects go up.

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I was in downtown Miami last year and thought it was sketchy and never thought New Orleans had much of a downtown? Are Austin and San Antonio big downtown? It is too bad that the US does not have more nice big city downtowns - I think it is tough to come up with 10.

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In order: (cities I haven't visited are in parentheses)

1. New York

2. San Francisco

3. Chicago

4. Boston

5. Seattle

6. Philly

7. Minneapolis

8. (Portland)

9. New Orleans

10. Miami Beach

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Boston

Chicago

Minneapolis

New York

Philadelphia

Portland

San Fransisco

Seattle

St. Louis

Washington D.C.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Miami

Charlotte

Nashville

Houston

Dallas

Atlanta

Louisville

Cincy

Indy

Austin

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I was in downtown Miami last year and thought it was sketchy and never thought New Orleans had much of a downtown?  Are Austin and San Antonio big downtown?  It is too bad that the US does not have more nice big city downtowns - I think it is tough to come up with 10.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

New Orleans' downtown isn't overly large until you include the Quarter. It's a 24-hour downtown though and is generally safe.

Austin's downtown is the center of activity in that city. There's 6th Street for the bars and nightclubs (one of the best bar streets in the country), but there are also lots of parks, housing, museums and offices.

San Antonio's downtown is a lot more tourist-oriented with the Riverwalk and the Alamo, but it is a nice place.

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Here's some downtown Seattle pics.

Quite honestly, I've never seen street level pictures of Seattle, which is a shame. Is that pedestrian traffic normal or was this a special occasion of sorts? I had no idea it was such a busy place!

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Quite honestly, I've never seen street level pictures of Seattle, which is a shame.  Is that pedestrian traffic normal or was this a special occasion of sorts?  I had no idea it was such a busy place!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This looks pretty normal to me... Seattle is one of the few cities in the country where downtown is THE place to shop, so the pedestrian traffic reflects that.

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I think Chicago's loop makes for the best downtown in North America. Boston is also at the top of my list. Seattle's dowtown is great, but as those photos so eleoquently speak, all of our cities core's have become one unending monotonous, homogeous chain store shopping mall. Anyplace USA. One of the great things about Asheville, NC is that it has an incredible downtown filled with shoppers and not one Gap or Bannana Republic in sight (not to mention Starbucks!).

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I live in the city that I consider the most liveable for me: Miami Beach. For those who are not familiar with the area, Miami and Miami Beach are completely different cities separated by a wide bay. It's the most liveable for me because I can do everthing in my daily life by foot or by bike. Others that rate high on my list are:

Madison, WI

Iowa City, IA

NYC

San Francisco, CA

Boulder, CO

Boston, MA

Santa Monica, CA

Cities that I think have the opportunity to make themselves into more liveable urban areas: (they each have land, infrastructure and some certain aspects that can draw a core of city dwellers)

Raleigh, NC

Miami, FL

Wilmington, NC

Austin, TX

Minneapolis, MN

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Quite honestly, I've never seen street level pictures of Seattle, which is a shame.  Is that pedestrian traffic normal or was this a special occasion of sorts?  I had no idea it was such a busy place!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That is honestly a normal Seattle day, especially on the weekends. No special occasion. The best shopping in metropolitan Seattle is downtown. Even in the rain you will see the crowds.

For Miesian Corners:

Every successful downtown in every major city across America has the chains, including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and New York. The fact that some cities have lively downtowns full of people shopping is a good thing. You can't even put places like Asheville in the same catagory. Chanel, Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent in Asheville? I don't think so. What makes a great downtown? Lots of residential, entertainment, culture, great restaurants and plenty of retail for everybody. High-end, middle, funky, low-end and local.

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That is honestly a normal Seattle day, especially on the weekends.  No special occasion.  The best shopping in metropolitan Seattle is downtown.  Even in the rain you will see the crowds.

For Miesian Corners:

Every successful downtown in every major city across America has the chains, including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and New York.  The fact that some cities have lively downtowns full of people shopping is a good thing.  You can't even put places like Asheville in the same catagory.  Chanel, Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent in Asheville?  I don't think so.  What makes a great downtown?  Lots of residential, entertainment, culture, great restaurants and plenty of retail for everybody.  High-end, middle, funky, low-end and local.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hey, don't get me wrong, I love Seattle. What I was saying about downtown Seattle is the same for every city in the US these days (even Europe is facing it). Nothing is local anymore. Our culture is getting more bland by the minute. What makes places special is their uniqueness. What's unique about Gucci and Ralph Lauren? You can buy it anywhere.

Again, my comments were not meant to trash Seattle, it just happens that those are the pics that are posted. Even Fifth Ave in Manhattan looks like a mall now.

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I think Chicago's loop makes for the best downtown in North America.  Boston is also at the top of my list.  Seattle's dowtown is great, but as those photos so eleoquently speak, all of our cities core's have become one unending monotonous, homogeous chain store shopping mall.  Anyplace USA.  One of the great things about Asheville, NC is that it has an incredible downtown filled with shoppers and not one Gap or Bannana Republic in sight (not to mention Starbucks!).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I completely agree. Its a shame that so many cities have been taken over by chain stores. Asheville is indeed unique and they have done an excellent job at keeping out the generic places.

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Hey, don't get me wrong, I love Seattle.  What I was saying about downtown Seattle is the same for every city in the US these days (even Europe is facing it).  Nothing is local anymore.  Our culture is getting more bland by the minute.  What makes places special is their uniqueness.  What's unique about Gucci and Ralph Lauren?  You can buy it anywhere. 

Again, my comments were not meant to trash Seattle, it just happens that those are the pics that are posted.  Even Fifth Ave in Manhattan looks like a mall now.

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There's nothing special about those stores, but when they are downtown they are special. There are only a handful of american downtowns that have these stores. I'm glad the chains came to downtown Seattle. Now our downtown has it all, chains, highend and otherwise, local stores and everything else in between.

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...but when they are downtown they are special...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

While I'm the first in line to decry the homogenization of retail in US cities (and world cities, for that matter... Those Seattle pictures with those brands could be anywhere from Moscow to Taipai), that line above "when they are downtown they are special" is right maybe for the wrong reason... I think the poster meant to imply that these chains become special in a downtown setting, while I think the reverse is true...

In a way, the modern mall has everything the "downtowns" of old had (including the people) except we now live separate from them. So, in a sense, when a downtown does in our modern age bring everything together, from the apartments to the mall chains, it now is somewhat special (or maybe a better term is "unique") as that setting is quite rare in America today.

- Garris

Providence, RI

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I think that it's important to note that, generally, the downtown chain stores tend to be flagship stores, and are much larger, and offer a much better selection of goods than a mall version. Shop at (3 or 4 floor) Banana Republic in downtown Boston, and then shop at the Banana Republic at the corner mall, and see if you consider them homogenous carbon copies... Or the enormous 3 floor Crate and Barrel in SF; or the 3 floor Kenneth Cole in Chicago; or the 5 floor Macy's Mens store in SF; etc., the list goes on... The chain stores in the major downtowns are on a different level as far as quality and size than their mall counterparts. Which makes them unique, in that you can buy goods that can't be found in the malls without leaving the chain stores...

As was surely stated before, the fact that chains are willing to locate in a downtown setting speaks volumes on the already existing activity in that downtown. And I think that it's quite fortunate that the chains do tend to put their best stores in downtowns.

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