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Best Neighorhoods, Urban Villages in the Northeast

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Hi Northeastern UPers,

My wife and I are considering a roadtrip to the Northeastern US next month. I would like to theme the trip around the best neighborhoods/districts/urban villages in the region. We are driving from SC and will have a week or so to travel around, so I guess I'm looking for some ideas and will pick the 3 or 4 that sound most interesting.

I would like to stay away from the big cities like Philly, Boston and NYC and focus on mid-sized cities and towns.

Areas we'd like to check out would be self-sustainable (having places to live, work, shop and play all right there), walkable, friendly to visitors but not touristy, and I'd like to see some interesting architecture.

I am thinking we might spend a day in the DC-Baltimore area and then drive on up to Providence, RI... just to give you an idea of the route... but the rest is up in the air.

I would love to hear some suggestions! Thanks!

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I'd recommend Northampton, MA as a cool urban village.

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Providence is so small that you could see a bunch of neighborhoods, depends how indepth you want to get. Federal Hill, Wickenden Street, Thayer Street, Downcity, and Wayland Square leap to mind as the most interesting, though I'm sure others will leap in and plead a case for their neighborhoods. :P

North of Boston, the city of Salem is interesting, a bit on the touristy side, but also quite livable in an urban sense. You could also continue up the north shore to Marblehead, Gloucester, and Rockport. Portsmouth, NH is again, touristy, but livable and urban. The Old Port section of Portland, ME is a dining/retail area, with really great architecture. All of pennisular Portland is certainly worth a look. I'd put Newport, RI on my list of stops. If you have time, Burlington, VT is a good choice.

Also Lowell, MA is in the process of lifting itself out of decades of decline, some great mill buildings to see there.

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There are quite a few urban villages and towns in NJ worth visiting.

Princeton is kinda touristy/uber-gentrified but is certain to provide a good time. Lots of restaurants and an excellent music store near Palmer Square. The University grounds are, of course, immaculate.

Red Bank is a hot little town near the shore that has a booming music scene. Good bands play at bars & theaters nearly every night.

New Brunswick is a college town that has really picked itself up and is becoming one of NJ's most vibrant cities. Its architecture is less than inspiring however. There are lots of commercial corridors, each with a different cultural representation (student, yup, Oaxacan, African-American, etc). There's also an emerging theater district.

Hoboken is a small city with Brooklyn written all over it. Gorgeous brownstones and high-end retail await. The waterfront offers panoramic NYC views, and the train and ferry terminals are beautiful buildings!

Jersey City has several neighborhoods of brownstones and is more diverse/less gentrified than Hoboken. Pocket parks abound and ethnic markets offer fascinating browsing opportunities.

Montclair is an awesome town! Lots of excellent retail, tons of great restaurants and bars, and a beautiful housing stock. The old Lackawanna Station is now a retail center. Be sure to check out Eagle Rock Reservation just outside town for an amazing view of all of Northern New Jersey and NYC!

Newark's Ironbound District is home to a large Portuguese population. The restaurants are simply unbeatable! You can't go wrong with any of them!

Lambertville is an amazing Delaware River town complete with gorgeous housing stock, art galleries, restaurants and natural setting. Walk across the bridge to New Hope, PA for more arts & restaurants!

Shore. You must visit at least one good Jersey Shore town! The boardwalks offer lots of entertainment and are unlike any southern beaches IMO. Good shore towns to visit include Wildwood, OCEAN CITY, Seaside Heights, Manasquan, and Asbury Park.

AND, the great thing about New Jersey is you could at least "stop by" or pass through all of these places in a day or two because they're all within a very small state.

There are many other great towns and cities in NJ but those listed above are the ones I take visitors to and consider the NJ "must visits!"

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Lamm couldnt have said it better. Try spending at least 2 days in NJ when visiting these aforementioned places. This can be all done by car while most places i can imagine are not too terribly expensive for parking. You can depend on public transportation and taxis to get around as well. If sightseeing Lambertville and New Hope, do check out Doylestown, PA when you get a chance. It is by far one of the nicest small urban towns out of all of the Phila suburbs. It is also an urban village because it is home of the R5 train line's northern terminus.

If wanting to see some of the New England urban villages, a drive along Old Post Road (aka US Highway 1) between White Plains, NY and New Haven, CT would also be a good idea to check out as well.

Edit: I was really impressed with Portsmouth and Concord, NH as well

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A place I neglected to mention is Radburn in Fair Lawn, NJ. It was a planned garden city of the 1920s. There's a central "Plaza Building" commercial center and the residential areas are designed to allow car access in the "front" of houses and a network of parks and trails behind the houses (in lieu of back yards), thereby separating modes of transportation. It was a novel idea that was used in developing the Greenbelts (i.e. Greenbelt MD) during the Depression years. The houses are well-kept and beautiful, and the parks provide quite an enjoyable walk, as they are well landscaped and are full of people walking and children biking. If you're into urban or community planning it's a must-visit.

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New Haven, CT has changed immensely over the years thanks to help of Yale University which is located in downtown New Haven. Yale University is the city's largest landlord and has now attracted hundreds of new shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, and theaters to downtown New Haven. There are numerous well known stores as well as many locally owned & operated establishments that are all in a walkable setting that is around or close to the New Haven Green. In addition to retail many new apartments & condos have opened in New Haven, there are numerous museums & theaters connected to Yale as well as independent place also. Besides Yale University there is Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Southern CT State University in New Haven, the University of New Haven in West Haven and Quinnipiac University in Hamden which help to give New Haven a college town feel. Gateway Community College will be relocating to downtown New Haven over the next few years and the Yale Medical Center's new state of the art Cancer Center will be built in the city.















Hartford, CT is experiencing a major rebirth that is including the addition of 1,000+ new residential units in the downtown area alone, the construction of a new science center, the recent completion of a new convention center & hotel, and the addition of numerous new retail spaces. Hartford is home to many well known museums and performing arts venues such as the Old State House (the oldest in the country), Wadsworth Athenaeum (oldest public art museum in the country), Mark Twain House, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, State Capital, Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Hartford Stage, Webster Theater and the Charter Oak Cultural Center. There are hundreds of locally owned and operated restaurants, bars and clubs catering to all different price ranges and cuisine preferences.



















West Hartford, CT is home to West Hartford Center, which is a New England village that is home to 150+ shops, restaurants, and offices as well as the West Hartford town hall and library. Almost every single store and restaurant in West Hartford Center is an independent establishment (not a chain). At one end of West Hartford a project called Blue Back Square which is a 550,000 square foot mixed use development that is being constructed which will add more retail space (a new Whole Foods opened recently), new luxury condominiums, a Hartford Hospital Center for Wellness and class A office space. West Hartford Center features some on street parking but not an influx of it so much of the parking is in the rear of the buildings.




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i'll second new haven. downtown is beautiful. and it's small enough to do in a day

providence is also small enough to do in a day and quite nice, if i say so myself. if you get a chance, newport is also a nice place.

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