Five great main streets


Ideal main streets serve the needs of everybody.


Nothing evokes small town America quite like Main Street. A central hub of many communities, a robust Main Street hosts local businesses and artisans, offers a venue for gatherings like festivals, markets, and parades, and provides members of the community with a common place to socialize. Many successful Main Streets are products of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and accordingly they often possess a historic aspect. Given their prolonged popularity, American Main Streets offer lessons for the design of walkable space within smaller towns. Here are five great Main Streets that are pillars of their local communities:

Fort Pierce, Florida

Fort Pierce, FloridaTaste of the Sea & Sandy Shoes Seafood Festival in Fort Pierce. Source: Main Street Fort Pierce, Inc

Unlike your typical Main Street, Fort Pierce’s includes waterfront property with a unique Spanish Colonial architecture. A stroll along this palm tree-lined route offers numerous points of interest, including shopping at the historic Arcade Building, the Sunrise Theater, built in 1923, and the A.E. Backus Gallery and Museum, devoted to the works of Floridian artists. On Saturdays, the area hosts a popular farmers’ market and once a month on a Friday, the town gathers for Friday Fest, a celebration of music, food, and fun.

Paso Robles, California

Paso RoblesPaso Robles Main Street and Town Square. Source: Paso Robles Main Street Association

Located in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Main Street of downtown Paso Robles incorporates a town square fronted by historic architecture that ranges from high Victorian to the Mexican adobe style. The street benefits from California’s agricultural abundance, as the numerous restaurants along the avenue serve up local fare and wines from the region. But the street offers more than just food, as it also includes boutiques, antique shops, and a movie theater, all within a walking distance of each other.

Galena, Illinois

Galena, IllinoisMain Street, Galena. Source: Chris Light, from Wikipedia

When most Americans picture Main Street, they might as well be thinking of the Main Street of Galena, Illinois. Many of the buildings along this stretch are enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places, but that does not mean that they do not see use today. These historic red brick buildings are now home to boutiques, galleries, and restaurants that draw a high-level of foot traffic. Frequent street festivals draw even larger crowds and keep the vibrant atmosphere of this Main Street humming.

Staunton, Virginia

Main Street, Staunton, VirginiaMain Street, Staunton. Source: Baltimore Magazine

Primarily a product of the late 19th century, the Main Street of Staunton now features a concentration of over 270 businesses, 30 restaurants, and 80 specialty and antique stores, not to mention a weekly farmer’s market. To better enable movement from one business to another, this Main Street even boasts its own trolley that conveys passengers for a fare of only a quarter. This Main Street’s bustling art scene, anchored by the Blackfriar’s Playhouse (a recreation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater), also attracts additional visitors from both within and outside the community.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, MassachusettsMain Street, Nantucket. Source: ReMain Nantucket

Although this cobblestone street makes for a bumpy car ride, it makes for a more than pleasant stroll for the pedestrian, who need not worry about fast-moving automobiles. Additional amenities, like shady elm trees and an abundance of benches, encourage pedestrians to linger and browse at the nearby shops and cafes. The town’s adjacent harbor continues this pedestrian-friendly environment and in effect creates an entire walkable downtown.

For further information on these Main Streets and additional Great Main Streets, see 50 Best Small Town Main Streets in America.