Best 'Main Street' Shopping Districts in All 50 States
With big-box stores, megamalls, and online sellers dominating the retail landscape, the pleasure of shopping at mom-and-pop stores in a quaint, small-town Main Street shopping district is getting harder to find. But every state has a few such homespun settings left. Here are some of the best downtown shopping districts in the country -- each in a town with a population of fewer than 90,000 residents. (More than half are home to fewer than 10,000 people, and some claim populations in the triple digits.)
The downtown Main Street district in Columbiana hosts a concert series, nightlife, and sporting events, in addition to unique shopping, and transforms for Christmas and other major holidays. Although it's in Greater Birmingham, Columbiana feels like the quintessential Southern small town, with a population of about 4,000.
The largest city in the Arctic Alaskan interior -- and one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the legendary Northern Lights -- is actually a beautiful small town with a population of about 32,000. Visitors to the downtown shopping district can enjoy music and art festivals, as well as businesses unique to Alaska's rich culture, from beading to fly fishing to tanning (leather, not skin).
Hailey is a quintessentially scenic Western town of about 8,000, and among the state's most historically significant. The center of town is crowded with landmarks, along with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. At the Hailey Holiday Market, a two-day event, local artists and artisans sell crafts, food, and gifts.
Elizabethtown is the kind of place where people visit shoppes, not shops, and the heart of the city is the Towne Mall. Visitors will find colorful stores such as the Bug's Ear, La Te Da, Cottage Charm, Kentucky Art Lady, and Ali's Bubblegum Boutique. There is also a packed calendar, including a season-long Christmas in the Park and holiday ice skating event.
One of the largest historic districts in the country, downtown Virginia City is a former silver mining camp that looks like it was created by Western movie set designers in Hollywood. Amid a lively shopping, dining, and arts scene, along with a half-dozen antiques dealers, there are three shops that take old-timey photos.
The quaint upstate New York town of Poughkeepsie is known for stunning foliage and a walkway over the Hudson River. Market Street, the downtown hub, boasts shopping, theaters, festivals, and dining. The presence of Vassar and Marist colleges helps keep it lively.
Billing itself as "large enough to serve you and small enough to know you," Lisbon has small-town charm and a population of about 2,000. The Main Street features a theater and an opera house, nearly a dozen eateries, and plenty of shopping. The weather is even beautiful -- at least by North Dakota standards -- through much of the winter.
Downtown Yellow Springs boasts more than 15 eateries and pubs, hundreds of events annually, and more than 50 locally owned shops selling goods including handcrafted pottery and custom jewelry. Surrounding farmland produces the bounty for farmers market and restaurants, and even the grain for local breweries.
A Historic Preservation Commission has worked hard to maintain Ardmore as a vibrant business district, helping fund hundreds of building and streetscape improvements. The city has dozens of stores -- 10 just for apparel -- and eateries that include Pick's Famous Hot Tamales, Eileen's Colossal Cookies, and the Edamame American Sushi Bar.
Deadwood's raucous gold rush roots feel intact in the town's architecture and more than 80 gaming halls. There's tons of Old West-themed shopping to be done, from the Broken Arrow Trading Co. to Deadwood Jake's Guns & Ammo, sometimes amid free Old West-themed entertainment.
Forget Memphis and Nashville. Tennessee's biggest tourist mecca might be Gatlinburg, known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. It's home to numerous winery and distillery tours, along with galleries, specialty shops, and eateries.
Brigham City contains a tidy collection of shops and eateries around a pillared courthouse with clocktower dome, a Mormon Tabernacle (home to a free Christmas spectacular), and the century-old Capitol Theater. A farmers market runs June through September in this "refuge" from big-box stores and commercialism that dates back to 1851.