At a glance: There are 55 glacier-filled lakes in the Coeur d'Alene area, but Lake Coeur d'Alene – with its sparkling blue water surrounded by the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, part of a range in the Northern Rocky Mountains – and the Coeur d'Alene National Forest are the premier tourist destination. The city, located on the north shore of the lake, is a resort town and a nature enthusiast's paradise. The rugged natural landscape and the abundance of art galleries, cafes, and mom-and-pop shops on Sherman Avenue make Coeur d'Alene, as Barbara Walters once said, "a little slice of heaven."
What to do: Coeur d'Alene offers plenty for beach bums and snow bunnies alike. In the summer, hit the lake for some water skiing or kayaking. Enjoy pristine golf courses and professional-quality tennis courts, hiking on pine-forested trails, mountain biking or, for the truly competitive athlete, the annual Coeur d'Alene IRONMAN competition, with the most breathtaking scenery on the IRONMAN circuit. In the winter, there’s skiing – visitors stay at Silver Mountain Resort and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. And don't miss the Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Light Show, featuring over 1.5 million lights and one of the largest living Christmas trees in the world.
Image courtesy Paul Sableman
At a glance: Earlier this year, Parade magazine readers named Collierville "America's Best Main Street" out of 2,000 communities that were nominated. What Collierville has over every other Main Street city is a perfect mix of old-world Americana and new economic success. Major corporations like FedEx and PepsiCo have led to significant population growth over the last 20 years and a healthy local economy that boasts double the nation’s median household income.
What to do: Town Square, overlooking the old Collierville Depot from which the town grew, is the heart of the city, with a free summer concert series during the summer, the annual Fair on the Square every May, the Collierville Farmers Market on Thursdays by the old McGinnis Service Station, and Confederate Park, featuring turn-of-the-century walkways, cast-iron fences and a good old-fashioned American bandstand. The Square is also home to "Savannah," an old executive train car, a caboose and an antebellum log cabin. Enjoy old-fashioned dining to go with the old-fashioned everything else at places like Mensi's Dairy Bar, Silver Caboose Restaurant & Soda Fountain and Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken.
Image Courtesy Matthew Nichols
At a glance: Located in the "Treasure Coast" region on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Fort Pierce has palm tree-lined sidewalks and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. In 2011, downtown Fort Pierce won the Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
What to do: Go for a boat tour of the Indian River Lagoon and Swampland and look for dolphins, manatees, 310 species of birds, turtles and 2500 other different animals and 1350 plants that live there. Browse the shops of Main Street and check out events like the long-running Friday Fest on the first Friday of the month, the Taste of the Sea & Sandy Shoes Seafood Festival in March and the Sights & Sounds on Second Christmas festival and parade in December. Architecture enthusiasts need to check out the Arcade Building and Boston House, and the A.E. Backus Gallery & Museum is a must for those interested in Treasure Coast artists. Also check out the Ft. Pierce Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
At a glance: Frederick makes an immediate impression with its skyline, the clustered spires of its old downtown churches. Steeped in Civil War history, this medium-small city is also known for its arts advocacy through the Frederick Arts Council; as a result, it has a rich arts culture. In 2010, Forbes magazine named Frederick one of America's "Greatest Neighborhoods."
What to do: Frederick is a must for history buffs. The sites of two bloody Civil War battles are preserved at Monocacy National Park and South Mountain State Park, and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the house of Barbara Fritchie are located in the city. Arts buffs have just as much to see at more than 10 galleries downtown. The Cultural Arts Center, Weinberg Center for the Arts and the Maryland Ensemble Theatre are all located within 50 feet of each other, and there is a variety of public art to discover, including the "mural bridge" painted by William Cochran. There are great dining options, including two restaurants by former “Top Chef” star Bryan Voltaggio.
At a glance: California is the most agriculturally diverse state in America, so it should come as no surprise that the small town of Healdsburg – in Sonoma County, one of the nation’s most agriculturally productive counties for 100 years – should be a culinary tourist’s delight.
What to do: Healdsburg is centrally located to the more than 100 world-class wineries and tasting rooms in the Northern California wine regions of Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley – not to mention a plethora of restaurants and artisan food producers that have embraced the local food movement. Around the central downtown plaza you'll find chic boutiques, galleries, independent bookstores and plenty of antiques stores, or you can head to the surrounding redwoods for hiking, biking and canoeing. Rough it by camping, or rough it the California way by staying in an intimate B&B.
At a glance: Hot Springs, America's first resort town, might have you imagining the stinky sulfuric hot springs found in abundance in the West. But the hot springs of Hot Springs are some of the purest waters in the world, and much of the city itself is a National Park, with eight historic bathhouses that draw water straight from the springs without needing treatment.
What to do: It goes without saying that you have to take in the waters, and you can do so at the historic Quapaw and Buckstaff Bathhouses on "Bathhouse Row," a whole row of turn-of-the-century neoclassical and Renaissance-Revival bathhouses. You can also take in the waters at the Arlington Hotel, where Al Capone once had a suite (and yes, you can request it). But Hot Springs is also known as a hotbed for the arts, with multiple contemporary downtown galleries and artist collectives. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the monthly Hot Springs Gallery Walk. For shopping, Tillman's Antiques is a must for your Romanov family diadem and Princess Diana tiara needs. (This is an antique store even for those who don’t "antique.") Beer lovers also should check out the Superior Bathhouse Brewery & Distillery, the only brewery and distillery permitted to use water from the springs.
At a glance: Portland may hog the spotlight, but McMinnville deserves its share of attention as a culinary destination in Oregon. Located in the middle of Willamette Valley, Oregon's celebrated wine country renowned for its pinot noir, McMinnville was named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of America's "foodiest towns" in 2010. The city is located in the agricultural heart of Oregon, and its local food production goes far beyond its grapes. Downtown McMinnville is filled with restored turn-of-the-century buildings that are now exquisite farm-to-table restaurants, wine bars, art galleries and owner-operated shops.
What to do: Visitors should spend a good amount of time exploring the offerings of local wineries. Check out the tasting rooms of R. Stuart & Co., Willamette Valley Vineyards, Terra Vina, Westrey Wines, Remy Wines, Woodard Wines, Elizabeth Chambers Cellar and many more. For dining, head to Nick's Italian Café, a local institution, and its sister salumeria Fino in Fondo, the rustic French Bistro Maison, the Spanish-inspired La Rambla and the hyper-local Thistle. Hit up Golden Valley Brewery for local brews served with burgers made from beef raised on their own cattle ranch. Shop the day away at independent stores like Third Street Books, Ranch Records, Mes Amies, Found Objects and Currents Gallery. For annual celebrations, the McMinnville Turkey Rama held every July is over 50 years old and is a much-loved local tradition. The International Pinot Noir Celebration is also held in July and is a hugely respected international wine event. And it may be a long way from Roswell, but McMinnville is still home to the second-largest UFO Festival every May.
At a glance: Colorado is known more for its snow-topped mountains than its arid desert, but Pueblo, the "Steel City of the West,” is definitely part of the Southwest. Its history is very much steeped in the steel industry, but it has become a thriving arts and culture town. Pueblo has also been named one of Livability's Top 10 Cities for Historic Preservation.
What to do: Stroll along the Historic Arkansas River Project river walk in the charming, century-old Union Avenue Historic Commercial District. Follow the Creative Corridor through three historic neighborhoods filled with galleries, museums, live music and other arts events. Check out Steel City Art Works, Kadoya Gallery, Turf Exchange Visual Arts Center, the Rosemount Museum, the El Pueblo History Museum, the Buell Children's Museum, the Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center and the Steelworks Museum of Industry & Culture. Explore the Nature and Raptor Center and the City Park with a zoo and antique carousel. Pueblo is known for its Mexican food and cultural heritage, which the city celebrates annually at the Chile & Frijoles Festival in September. The city hosts a lot of festivals, ranging from bluegrass to barbecue to hot rods and rodeos, so there's almost always a special event going on. But one annual tradition – Speeding Sausages, held in May at the local institution Eller's Place (in which pork sausages are dressed in costumes and raced on a wooden track) – is certainly unique to Pueblo.
At a glance: Sedona may lay claim to the most beautiful scenery in the West. (In 2009, USA Weekend called it the Most Beautiful Place in America.) Breathtaking mesas and rock formations in shades of pink, copper, burnt sienna and mahogany, with violet skies at sunset – there is really nothing else like it. The stunning natural beauty draws in both nature enthusiasts and spiritual retreaters alike. Luxury spas are in abundance for the more secular spiritualist, and there are plenty of boutique wineries to explore. Sedona is equal parts rugged nature and luxury resort, so no matter what kind of experience you crave, you can have it here.
What to do: Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, so you can hike, bike or go off-roading through the buttes and forests and commune with Mother Nature in whatever way suits you. That could also mean viewing the towering red rock formations from a massage chair at one of Sedona's many luxury spas, like Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa or L'Augerbe de Sedona. And you don't have to be religious to be in awe of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an architectural marvel built into the buttes of Sedona and named one of the seven manmade wonders of Arizona. The same goes for Church of the Red Rocks. The Sedona Arts Center is home to some 120 local artists, and the Sedona Gallery Association presents the First Fridays gallery tour on the first Friday of every month, offering free trolley service to over 40 area galleries. The area is rich in Native American history, and you will find evidence of it in the brightly-colored Navajo weavings at Garland's and the Navajo-inspired jewelry and artwork and crafts in Native American motifs found all over town. Sedona is also becoming known as a destination for wine enthusiasts; check out the wineries along the Verde Valley Wine Trail.
At first glance: Silver City got its name as a mining town, but now the city is known as a cultural destination with its thriving downtown arts district, numerous annual festivals celebrating the city’s cultural heritage and rich arts culture, authentic Mexican cuisine and endless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
What to do: Explore the 3.3 million-acre Gila National Forest and visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, or hike along the Gila River. For a more relaxed communion with the great outdoors, soak in the natural hot springs along the Trail of the Mountain Spirits. Immerse yourself in local history by exploring old archeological sites and looking for fossils and petroglyphs. Tour a ghost town. Pick up a unique piece of local art at one of the galleries. Or plan your trip around one of the many local festivals, like the Silver City Blues Festival, Pickamania (a bluegrass, Americana and folk music fest), the Red Paint Pow Wow, the Tamal Fiesta y Mas, or the new Southwest Festival of the Written Word (launched last year with the next one scheduled for next year).
At a glance: Located on the edge of Grand Traverse Bay in northwestern Michigan at the base of two peninsulas – Leelanau and Old Mission – that are putting northern Michigan on the map as a wine-producing region, Traverse City has made a name for itself in its own right with festivals, shopping, dining and outdoor activities that have made it a vacation destination for people around the country.
What to do: For many years the Cherry Capital of the World was known for its annual National Cherry Festival. But in the last decade Traverse City has become known for another festival – the Traverse City Film Festival, created by filmmaker Michael Moore and widely respected for a film festival of its size. Traverse City is also home to one of the largest historic preservation and adaptive reuse projects, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons – formerly the Northern Michigan Asylum. Here you will find the nationally renowned winery Left Foot Charley as well as Trattoria Stella, a northern Michigan Italian restaurant featuring an extensive wine list with the nose-to-tail butchery and from-scratch cuisine of James Beard Award semifinalist Chef Myles Anton. Just a few minutes from the Commons is the hugely popular Right Brain Brewery, and about 30 minutes west of Traverse City is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, named "The Most Beautiful Place in America" by Good Morning America.
At a glance: Located 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and a short two-hour drive from Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Victoria is believed to be the starting point in Texas history. A massive historic preservation effort has been underway in recent years to preserve and restore its more than 100 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Victoria County Courthouse built in 1892.
Image Courtesy Frank Bodden
What to do: Examine the downtown architecture first-hand with guided tours through Victoria Preservation, Inc. Learn more about the area’s history at the McNamara House (a social history museum) and the Museum of the Coastal Bend. Spend a leisurely afternoon at the 562-acre Riverside Park and visit the Texas Zoo while you’re there, or follow the Victoria Paddling Trail along the Guadalupe River, or rent a boat for a day and relax on Lake Texana or Coleto Lake. And don’t miss the October Bootfest festival, an annual celebration of local music, culture and cowboy boots.
At a glance: First and foremost, Saratoga Springs is known as a horseracing town, thanks to the Saratoga Race Course, open since 1863. It's also a destination for golfers and spa-cationers, due to the 20 golf courses in the area and the numerous mineral springs and the bathhouses and spas built around them. Saratoga is also a cultural hub, with multiple museums and galleries and a century-old artists' community adjacent to the racecourse.
What to do: Catch the races, golf, take a mineral bath – yes, all of those things. But also visit to Caffè Lena, the oldest continuously operated coffeehouse in America, where musicians including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie and Don McLean were known to play early in their careers. Check out Beresford Gallery and Gallery 100 for a taste of the local arts scene, as well as their many fine history museums that cover dance, automotive, racing and military histories.
At a glance: To understand the appeal of Walla Walla, let's review some of the city's most recent awards and accolades: One of the country’s 24 Best Places to Live and Work (Sunset Magazine). One of the world’s 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations (Wine Enthusiast, USA Today). 10 Best Small Towns in America (Fodor's). "America’s Friendliest Small Town" (Rand McNally, USA Today). One of the country’s eight “Best Small Towns For Food” (The Daily Meal); one of five finalists in Rand McNally’s “America’s Best Small Town For Food” Best of the Road competition. Say no more.
What to do: Eat, drink and be merry: Walla Walla has more than two dozen downtown wineries and tasting rooms located close to all its independent boutiques, antique stores and charming restaurants like Brasserie Four, Graze, and the Maple Counter Café. Take a self-guided art stroll of the numerous pieces of public art on display downtown, or enjoy a performance of the Walla Walla Symphony, the oldest continuously operating American symphony orchestra west of the Mississippi.
At a glance: Lots of cities have history, but few cities live in their history as Williamsburg does. The city is a â€œliving museum,â€� with Colonial Williamsburg â€“ the 301-acre historic area recreated downtown that reenacts life during the American Revolution seven days a week, 365 days a year â€“ being the cityâ€™s primary tourist attraction. Also Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, is right down the road.
What to do: You donâ€™t visit Williamsburg without visiting Colonial Williamsburg. As historic reenactments go, this one is meticulously detailed and one of the most comprehensive in the world, even exploring the lives of slaves (who made up more than half of the population) during the Revolution. But modern tourists need more than history, which is why youâ€™ll also find a dozen respected golf courses, two major theme parks â€“ Busch Gardens and Water Country USA â€“ the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, a Ripleyâ€™s Believe It or Not 4D Theatre, wineries, restaurants and shopping galore. Check out the Williamsburg Arts Month, running from Labor Day through An Occasion for the Arts in early October, featuring a fine arts fair and over 130 opportunities to experience the arts in Williamsburg.
Main Street isn't just a road, it's a concept. We've discovered some of the most Main Streets across the U.S. worth seeing. (Click the down arrow on the right to remove the text and click it again to have it have come back up).