Historic Downtown Wilmington Named Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood

5th Avenue South, Greenville Main Street, Vail Village and Larimer Square also winners

'Tis the season for eating outdoors! USA TODAY 10Best teamed up with a panel of traveling foodies to help nominate 20 streets and neighborhoods across the USA for the title of Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood, and for the past four weeks, USA TODAY and 10Best readers have been voting for their favorites.

  • Adams Morgan
    Washington

    A true neighborhood, Washington's culturally diverse Adams Morgan is built around historic 19th and early 20th-century townhomes and apartment buildings on tree-lined streets. Many of the local cafes, restaurants and bars fit this residential, almost European setting with lively outdoor patios. Washingtonians love outdoor dining and Adams Morgan is a hotspot, with lots of casual options, neighborhood bars and coffee shops, along with some more destination type restaurants such as Mintwood Place. Several bars and eateries offer rooftop dining as well, including Roofers Union and Jack Rose.
    Photo courtesy of Arianne Bennett

  • Peachtree Road
    Atlanta

    Atlanta’s heart and soul, Peachtree Street hosts parades, sports victory celebrations and is home to major arts and cultural institutions and top hotels. Heading north from Downtown through Midtown to tony Buckhead there are myriad choices for great people watching, from the famously decadent Vortex burger joint Midtown to the patio dining and outdoor bocce courts at Empire State South. Beloved Atlanta chef Ford Fry made a 24-foot open hearth the centerpiece of wood fired meat emporium King + Duke, and with this outdoor cooking style, it’s only fitting the eatery has a great terrace overlooking Peachtree.
    Photo courtesy of Buckhead Atlanta

  • Wicker Park
    Chicago

    Often places with tough winters appreciate outdoor dining the most, and this is the case in Chicago’s Wicker Park, where sidewalk cafes sprout tables in the spring and remain jammed through fall. The neighborhood is eclectic, young and artsy, full of boutiques and restaurants, and the open air action is concentrated on West Division Street, which also hosts street and crafts fairs. On the ten block stretch from Western to Ashland are more than 30 outdoor patios, many lined with flower boxes, dishing out everything from barbecue to gelato, coffee to craft brews. Sidewalks are extra wide here, and the combination of strolling locals and outdoor dining gives the area a quaint European feel.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Alexander Photography

  • River Walk
    San Antonio

    What’s better than eating outside? Eating outside on the water, which is what dozens of restaurants along the River Walk offer. In the heart of the city, the San Antonio river has been turned into a canal of sorts, with sidewalks on both sides connected by arched stone bridges, and lined with eateries and bars, including the city’s oldest watering hole, Esquire Tavern (1933) and its most beloved Mexican eatery, Casa Rio. It’s also one of the coolest spots in often hot Texas, links up most key urban attractions so it is always convenient for visitors, and choices run the gamut from fine dining to casual, representing virtually every type of cuisine.
    Photo courtesy of San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • State Street
    Santa Barbara, Calif.

    With a mix of wine country, Pacific Ocean beach and near perfect weather, Santa Barbara is popular tourist destination that lends itself to al fresco dining. State Street is the main drag, running all the way from Stearns Wharf at the waterfront into the heart of downtown, with sidewalk dining opportunities throughout, but especially on the waterfront and in the Old Town District. Overlooking the harbor, Brophy Brothers serves up locally famous clam chowder and the beachfront Boathouse specializes in local catch like Dungeness Crab. Head inland to Old Town and choices run the gamut from sushi to coffee shops, pizza to Mexican, German, Italian, Spanish and much more. The common denominators are great weather, fun loving atmosphere - and one of the more dog friendly destinations in the nation.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara / Mark Weber

  • Larimer Square
    Denver

    The birthplace of Denver, Larimer Square is the oldest and most historic block in the city, and with its original gaslight fixtures, hidden subterranean speakeasy and period charm, all in the heart of downtown, it offers a welcome respite from the chain cookie cutter feel of the nearby 16th Street Mall. The four sides of this single block contain more than 40 shops and restaurants, almost all of which offer outdoor options, and are very varied, from fine dining to fast causal, steaks to seafood, French, Italian, Spanish, and Rocky Mountain staples like barbecue and bison. With more than 300 sunny days annually, the Mile High City is an al fresco dream.
    Photo courtesy of Larimer Square

  • Vail Village
    Vail, Colo.

    The local refrain is “I came for the winter but stayed for the summer,” yet many of the eateries in the nation’s first purpose built and largely pedestrianized ski town serve outdoors all year round. In the older part of town on Bridge Street, there is a heavy European Alpine influence with Swiss and Austrian eateries serving goulash and schnitzel along the bustling pedestrian thoroughfare. Slope side spots like Los Amigos have huge decks offering the best skier watching, while in Lion’s Head village the outdoor skating rink is ringed with spots featuring outdoor tables. In Vail, the better hotels even serve poolside, everything is within walking distance, there are stunning panoramic mountain views – and hardly a car insight.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan

  • Main Street
    Greenville, S.C.

    A booming economy in the past decade has put Greenville on many “hot lists” and spurred downtown revitalization that brought new restaurants and shops and turned a former defunct cotton warehouse into a thriving mixed use hipster market. There are now more than 100 locally owned restaurants in a mile radius surrounding still quaint Main Street. Many have outdoor dining options, from Passerelle, a French bistro overlooking Falls Park and Liberty Bridge, to Roost Restaurant in the just renovated downtown Hyatt with a large outdoor patio on vibrant NOMA Square, where concerts are often held. There are rooftop wine bars, sidewalk cafes, large patio restaurants, choices for every taste.
    Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Greenville

  • 5th Avenue South
    Naples, Fla.

    Naples is one of the wealthiest communities in the nation, yet the whole appeal of Florida’s West Coast is a laid back, relaxed oceanfront vibe that directly flies in the face of the East Coast’s glitz and glamour. Fifth Avenue South exemplifies this, a subdued shop and restaurant lined boulevard forming the heart of Old Naples, running about ten blocks from Ninth Street to the ocean and Gulf Shore Boulevard. Many of the several dozen restaurants here, equally popular with tourists and residents, offer al fresco dining. There is a broad mix of causal and fine dining, and every sort of cuisine is represented, plus plenty of ice cream for warm weather strolling.
    Photo courtesy of Culinary Concepts

  • Historic Downtown
    Wilmington, N.C.

    Founded along the Cape Fear River almost 300 years ago, Wilmington's historic downtown and mile-long Riverwalk was named the "Best American Riverfront" by USATODAY 10Best in 2014. The historic district, especially on Front Street and Water Street, is full of great al fresco eateries. Many of the restaurants here do double duty and offer outside seating both on the sidewalk along Front Street and out back on patios overlooking the river. Some, like the Reel Café, are triple threats with rooftop dining as well. The beach town weather is perfect for eating outside most of the year, and there are more than 200 restaurants and shops within walking distance of the Riverwalk.
    Photo courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau

Snagging the number one spot was Historic Downtown in Wilmington, N.C. This quaint waterfront neighborhood is no stranger to the 10Best Readers' Choice winners list, as it previously won the category Best American Riverfront.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood are as follows:

  1. Historic Downtown - Wilmington, N.C.
  2. 5th Avenue South - Naples, Fla.
  3. Main Street - Greenville, S.C.
  4. Vail Village - Vail, Colo.
  5. Larimer Square - Denver
  6. State Street - Santa Barbara, Calif.
  7. River Walk - San Antonio
  8. Wicker Park - Chicago
  9. Peachtree Road - Atlanta
  10. Adams Morgan - Washington

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Caroline Potter (OpenTable, Inc.), Eric Grossman, Megy Karydes, M. Linda Lee (10Best), Akila McConnell (The Road Forks), Larry Olmsted (Great American Bites) and Kim Sunee were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of food and travel.

Other nominees for Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood included Back Bay in Boston, Chicago's Riverwalk, Dupont Circle in Washington, French Quarter in New Orleans, Garden District in New Orleans, Georgetown in Washington, Lake Travis and Lake Austin in Austin, Meatpacking District in New York, Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.

 

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Caroline Potter

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Eric Grossman

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Megy Karydes

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M. Linda Lee

M. Linda Lee

Akila McConnell

Akila McConnell

Larry Olmsted

Larry Olmsted

Kim Sunee

Kim Sunee