Best Main Street (2016)


Beautiful architecture, a sense of history, locally-owned business and community-centric spaces – these elements are what make our country's main streets so inviting, and so quintessentially American. We enlisted a panel of main street and downtown revitalization experts to help us pick 20 nominees for the Readers' Choice category Best Main Street, then we turned things over to our readers. After four weeks of voting, the results are in.

  • Emporia, Kan.

    Emporia, Kan.

    The main street in Emporia, a railroad town founded in 1857, is Commercial Street. This thoroughfare is home to the Emporia Granada Theatre, a movie palace constructed in 1929 that now hosts concerts, movie screenings and special events. Throughout the year, Commercial hosts a variety of events, like the Taste of Emporia and Glass Blown Open in April, Dirty Kanza Bicycle Race in June and The Great American Market in September.
    Photo courtesy of Ichabod / Wikimedia Commons

  • Howell, Mich.

    Howell, Mich.

    Grand River Avenue, the main street in Howell and a finalist for the 2016 Great American Main Street Award, is home to numerous 100-year-old buildings that now house more than 40 unique shops and local eateries. This street is where you'll find the Howell Opera House, as well as the popular 2FOGS Pub.
    Photo courtesy of Joshua Young / Wikimedia Commons

  • McMinnville, Ore.

    McMinnville, Ore.

    Located in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country, the town of McMinnville features many turn-of-the-century buildings along Third Street, the "living room" of the community. The tree-lined thoroughfare is dotted with over half a dozen tasting rooms, as well as boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. The street also hosts a farmers market during the summer.
    Photo courtesy of Doug Kerr / Flickr

  • Staunton, Va.

    Staunton, Va.

    Located in the stunning Shenandoah Valley of Virgina, the town of Staunton is the hometown of President Woodrow Wilson and the location of Beverly Street. This main street, lined by red brick buildings, encompasses one of the highest concentrations of late-19th-century architecture of any town in the country. A highlight is the Blackfriar’s Playhouse, a recreation of Shakespeare's theater in London.
    Photo courtesy of Woods Pierce

  • Ogden, Utah

    Ogden, Utah

    In 1869, Union Station opened in Ogden, Utah, creating the terminus of what would become historic 25th Street. Today the stretch of road welcomes more than a million visitors each year, who come for the art galleries, restaurants, shopping and historic attractions, including the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum and the John M. Browning Firearms Museum.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Ogden

  • Franklin, Tenn.

    Franklin, Tenn.

    The town of Franklin, Tennessee has dubbed its Main Street "America's Favorite," and it's easy to see why. The street is lined with iconic historic buildings, like the 1937 Franklin Theatre, as well as a host of boutiques, cafes and live music venues. Annual events like the Main Street Festival, Main Street Brewfest and Dickens of a Christmas keep things lively on Main Street throughout the year.
    Photo courtesy of Ichabod / Wikimedia Commons

  • Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

    Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

    Broadway, Saratoga Springs' main thoroughfare, is a departure from many Victorian-era main streets. This one is dominated by Colonial Revival and Beaux-Arts architecture – historic buildings that today house restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, dance halls and museums. The wide sidewalks boast wooden benches perfect for people watching.
    Photo courtesy of

  • Eureka Springs, Ark.

    Eureka Springs, Ark.

    The entire town of Eureka Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and South Main Street running through downtown is lined with beautiful Victorian architecture. While curative hot springs were once the main draw, modern-day visitors come for the live music, art scene and romantic Queen Anne-style B&Bs scattered throughout the town.
    Photo courtesy of Christopher Ziemnowicz / Wikimedia Commons

  • Bath, Maine

    Bath, Maine

    Bath's two main thoroughfares are appropriately named Front and Centre. Both streets are lined with nineteenth century architecture, including many historic mansions, as well as antique stores, local book sellers and art galleries, like the Centre Street Arts Gallery and the Chocolate Church Arts Center.
    Photo courtesy of Dirk Ingo Franke / Wikimedia Commons

  • Georgetown, Texas

    Georgetown, Texas

    Located just a short drive from Austin, Georgetown boasts one of the prettiest downtowns in the state of Texas. The heart of the town is Georgetown Square, bordered on one side by South Main Street. This charming stretch is lined with antiques shops, restaurants and attractions, like the Georgetown Art Center and the Grace Heritage Center. Those hoping to sample some Hill Country wine can do so at the Grape Creek Vineyards or Georgetown Winery tasting rooms.
    Photo courtesy of Georgetown, Texas

The top 10 winners in the category Best Main Street are as follows:

  1. Emporia, Kan.
  2. Howell, Mich.
  3. McMinnville, Ore.
  4. Staunton, Va.
  5. Ogden, Utah
  6. Franklin, Tenn.
  7. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
  8. Eureka Springs, Ark.
  9. Bath, Maine
  10. Georgetown, Texas

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Patrice Frey (National Main Street Center) and Jennifer Henaghan (American Planning Association) were chosen based on their expertise in this field.

Other towns with nominated streets included Alexandria, Va.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Charleston, S.C.; Dahlonega, Ga.; Galena, Ill.; Greenville, S.C.; Key West, Fla.; Port Townsend, Wash.; Provincetown, Mass. and Silver City, N.M.

Congratulations to all our Main Street winners.

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AlertThe Experts

Patrice Frey

Patrice Frey

Patrice Frey

Jennifer Henaghan

Jennifer Henaghan

Jennifer Henaghan