Best Places to Live

2011 10 Best Downtowns

A good downtown, whether it anchors a big city or a small town, acts a little like an addiction.

Go once and you can't resist going back for more.

In our search for the best downtowns, we considered the mix of entertainment options they had to offer, the planning that went into their design, and the beautiful architecture and green spaces that inspire interaction.

These downtowns are well thought out, walkable and easy to navigate. There's a range of flavors to be found in upscale eateries and casual cafes, while indie theaters, glossy off-Broadway productions, and family-friendly museums offer residents and visitors endless ways to spend their days. Buildings that have stood the test of time or showcase the edge of modern architecture add to the appeal, with parks and open spaces allowing a break from the city scene.

So whether you're looking to relocate in a city setting or just prefer to spend a day exploring all a downtown has to offer, this list of 10 best downtowns is sure to have a scene that suits your needs.

Be sure to check out our most recent Top 10 Downtowns list as well.

Ranking Criteria
Good entertainment options
Well planned design
Unique architecture
Green spaces
  • 10

    Franklin, TN

    Population: 72,639

    Looking for the quintessentially cute downtown? Try Franklin, TN for the complete experience. Franklin's historical roots reach deep, dating back almost two centuries, and the city has the battlefields and plantations to prove it. This 15-block historic district includes an eclectic mix of more than 70 boutiques, fabulous restaurants, a round of street festivals and a mix of sweet shops, including Sweet Cece's. The recently restored Franklin Theatre hosts classic movie screenings and live music, often performed by country stars who live in the surrounding area. Downtown Franklin has received much praise from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2011 teen popstar Justin Bieber shot a music video for an upcoming Christmas Album on Franklin's Main Street with his girlfriend, actress Selena Gomez. Now that's just cool.

    The Scene: Blast from the Past

    Read more for a sample itinerary for a weekend in Franklin, TN.