Forbes Magazine names Portland as One of America’s Best Downtowns!
By John Giuffo, Forbes Contributor
I travel, I look for good food when I do, and I write about both.
When it comes to cities, Portland, Ore., is a unique urban playground of high-end culture, green living and DIY arts scenes. But for a taste of Portland’s best, natives point to the city’s downtown area. There’s independent live theater, beautiful parks, the largest independent and used bookstore in the country and some of the best doughnut shops on the Pacific Coast (not to mention a plethora of Portland’s celebrated food trucks).
We located the country’s most alluring downtowns with the help of travel experts from Frommer’s and Livability, a travel and analysis site that focuses on mid-sized or smaller towns. While Livability’s own list of best downtowns helped us narrow down the playing field, we ultimately considered a wide variety of factors including attractiveness, accessibility, diversity of offerings, shops, restaurants, proximity of parks and cultural options.
“We embraced the subjectivity that is inherent in a list like this, while still striving for benchmarks and criteria that we think make a great downtown,” said John Hood, a Livability spokesman. Among those criteria they considered: entertainment options, navigability, attractive architecture and a thriving downtown.
Some cities, like Santa Monica, made the list because they both offer a lively downtown and have the luck of being located in a beautiful setting. Located on one of the most enviable stretches of the California coastline, Santa Monica has a strong concentration of high-end shops and inventive restaurants that help lure residents and visitors away from shore. But it’s not just the rich and famous that can enjoy Santa Monica’s downtown – there are enough single-family homes and apartments spread out through the area to ensure that a lively mix of people can live and work near the downtown area. “All of Santa Monica is pretty walkable and compact,” says Jason Clampet, senior online editor for Frommers.com. “And it has some of the best views in the Los Angeles area of the ocean.”
There are smaller towns on the list as well, and they often earn their spot due to easily navigable downtown areas and unparalleled attractiveness. In Georgia, Savannah’s stately mansions, historic downtown area, and restored Victorian-era homes draw in millions of tourists who wander through the downtown streets, often hopping on or off the trolley, or touring the cobblestones by horse-drawn carriage. Yes, there are charming restaurants and attractive shops, but its architecture, often partially obscured by moss-covered old trees, that pulls the crowds in with their magnetic southern charm.
As for a downtown among the country’s biggest cities, none come close to Chicago for its range of offerings and combination of stunning architectural monuments, waterside views, shopping options and recreational opportunities. Stare up at the austere exactitude of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings (such as the black tower of the IBM Plaza), wander through the packed halls of the Chicago Institute of Art to view its impressive collection, or catch a speedboat off Navy Pier to tour the Lake Michigan waterfront. Endless things to do and places to eat, all in a walk-friendly area, make it one of the best downtowns in the United States.