Three Wonderful, Walkable Downtowns

This last week I spent time in three wonderful, walkable downtowns.  I love a small city that has a vibrant downtown.  Most downtowns are on a downturn with lots of empty storefronts and a depressed feel.  But the three downtowns that I enjoyed are full of restaurants, small local shops, and people walking.  What do the three have in common, besides my visit?  They are all within walking distance of a university.

The first downtown is my new hometown uptown.  Confusing?  I’ve written before about Westerville’s Uptown.  A big part of the lively Uptown is the proximity of Otterbein University.  The University is just a block off the main street.  I like to go to Uptown Westerville to get ice cream at Graeters, donuts at Schneider’s Bakery, and shop local at Ohio Art Market.  I get my hair cut at Uptown Hair Design.  We go to the Farmer’s Market, the library, and eat at the restaurants.  I would like to go to plays and concerts, and even audit classes at Otterbein, but we aren’t in town long enough for me to get connected.

There are lots of special events in Uptown Westerville.  From ice carving before Christmas to music concerts in the summer.  Tom and I enjoy exploring Westerville to look at the public art.  The longer we live here, the better we like it and are happy we chose this place to be our home.

Another vibrant walkable downtown is in Delaware, Ohio.  We took time to walk around the Delaware downtown after eating brunch at the 1808 American Bistro.  Even on a Sunday afternoon there were lots of people enjoying the downtown restaurants and strolling on the sidewalks.  Some of the open stores were a record shop, a bookstore, a really nice antique shop, and a cheese shop called “The Greater Gouda.”

The Strand Theatre is a draw in downtown Delaware.  This movie theater is 107 years old and has survived as a movie theater despite all the changes in the industry.  Through various renovations, the movie theater has three screens and shows a variety of first-run movies.  Once a week they also show older movies.  March was Rom-com month.

Delaware County Courthouse

Delaware benefits from being the county seat as well as the home of Ohio Wesleyan University.  The historic county courthouse was built in 1868 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Ohio Wesleyan University is just a few blocks from downtown so it is easy for students to access and caters to this younger crowd.  Having spent most of our time on the outskirts of Delaware, Tom and I were pleasantly surprised to see the downtown so lively and busy on a Sunday afternoon.

The third wonderful, walkable downtown we visited was Ashland, Ohio.  Like Delaware, we have driven through the edges of Ashland many times, but I haven’t been downtown for a long time.  I was amazed at the bustling scene with fun shops and filled restaurants.  There is a large, old-fashioned Farm and Home Hardware, Ashland Bike Company, a variety of gift shops, and Ashley’s Candy and Nut Shoppe.  The recently renovated Ashland Theatre plays movies and hosts live shows.

Ashland County Courthouse

Ashland University is a half mile from downtown, easily walkable for students.  Ashland is also the county seat with a courthouse built in 1928, also on the National Register of Historic Places.

All three of these wonderful, walkable downtowns are lovely places to explore and eat.  Tom and I love to check out places like these and see the imaginative ways people are using their spaces.  A lively downtown draws people in and invites them to stay for a while.  These three downtowns, in historic university towns, look revitalized and ready for the future.

Do you have a favorite walkable downtown?  Is there someplace you think I should check out?