My Top 5 U.S. Neighborhoods (so far…)

Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn on the morning of the NYC Marathon

If you know me, you know I love to explore neighborhoods!  I think it’s so interesting how some cities have neighborhoods that are so distinct that you can feel like you are in a completely different place than you were before you crossed the street.  When I am planning a trip for myself or others, I try to work in as many cool and different neighborhoods as I can.  This allows me to get a feel for what it would be like to live like a local.  Instead of limiting myself to tourist spots, I often prefer to spend time simply walking around various neighborhoods to get a feel for them and discover some lesser-known places to hang out.

In my limited travels thus far, here are my current favorite neighborhoods in America!

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

Great for: food, drink, being the most hipster, people-watching…pretty much everything.

Widely regarded as the most hipster area in the world, Williamsburg in Brooklyn is where I would choose to live if I were to ever move to NYC.  As with the rest of New York, there are countless options for food, drink, entertainment, and probably any other activity you can think of.  There is just a general buzz about the place, and the people-watching on Bedford Avenue is up there with anywhere else I’ve ever been.  And if you decide you’ve had enough hipstering, depending on where in the neighborhood you are, a short 12-15 minute subway ride gets you into the heart of the East Village in Manhattan.  Being from a smaller city, Williamsburg is by far my favorite neighborhood in NYC because while it obviously still feels like you are a big city, compared to Manhattan it doesn’t have the huge skyscrapers, it is a little quieter, and doesn’t have the incessant hustle and bustle.  It just feels a lot more livable than Manhattan.  Plus, any neighborhood that has Smorgasburg automatically gets bonus points in my book.

Places to check out:

  • Smorgasburg (duh)
  • Luckydog
  • Saltie
  • Bedford Ave in general

Fremont, Seattle, WA

Great for: scenery, livability, vibe, chillin’

The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place.  Everywhere you look you are surrounded by water, mountains, and Seahawks pride.  I love Fremont because it has all of those things, and it also feels like a more livable neighborhood than some of the more happenin’ areas like Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square.  I mean, all of Seattle has a more laid back vibe, but I feel like Fremont is a great place to go if you just want to chill.

And while we’re giving out bonus points, having my favorite brewery to date is definitely worth some of those.

Places to check out:

  • Fremont Brewing Company
  • Milstead & Co
  • Add-a-Ball
  • The Troll
four photos of scenes from travel to Fremont, Seattle, Washington
Scenes from my first visit to Fremont

 

North Park, San Diego, CA

Great for: weather, livability, breweries, vibe, being hipster

I admittedly did not spend too much time here when I was in San Diego, but in that limited time I got a great feeling while staying in the North Park neighborhood.  Situated on the northeast corner of Balboa Park, the starting point for exploring this expansive neighborhood is at 30th and University, where you will find plenty of bars, restaurants, breweries, and more in all directions.  I preferred the “laid back hipster” vibe of North Park to the even more laid back surfer vibe closer to the coast.  The neighborhoods in San Diego are more spread out than I tend to prefer, but I will make an exception here because of the unbelievable, consistently gorgeous weather 24/7/365.

Places to check out:

  • Tiger!Tiger!
  • Modern Times
  • Belching Beaver
  • Balboa Park
photo of the North Park neighborhood sign in San Diego, California
Entering the North Park neighborhood in San Diego (photo: Brett Shoaff, SDCVB)

 

South Slope, Asheville, NC

Great for: breweries, weather, weekend visit

Asheville is widely regarded as one of the best beer cities in America, and South Slope is the epicenter of the Asheville beer scene.  With so much great beer in such a concentrated area, there’s no way I could keep it off my list!  Throw in great weather, a ton of flannel, a totally laid back vibe, and the fact that it’s just minutes from some great hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you have yourself a great ‘hood to visit for a weekend, or maybe longer!

Places to check out:

  • Burial Beer Co
  • Vortex Doughnuts
  • Wicked Weed Funkatorium
  • Catawba Brewing
the inside of Catawba Brewing Company in Asheville, NC
Asheville’s South Slope is all about beer, flannel, and re-purposed spaces.

 

Park Ave, Rochester, NY

Great for: livability, picturesqueness, beautiful old mansions, summer, festivals

This is where I live!  Soon I will need to dedicate an entire post or two to my hometown, because I sincerely believe that it is vastly underrated city (at least in the summertime).  But in the meantime, suffice it to say that this is, in my opinion, far and away the coolest area in the Roc.  Park Ave itself is a truly picturesque tree-lined street with several bars and restaurants with outdoor seating, and unique boutique shops that are best enjoyed via a leisurely stroll on a sunny 80 degree day in June.  On either side of the street you will find neighborhoods of massive, beautiful early 1900’s mansions, many of which have been converted to (affordable!) multi-apartment units which make the Park Ave area a very popular area for the young professionals who contribute to the feel-good vibe of the neighborhood.  The Park Avenue Arts Festival is arguably the biggest event of the year in Rochester – well worth a visit to my hometown!

Places to check out:

  • Park Ave Fest (first weekend of August)
  • Half Pint Pub
  • Roux
  • Glen Edith Coffee Roasters
  • Stever’s Candies
  • Marty’s Meats
  • Not technically in the neighborhood, but take a < 1 hour drive out to Finger Lakes wine country!
Park Avenue Arts festival on a sunny day in Rochester NY
Park Ave Fest – that’s my neighborhood!

 

Some other neighborhoods that narrowly missed the list:

  • San Francisco – The Mission
  • San Fancisco – Haight-Ashbury
  • NYC – East Village
  • Chicago – Lincoln Park
  • Seattle – Ballard
  • Pittsburgh – Lawrenceville

Looking forward to finding more great neighborhoods as I continue to travel – maybe some of them will crack the top 5!  What are some other neighborhoods that I need to explore?  Fill up those comments.

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