8 amazing American streets you’ve never heard of
April 3, 2017 | 7:35pm
The art of wandering is all but lost, as travelers too often use Google Maps’ tangent-averse directions to propel themselves to restaurants and museums found on Yelp or TripAdvisor.
Yet one of the best ways to explore a new place is to walk — to meander up and down a main drag, sleepy street or undiscovered back alley.
This pedestrian strategy is especially effective in the country’s second- (or third-, or ninth-) tier cities, which have miles of untapped charms and lures.
Here, eight of America’s greatest urban thoroughfares you’ve probably never heard of.
Creek Street | Ketchikan, Alaska
Don’t let the inviting, colorful houses of this southern Alaska city this fool you: Creek Street used to house Ketchikan’s bustling red light district.
Perched on the banks of a waterway, the homes here were also pit stops for bootleggers smuggling spirits to saloons and brothels during Prohibition.
Though tourists flock to this downtown boardwalk in the summer for salmon viewing, take a chance on a spring or fall visit.
Pop in and out of galleries and restaurants at your own pace.
At night, rest your head at The Preacher’s House (from $149), part of The Inn at Creek Street hotel and the oldest building in this National Historic District.
P.S.: Check out the Married Man’s Trail, a winding hillside staircase originally intended for discreet exits from Creek Street.
These days, it’s a cool place to catch views of greenery and rushing water below in this historic town once known for its totem poles and population of native Alaskans.
Now it’s visited as a cruise-ship stop on the state’s Inside Passage.
For more information, go to visit-ketchikan.com
High Street | Columbus, Ohio
Perhaps the most underrated street in America, this winding boulevard pulses with eclectic galleries, vintage shops, ethnic restaurants and funky bar patios that spill onto the street. On the first Saturday of every month, the recurring Gallery Hop event combines art exhibit openings and live music fueled by a celebratory energy (likely thanks to the pit stops at watering holes along the way). Street art is also a draw: Marvel at one mural’s playful take on “American Gothic.” On a quieter strip of High, check out newly opened Flowers and Bread, which combines three of life’s greatest panaceas: seasonal blooms, oven-fresh baguettes and coffee.
For more information, go to experiencecolumbus.com.
Printer’s Alley | Nashville, Tennessee
This enchanting alleyway, which got its name from the newspapers and presses that have lined its sides since the 1940s, is a favorite among country music-seeking revelers. At night, it is set aglow with neon signage and string lights. And while most Nashville visitors make a beeline to Music Row for its honky-tonks, you can easily get an impressive fix in this three-block stretch. In fact, country star Eric Church has a soft spot for the hideaway — he got his start here. With bigger ventures like a Dream Hotel under construction in the alley, now’s the time to go before the area loses its gritty charm.
For more information, go to printersalley.com.
Main Street | Rapid City, South Dakota
The oft-ignored gateway city to Mount Rushmore is worth a stop itself. Tip your hat to former commanders-in-chief at Main Street’s “City of Presidents” installation, made up of life-size bronze sculptures honoring our nation’s leaders. (Half the statues are on parallel St. Joseph Street.) A few standouts include Teddy Roosevelt in his Rough Riders garb and trademark handkerchief, and JFK posing with his son. After posing for plenty of selfies, raise a pint at Firehouse Brewing Company, lodged in Rapid City’s first fire station, which dates to 1915. Order “red beer,” a local favorite and South Dakota classic that is an invigorating mix of beer and tomato juice.
For more information, go to visitrapidcity.com.
Granby Street | Norfolk, Virginia
Grab your camera and explore the “NEON District” — named not for its bright lights but for an aspirational acronym, New Energy Of Norfolk — which hosts two special artist-in-residency stints (check out the the Rutter Family Art Foundation residency program and cultural fellowship and Glass Wheel Studio’s Incubator Program) that lure painters, musicians and other creatives from around the globe to work in town for up to a year. When you’re done taking in the edgy street art displays, laugh until it hurts at Push Comedy Theater or get that cartilage piercing you’ve been lusting over at Fuzion Ink Tattoo Studio. From April through October, Granby Street also hosts massive block parties on the first Friday of every month with live bands, grub, and a beer and wine garden.
For more information, go to downtownnorfolk.com.
Fishbone Alley | Gulfport, Mississippi
On this unassuming backstreet, live blues music brings bold graffiti art to life. Fishbone’s myriad offerings are tantalizing: On any given night “in the alley” — as locals say — you might encounter an ’80s movie night, local DJs spinning tunes or game-day tailgates and football broadcasts. (If you’re not an Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU or Alabama fan, watch out.)
For more information, go to facebook.com/fishbonealleygulfport.
Main Street | Joseph, Oregon
Small-town charm dazzles in “Little Switzerland,” situated at the base of the Wallowas, a breathtaking mountain range in northeastern Oregon. Rack up steps on your FitBit as you saunter around this historic avenue studded with bronze sculptures, a distillery, a brewhouse and a derelict apartment building reimagined as an artist outpost and boutique hotel, complete with a sauna. Main Street’s more refined features contrast with the down-home Old Town Cafe, which serves up scrumptious whiskey bread pudding.
For more information, go to traveloregon.com.
Pine Island Road | Matlacha, Florida
While any Floridian spring break flings may have faded from memory, this thoroughfare in the Fort Myers area is worth an encore trip as an adult. The bright segment reads more quaint fishing village than rowdy vacation hub, courtesy of its neon-colored fish markets, indie shops and galleries. From here, continue to Leoma Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens and while away an afternoon painting coconuts. Or trade culture for people-watching at Bert’s Bar and Grill. At this dockside joint, indulge in a pitcher of “Bert’s Brew” beer while live music takes you right back to those college glory days.
For more information, go to fortmyers-sanibel.com.