Davidson, North Carolina – Main Street

Main Streets 2017: North Carolina

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The American Planning Association has called Davidson’s central avenue one of America’s “Great Streets,” and it’s easy to see why. Residents and local planners have invested their energies in a long-term commitment to preserving and improving Main Street’s historic small-town character — and the results are an American classic.

Along Main is the Old Quad. This centerpiece of Davidson College’s leafy, well-preserved 19th century campus is a working arboretum, with over 3,000 trees and shrubs cared for and labeled.

Just south of campus, Main Street’s central shopping area features brick sidewalks, plaques that point out historic landmarks, and quaint shops whose frontage and signage must be approved by the town’s design review board. The community has invested in public art and in making Main Street safe and walkable. The town has won both “Walk-Friendly” and “Bike-Friendly” awards.

Strolling along, you’ll want to dip into Main Street Books, an independent bookshop that’s a Davidson tradition and features both new and used volumes. If your tastes run to the visual arts, the Wooden Stone Gallery on Main showcases jewelry, metalwork, pottery and more, handmade by more than 100 North Carolina artists and crafters. And the college’s Belk Visual Arts Center, on the corner of Main and Griffith, regularly mounts exhibitions of work by regionally, nationally and internationally known fine artists.

If it’s Saturday, you can start your day with a hot beverage and a warm pastry at Summit Coffee, then explore the Farmer’s Market behind the coffeeshop. If you need more sweet stuff, check out the Davidson Chocolate Company or the South Main Sweet Shop. When mealtime arrives, you’ll find a cornucopia of inviting reasons why Main Street is locally known as Restaurant Row.

The 1951-vintage Soda Shop specializes in burgers and shakes, and features a collection of local and college memorabilia. For lunch or dinner, you’ll have a hard time choosing — Main Street’s eateries offer Mexican, Italian, Asian and classic American food.

Be sure to save some energy for the evening, too. Summit Coffee often hosts live music, Our Town Cinemas is right off Main, and the college often hosts cultural events, along with Division I sports.

Once you’ve spent time exploring Main Street and enjoying Davidson, you’ll find it hard to leave. So plan to come again, and explore some more.

All photos courtesy of Visit Lake Norman

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Hendersonville, North Carolina – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: North Carolina

The 16 blocks that make up downtown Hendersonville get especially interesting when you travel Main Street — because it’s not exactly straight. As it snakes through the attractively old-timey heart of this community in the mountains of western North Carolina, Main Street leads the visitor by restaurants, art galleries, shops, boutiques and entertainment venues. It’s enough to convince you that today’s Hendersonville has got a good thing going! And it does. The downtown even has free outdoor wifi.

Hendersonville is still a small town, with just over 13,000 residents, yet downtown often has something special happening. During the summer months, locals congregate on South Main to enjoy free live music for the Friday night Music on Main Street concert series. The Hendersonville Antique Car Club tag-teams with the concert series to host classic car shows with a festival-like, family atmosphere.

Summer also brings the downtown Rhythm & Brews Concert Series, and every June the Antique & Vintage Show lines the sidewalks of Main Street with collectibles. The Bearfootin’ Public Art Walk brings tall bear sculptures, fabulously painted with original designs, to the downtown in a highlight of the year that kicks off when the bears are unveiled in May.

One of the town’s most iconic events are the Street Dances, which have been bringing fine mountain music to Main Street for 97 years. The dances, now each Monday evening in mid-summer, began after World War I, as a way to welcome returning soldiers home.

But there’s even more to Main Street than music, shopping, artworks and eateries. The Main Street Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places — and its focal point is the beautifully restored, 1905-vintage Historic Henderson Courthouse. Between First and Second avenues and Main and Church streets, the courthouse is home to the Henderson County Heritage Museum.

Also on Main Street is the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County, a fascinating resource on the earth sciences, and Hands On!, a children’s museum whose name gives a great introduction to all the fun and learning that awaits inside.

All photos courtesy of Historic Downtown Hendersonville

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