Just past the town gazebo, the barbershop and the hardware store, unfolds a Rockwellian image of small town Pennsylvania. In picturesque Bucks County, it’s an eclectic, artsy village of biker bars and quaint bed & breakfasts. In northwestern PA, there’s a small thoroughfare complete with gift shop and grocery, developed by the robber barons who built their estates there long ago.
And while no Pennsylvania town is the same as its neighbor, each has something in common with the next: shopping. Homey mom-and-pop shops are mixed in with chic boutiques. Family owned restaurants sit beside bookstores and art galleries.
While many a Main Street is past its heyday, Pennsylvania has had a revitalization of its downtown districts. Here are just a few:
The Valley Forge area boasts an abundance of irresistible small town downtowns and main streets chock-full of eclectic holiday shopping, excellent eats and entertaining evenings. A stroll along East Butler Avenue in Ambler yields family-owned and -operated Ambler Flower and Gifts and, doors away, The Flour Pot, a tantalizing cookie boutique with an amazing array of delectable decorated designer cookies. Among several eateries, Detterra Restaurant and Wine Bar tempts with a progressive American menu inspired by and infused with organic spices and herbs grown on site. Afterward, the Act II Playhouse stages live comedy, music and drama while the national historic landmark Ambler Theater screens indie films.
Travel + Leisure Online recently named York one of America’s “Greatest Main Streets.” With an abundance of restaurants, shops and nightlife, it is easy to see why York’s downtown earned such a prestigious accolade. Stop by Friday, December 7, or the first Friday of every month when merchants and venues throughout the downtown district hold extended hours, host special events and live entertainment, and offer refreshments, promotions and discounts.
Lancaster Avenue is Ardmore’s main street of the fabled Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. Rich in early 19th-century architecture, its shops present truly unique estate collections and vintage finds, like those at Harry’s Treasures and Collectibles and numerous antique shops. For those whose interests lean toward more modern or eclectic, one of America’s earliest non-city shopping centers has morphed into hip Suburban Square, a shopping mecca full of chic boutiques and trendy art galleries. The Ardmore Farmers Market warms the Square’s “cool” with comforting food specialties and produce from nearby Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
Skippack Pike, the main drag in northwest Montgomery County’s quaint Skippack Village. Here, visitors browse antiques at Pennsylvania Traditions, find loose teas, spices and fresh coffee beans at Le Butler’s Pantry and mingle through many other diverse and delectable shops and eateries. In season, enjoy Basta Pasta’s Italian specialties for an al fresco lunch at the edge of town, but there’s also a year-round plethora of fine and casual dining options and several nightspots. Hint: Skippack packs extra-special charm during the holiday season.
The main streets of Telford and Souderton are about 15 minutes west of Skippack. Souderton boasts Bakers on Broad for delicious scones, croissants and more, and Heartwarming Treasures’ name says it all with country primitive home décor. For a home-style breakfast that can’t be beat, go to neighboring Telford’s morning hot spot, Towne Restaurant. Later, be wowed by a matinee or evening performance at the Montgomery Theater, home to professional productions in Souderton’s erstwhile firehouse.
Unique shopping experiences can be found throughout the Main Streets of the Brandywine Valley. Kennett Square, Oxford, Phoenixville and West Chester all feature specialty shops, galleries and boutiques. Shops feature artwork, clothing, jewelry, pottery, rare books, wines, teas, chocolate and mushrooms (a regional specialty), plus so much more, making Brandywine Valley’s Main Streets a gift-buyer’s paradise.
There is no shortage of ways to spend a day on Broadway, the main street in historic Jim Thorpe. The street, built over water, is lined with 19th-century Victorian architecture. Broadway is home to clothing stores, antiques shops, art galleries, jewelry and craft stores, as well as a variety of unique restaurants. The Inn at Jim Thorpe, one of many bed and breakfasts in the area, is also located on Broadway. The historic bed and breakfast’s proximity to the shops and restaurants makes Jim Thorpe an ideal getaway any time of year.
Main Street in Wellsboro is picturesque, quintessential small-town America. The historic gas-lit street is lined with local shopping and dining. Be sure to stop by the historic Penn Wells Hotel, historic Wellsboro Diner and Dunham’s Department store.