One of the best resources for great public places is the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces, so when they announced their list of the 20 best North American districts, downtowns, and neighborhoods, I knew public life and entertainment would have much more weight than other lists. They also list 20 great places abroad.
The places mentioned range from hip districts for creatives to quaint neighborhoods for retirees, but a common theme is that these places are successful because of the variety of unique businesses and entertainment available to the residents, not so much because it has beautiful streets, scenery or homes. It also helps explain why my neighborhood, Adams Morgan made the list (barely) the first list of any kind that I’ve seen it on, well, other than my own.
Image source: Project for Public Spaces