It goes without saying, there is no such thing as Sub-Urban Tourism. When a person visits New York city, one explores Times Square, perhaps ventures to Greenwich Village, experiences broadway, they do not rent a car and experience chucky cheese’s in a New Jersey stripmall. When a tourist visits Vancouver, they walk around Yale Town, Downtown, Granville Island, Gastown and the younger crowd might venture to trendy Kitsalano. Tourists to Edmonton visit West Edmonton Mall (a peculiar case, for it is the scale not the character that attracts people here, however it is unique); tourists to London visit Leicester Square, Hyde Park and Regent Street; tourists to Paris experience Champs Elleysses, Arc De Triomph and the Eiffel Tower. Clearly tourists travel to places for the sights, but it is the character and special identities of the places which keep tourists returning again and again.

Mingling with locals while relaxing is an imperative relationship, as well as the character of the built environment. Often tourists will be in a city for hours until they see that moment of character, and at that point, the tourist connects and says, “At last I am in ______”. Highway strip malls discourage such affect, while our downtown is broken with parking structures and high-speed one-way traffic. Mall designers have known since the 60’s that a couple empty stores or blank wall space in a row will be enough to turn tourists back the way they came, as the interest in what’s around the corner has disappeared. We have a good two blocks of Victoria Street, after which the tourist is no longer willing to explore, to the detriment of the city and the businesses not on this small stretch of downtown.

In this spirit I share a few video’s of locations which have created an incredibly stong character, represented in the buildings which enclose and provide a frame for the place, and also the relationships that the tourist gets to interact with the locals and truly feel away from home.

Barcelona’s Las Ramblas and unique La Boqueria market:

Vienna’s Christmas Markets:

An interesting view of London’s Camden Market:

It is clear that the mix of local and tourists as well as a legible, unique theme (a layout that promotes looking around the next corner, strong identity) breeds lots of tourist dollars, but also provides exciting places for citizens to live, strengthening the character of the community.