READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. This historic hotel on the edge of downtown, famous for its ties to John Dillinger, draws curious tourists and Western buffs the world over. The varied clientele of European tourists, traveling musicians, local artists, politicians, writers and students creates a human element as colorful and unique as the structure itself. It caters to all comfort levels, from rooms dating back to its 1920s heyday (when it was built to serve the passengers of the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad) to the contemporary leanings of the high-ceilinged lobby and bustling Cup Café. Take in the scene from a leather chaise lounge (next to the enormous table covered with pennies), belly up to the bar in the sepia-toned Tap Room or idle on the patio with a cup of industrial strength coffee (roasted right across the street at Wilde Rose). By day, the Hotel Congress is a great place to buy postcards, read the newspaper, have a meal and enjoy all walks of life crossing your radar. At night, it's the perfect place to sip a martini, indulge in a sensuous dessert and catch the pulse of the downtown club scene as the throb of music and an eclectic queue of counter-cultural clubgoers spills over into every available space.
LOOSE CHANGE: La Placita Village, 110 S. Church Ave. at Broadway Boulevard. Yeah, so we're a little slow in renewing our beloved downtown. What are you gonna do? Well, one bright soul began showing movies for free every Thursday night at La Placita's courtyard! Get there early to get a seat, or be fashionably late and bring a blankie. All proceeds go to the renovation of the historic Fox Theatre located nearby on Congress Street. So come on down for a beautiful sunset and classic movie and be a part of the downtown scene!