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Best Place To Soak Up Urban Ambiance

Fourth Avenue
(between Ninth Street and University Boulevard)

READERS' PICK: Alright kiddo, here's the deal. Get down to that Fourth Avenue and try to figure out what's so hot about the place. Somebody said it's got "ambiance." Jeez--we know ambiance: dim lights, smoky bar, a singer to die for, and maybe a flirtation over drinks. Lots of atmosphere, right? So where does this few blocks of city hide its ambiance? Not a tough case to crack: amongst the Italian coffee and espresso cafés, the dishy threads, the outrageous ethnic chow, great pizza joints and the rowdy beer halls. There's one helluva jazz bar, vintage collectibles, a crunchy co-op, a few head shops, and some of the best thrift stores in the Southwest. That's just a start. New this year are those wild, artist-created bus stops. (There's one that'll make you feel like some kind of royalty.) Maybe it's the chocolate store, or the bead store, or just the overall vibes of a street gone crazy with celebrating all that is hip; but there's so much to choose from, you'll have to decide for yourself what exactly it is that spells ambiance.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: If your idea of urban ambiance involves tall buildings, quickly changing lights, restaurants, arts, architecture, clubs, coffee, a little mayhem and a lot of carbon monoxide, then downtown Tucson has the right mix of flavors. The Congress strip and the double-zero crossroads at Stone Avenue and Broadway (the exact centerpoint of our fair city, at least as far as cartographers are concerned) is a daily bustle of activity, replete with crooked side streets, milling pedestrian traffic, street vendors and the occasional musician. It puts a big city face on our sprawling suburban town.

CLUE IN: The neighborhood south of the TCC is called Barrio Viejo. It's one of the few places left in town that predates the automobile. The area, in the midst of heavy gentrification, is perfect for after-dinner strolls. Many of the old adobe buildings, have been restored in recent years, leaving the neighborhood's architectural charm intact.

Case History

1997 Winner: Downtown Saturday Night
1996 Winner: Fourth Avenue
1995 Winner: Downtown Saturday Night

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