Town squares are much more than quaint spots in the center of town adorned with cobblestone paths, benches for chatting or repose, and a stage of some sort or a fountain. They are integral and culturally significant parts of small town life. Located, metaphorically, in the heart of town, these gathering places have historically been sites for markets, political rallies, entertainment and music.

WWI Monument in Square courtesy Corning Painted Post Historical Society
WWI Monument in Square courtesy Corning Painted Post Historical Society

Around them, you will often find thriving shops and restaurants. And emanating from them, you can often feel the very pulse of the community.

Market Street Brewing Company Beer Garden Summer
Market Street Brewing courtesy Cagwin Photography

Exemplifying these traits and more, Corning’s Centerway Square has been voted Best Public Square in the country as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards for 2021.

Centerway Square Corning Winter
Centerway Square courtesy Brian Maloney

Nominees for all 10Best Readers' Choice Award contests are chosen by a panel of relevant experts which include a combination of editors from USA TODAY. All voting is digital and the rules allow the public the right to vote online for one nominee per category, per day. After four weeks of voting, the contest closes.

“We are so excited and honored to have Centerway Square named the #1 Public Square in the USA Today’s10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards for 2021,” says Coleen Fabrizi, Executive Director for Corning's Gaffer District. “It is a refreshing reminder of the extraordinary beauty and experiences awaiting everyone as they begin to plan their adventures in 2021.” 

Liquid Shoes Brewing
Liquid Shoes Brewing courtesy Cagwin Photography

This isn’t the first honor for the square. In April 2013, Corning's Centerway Square was named one of the 15 Most Beautiful Town Squares in America by Travel + Leisure

That beauty is only part of the appeal, though. Corning’s Gaffer District—named after a gaffer or master glassblower—is home to over 100 boutique shops, art galleries, studios, as well as craft beverage producers, restaurants serving fabulous food, and two world-class museums

The Rockwell Museum  4640
The Rockwell Museum courtesy Stu Gallagher

“I grew up in a small town,” says Kevin Costello, President of Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes. “Now that I am older I have a lot of those ‘I remember doing that as a kid’ moments when I am in a spot we all frequented in my hometown. Centerway Square is that spot for many in Corning. The cool thing about that is families are still making those moments right now and will be saying ‘I remember . . .’ about Centerway years in the future.”

Love Birds Couple on Market Street Centerway Square Corning in Winter
Winter Romance Centerway Square courtesy Robyn Baty

Some studies suggest that public squares don’t just break up the monotonous design of those boring gray grids created by intersecting streets, but they can even offer restorative benefits. They are a place where folks can go to slow down and catch their breaths or to reconnect with neighbors and friends.

Corning Farm Market
Corning Farm Market

During the year, you’ll find a number of things happening in Centerway Square, as it is at the center of this town of about 11,000 residents, including a weekly Farmer’s Market that runs throughout summer and early fall.

Centerway Square Corning Summer
Centerway Square Corning Summer courtesy Brian Maloney

“We are a downtown filled with wonderful small businesses that are poised and ready to welcome customers,” add Fabrizi. “They are investing everything into providing a safe and memorable place to make beautiful memories!”

Historic Photo of Square
Historic photo with Clock Tower, Corning Glass Works Factory, and NY Central Railroad Station courtesy Corning Painted Post Historical Society