Wilshire's sign(© Visions of America, Joe Sohm, Getty Images)

Boulevards, like Wilshire, can convey a city's history.

North America exhibits uniquely New World naming conventions (or a lack thereof) when it comes to titling its roadways; loose rules hardly distinguish avenues from streets from boulevards.

Physically, Grand Blvd. in Kansas City couldn't be more different than Grizzly Peak in San Fran. But in regard to purpose, both connect their respective citizens to history and each other. A boulevard is certainly not just a big road. Some great thoroughfares provide asphalt links to greenways where Frederick Law Olmsted's hand is clearly visible. Others honestly showcase a city, its stretches of well-shaded sublimity interspersed with blocks of neon seediness.

Boulevards are experiencing an exciting urban shift expressed in the belief that byways should do more than simply move automobiles. Like the resurrected riverfronts in Pittsburgh and St. Louis, modern enhancements of our great broadways are helping to rejuvenate the city lifestyle.

Arlington Boulevard(© Greg E. Mathieson, Landov)

Travel to The Capital via Arlington Boulevard.

Arlington Boulevard (Arlington, Va.)
As American boulevards go, Arlington Boulevard is a youngster. But it may age better than most. Created in the late 30's as Fairfax County's primary vehicular artery to the nation's capital, the Arlington's recent improvements favor buses, bicycles and pedestrians. This is a reflection of the region's greater dedication to New Urbanism (a design movement that emphasizes walkable metro areas), for which local neighborhoods like Clarendon are well known. However, Arlington Blvd.'s most highly regarded segment is the point at which it defines the western circumference of Fort Meyer and Arlington National Cemetery.

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Grizzly Peak Boulevard (Berkeley, Calif.)
Wandering "Bezerkeley's" Telegraph or Shattuck Avenues, it's easy to get lost in the cultural melee of this progressive city. Take a winding street into the Berkeley Hills, though, and you'll discover one of the world's great urban vistas. Look across the Bay to San Francisco, or set your watch by a summer's afternoon fog lazily shrouding Coit Tower, the Transamerica Building and the remaining skyline. Rambling above the downtown fray between glorious residential neighborhoods, Grizzly Peak Boulevard is your portal to the University of California's Lawrence Hall of Science campus and Tilden Regional Park. Peddling the peak is a favorite weekend course for Bay Area cyclists, who reward their arduous climb with coffee at Peet's or recarb after their hair-raising descent at The Bread Garden just off Claremont Avenue.

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Lake Shore Boulevard(© Norm Betts, Landov)

Experience Maple Leafs and ice skating along Lake Shore Boulevard.

Lake Shore Boulevard (Toronto)
Lake-effect snow failed to intimidate early settlers of Canada's Queen City, which they built right beside Lake Ontario. Today Lake Shore Boulevard mirrors the paths these initial citizens laid from Mimico, the area's first waterfront settlement. The boulevard is connected to several cultural institutions including Air Canada Centre (home of the Toronto Maple Leafs) and the Canadian National Exhibition, the fourth largest fair in North America. "The Ex" provides entertainment indicative of its century-plus history, including horse shows, human cannonballs and an ice skating display.