The Great Pandemic of 2020 will live on in all of our minds for many reasons. For some of us, one of those reasons maybe because we spent an entire year more or less indoors, baking bread and drinking wine. No shame, y’all, it is what it is. Some of us binged watched a lot of Netflix (who else is still mad about the Supernatural finale?!), at a lot of take out, and did our part to stay home and stay safe.
Well, that’s great, but if it left you feeling itchy to move your body and see the world, I feel you. If you still think that in 2021 international travel is risky? I feel that too.
So I’ve put together a shortlist of American cities that you can visit post-pandemic. They all have one thing in common: walkability.
You’ve probably heard of eco or sustainable travel. Despite popular belief, the secret to being a more conscientious and sustainable tourist isn’t a “one-size fits all” solution. There is a lot of varying information floating around the internet about ecotourism. This could lead the average traveler to get discouraged about their options. Maybe you’re wondering how you can truly make a difference without breaking the bank on a ritzy “Eco Resort.”
As a full-time traveler, budget tourist, and sustainability expert, I feel you. I know just how overwhelming this amalgamation of information can be.
That’s why I’m going to lay an easy solution right at your feet. Literally!
I love the idea of Walkable Cities as a tourism destination for environmentally-minded tourists from all walks of life (see what I did there?). Heck, I love the idea of Walkable Cities for anyone at any time.
Why Choose a Walkable City? Pick a Reason!
Imagine visiting a new place and being able to enjoy the sights, tastes, and activities that the city has to offer without having to drive 40 minutes to each new destination. Imagine strolling from your hotel or Airbnb to a city park, museum, or eatery. Imagine saving hundreds of dollars on a car rental and using that money to learn a new activity or experience a new cultural attraction. Sounds romantic and inspiring, right?
Walkable cities encourage residents to live healthier, more active lives. This understandably leads to happier citizens who tend to be longer-lived. That means that Walkable Cities are places tourists will naturally find more relaxing, more beautiful, and easier to breathe in as well.
Besides your health, the most obvious benefit to Walkable Cities is the ability to budget your travel expenses. How much money did you spend on your last vacation renting a car or paying for an Uber? In cities where biking, public transport, and walking are the norm, tourists can feel safer saving their money and exploring the cheap way: on foot.
For those who cannot or do not want to walk, these cities still have you covered! I’ve had two lower back surgeries, and I know what it’s like to not feel like walking 12 miles on concrete in a day. Truly, I’ve got you. Not only are Walkable Cities easier to traverse on foot, but they tend to have great public transportation and ADA accessible sidewalks throughout the city. This means that you don’t have to wear down your shoes' soles to avoid taking a cab.
1. New York
Rated the “Most Walkable” city in America, New York shouldn’t be a surprise. It is not uncommon for Big Apple youths to never bother even to get a driver’s license. There is a reason for that: almost everything in New York can be accomplished on foot. Although many New York places are walkable, neighborhoods like Little Italy, Bowery, and the Flatiron District have walk scores of 100. The highest possible score.
While in NYC, why not take a walking food tour and explore the cities famous foods on foot (and by mouth!). Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and get an iconic shot of the skyline. Take a Manhattan street art tour, stroll through The High Line Park - the opportunities here are honestly endless!
2. San Francisco
Trolly cars. The Golden Gate Bridge. Quaint, colorful houses lined up in a neat row. San Francisco trails behind New York City by only a point, making this city incredibly walkable overall. Visitors to SanFran’s Chinatown and Tenderloin districts will find walking easy to accomplish, with each district having a score of 100. The Downtown-Union Square district follows at a close third with a score of 99.
Fun suggestions for tourists include making your way around China Town to sample authentic cuisine. Stroll down Jackson Street for a taste of quaint, old-world charm. Get your beatnik fix on Columbus Avenue or hike up the stairs at Lombard Street, aka “Crookedest Street in the World.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to SanFran without a ride on an (ecofriendly!) trolley car.
Boston is home to Harvard and MIT, but these winding cobblestone streets also hold a plethora of stories. Visitors to this bustling city will be impressed with its walkable neighborhoods. Unlike NYC and San Francisco, no neighborhood in Boston has a perfect walkability score. However, several neighborhoods score in the high 90s, making Boston still easily traversable without wheels. Visitors wanting an eco-friendly walking experience should check out Beacon Hill, North End, and Bay Village for an on-foot experience.
Adventurers on foot will be delighted with Bostons Beacon Hill and North End Districts. Take to Bostons’ oldest commercial center, Maverick Square, or go a bit more modern at Downtown Crossing. Of course, history buffs of all ages won’t be disappointed in any Boston neighborhood.
4. Bonus: Minneapolis
After spending a bit of time in Minneapolis, I was pretty shocked at how walkable it is. In fact, it is the 11th most walkable city in America. Lyn Lake, Downtown West, and Lowry Hill East are ranked as the cities most walkable neighborhoods. Visitors will be delighted to note that overall, the City has a bike score of 84, meaning if wheels are your thing, you’ll love Minneapolis.
However, the true reason Minneapolis is on this list is the cities clever use of skywalks. Minneapolis has a skyway system that connects over 80 city blocks. In fact, it’s the largest, contiguous system of enclosed, second level bridges in the world. Topping out at around 9.5 miles of enclosed bridges, actually. So no matter what time of year, you can visit Minneapolis and take a stroll. Without freezing in the Upper Midwestern weather.
So what is your preferred method of traveling once you’re in your destination city? Do you meander on foot, or are you the type who pedals around town to see more in a day? Does the idea of post-pandemic travel have you dreaming of strolling through city parks?
Comment and spread some #nbholidaycheer!