Walk… Dine… Explore
Walk Your Way to Fitness in These Top Walkable Cities
Many ask how do we postpone the aging process? That’s easy—walk. Ideal-Living has found that the number one requested amenity for resort communities is walking trails. So, we at Ideal-Living magazine have chosen some amazing cities to stroll along and take in the sites. Get your walking shoes ready…
For a relaxing vacation with a side of US history, Williamsburg, Virginia is a must-visit city. With extensive walking trails that transport you from the gold-star Golden Horseshoe golf course to the colonial ages, you can easily enjoy the amenities of a vacation resort and then travel back in time just by walking down a trail. Even the least textbook-inclined will be won over by the 360-degree experience of historic Williamsburg, featuring sites such as the Governor’s Palace and the College of William and Mary, all in the authentic setting of an original American city. Craft-lovers will be thrilled by the assortment of handmade goods in the city’s shops that range from candles and soaps to the hand-carved furniture and handmade pottery. It’s worth noting that Williamsburg may be the best city in America to go on a nighttime ghost tour – the graveyards date nearly back to Plymouth Rock, and the tours are equal parts historical storytelling and entertainment. Other evening entertainment can be found at the Kimball Theatre, which offers a wide range of programming – good for a rest after a day of sightseeing in town. A uniquely American experience, Williamsburg offers an old-fashioned respite from the wider world.
St. Augustine, FL
Those imagining that the nation’s oldest city is nothing but a museum will be pleasantly surprised by St. Augustine’s mild climate and beautiful beaches. The city provides all the trappings of a beach holiday while offering a surprisingly substantive list of attractions for those travelers who want a step beyond a typical seaside vacation. Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the US, is now home to a museum offering a trip back in time to the founding of St. Augustine as does the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, a tribute to the exploration that led to the city’s establishment. More adventurous spirits may enjoy the 214-step walk up to the St. Augustine Light House and Museum, where vigorous exercise is rewarded by panoramic city and ocean views. Natural beauty in St. Augustine abounds: the miles of beautiful beaches are a vacation in themselves, an opportunity for early-morning and sunset walks, with diverse settings from State Parks to more traditional recreational beaches. St. Augustine offers a trip to Florida rich in history and relaxation, a choose-your-own-adventure experience that every type of traveler could enjoy.
Key West, FL
Palm trees and spectacular sunsets are the primary adornments of Key West, Florida. Add to that a gorgeous semi-tropical climate and abundant wildlife, and you have the makings of an adventurous trip. Highlights of Key West include McCoy Indigenous Park, where you can see Floridian wild animals being nursed back to health, or make a point to visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Among the more unusual is the Key West Cemetery, which is known for its eccentric tombstones and even features maps at the front gate. Visitors to Key West will want to make it to the landmark Southernmost Point – the southernmost point on land in the continental United States. Those looking for panoramic views and a dose of local history can make their way to the Shipwreck Museum, where visitors can ascend the observation tower to look out over the ocean city, or make their way to the Key West Lighthouse, where they can learn about lighthouse keepers past and climb the 88 steps to see what those keepers saw. Of course, any visitor to Key West will want to spend time on its extraordinary – though rare – beaches such as the Dry Tortugas Beach, or Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park.
A Southwest artist mecca, Austin’s red-hot music scene and friendly locals have recently put it in contention with New York and Los Angeles for the hippest city in the United States. The city’s biggest music festival, South by Southwest – which has grown into a film festival and a yearly multimedia think tank – has spurred tremendous urban growth, making it more visitor-friendly than ever. Among the can’t-miss sights in this Texas Capitol are Sixth Street, a Tex-Mex-heavy, live-music-friendly, margarita-pouring stretch of restaurants, venues and bars, and the Austin Food Court, a gathering of trendy food trucks hawking the latest in chic street food (with a side of live music thrown in, of course). Austin is a fiercely independent city (its unofficial city motto is “Keep Austin Weird”), and it boasts some of the best independent shopping in the nation, whether you’re looking for hand-dyed wool at The Woolly Ewe or searching out the latest in literature at Book People. Austin also sits right at the foot of the Texas Hill Country near many of Texas’ famed rivers, and right next to the popular Lake Travis, offering an peaceful escape for the visitor worn out by Austin’s energetic culture.
Greenville is one of the fastest-growing cities in America, and its recent spike in urban development has brought on a renaissance in the town, making the downtown area more accessible and pedestrian-friendly than ever. Residents rave about the recently constructed Falls Park on the Reedy, a multi-award winning park with waterfalls, soaring bridges, and a restaurant that sits right in the middle of downtown. Just a stone’s throw away is the city’s popular West End district, a hip area of shops and residences where you can stop in for an artisanal pastry at Coffee to a Tea or a cup of joe at Spill the Beans. Along with this downtown growth, the arts scene has flourished, and there are many choices for high quality evening entertainment, from The Warehouse Theatre and Greenville’s Center Stage to the state-of-the-art Peace Center complex, offering everything from live music to experimental theatre. If you get tired of walking, you can hop on one of the free downtown trolleys, a relic of the city’s past, that run on the weekend right through town to Heritage Green. Sports fans can hop a trolley on game weekends to the new Drive stadium, which is located in the West End.
The Georgia Bulldog, official mascot of the University of Georgia, has made its mark on downtown with one of the city’s most unusual attractions: fiberglass statues of costumed bulldogs everywhere! Keep your eyes peeled for these guys when visiting downtown Athens, a city deeply steeped in university football culture. Athens is a city of strong-minded independence: one of the most popular landmarks is The Tree That Owns Itself, a tree that according to legend was deeded its own land. With such creativity and spirit, it’s no wonder that Athens is known as the early stomping grounds for many popular live music acts, among them REM and the B-52s. Such artistry spills over into Athens cuisine: visitors should stop off at Big City Bread Cafe, where handmade pastries and breads rule the day, and make a point of brunching at Five and Ten, whose chef Hugh Atcheson was recently named one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs. Avid shoppers will want to stroll on Clayton Street, visiting shops like Agora Vintage and Onward Reserve. Be prepared to run into a music festival while visiting – every store seems to be sponsoring one. In Athens, at least you know it will be good.
In recent years, Boulder, CO has ranked high on pretty much every magazine’s best-cities-to-live-in list, and it’s not hard to see why. It is a stunning city with consistent sunny, breezy weather, close to the Rocky Mountains, and is home to a well-known university that attracts top talent in every field. The downtown area features a charming brick thruway of shops and restaurants on Pearl Street, and the easily accessible public transit system makes it easy to hike, bike, and bus around the city and its 45,000 surrounding acres of open space. Start off on the Boulder Creek Path, the hike with the most foot traffic, and then, if you’re feeling adventurous, move on to favorites like Chautauqua, a park with trails for all skill level hikers. In the summers, Chautauqua Park also plays host to music and cultural events, including the Colorado Symphony. At the end of a day exploring nature, choose from Boulder’s award-winning restaurants such as farm-to-table favorite The Kitchen, authentic Italian fare at Frasca, or the landmark Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, which has a fascinating history as well as a top-notch selection of teas. Boulder offers all the beauty of a rural vacation without sacrificing any of the luxuries of an urban environment.
New Orleans, LA
There’s some kind of paradisal quality to New Orleans, between its wooden streetcars, old-fashioned architecture, and tropical flora and fauna that encroaches on every corner of its cobbled streets. Often known to outsiders as the city to visit during Mardi Gras, its tremendous grace and style mostly gets overlooked for its party-hard reputation. Visit in the off-season, though, and you’ll find that rich history saturates New Orleans, and the city unfolds like a rare flower for the inquisitive traveler. Strolling through the Gothic French Quarter, where there is always old-school jazz floating through the streets, you can see the homes of renowned writers and intellectuals like Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, apartments with balconies that overflow with greenery and brightly colored flowers. For a true taste of New Orleans cooking, look for stripped-down to-go operations like the Quartermaster Deli or Verti Marte. After stopping in at the ever-popular Cafe Du Monde, famous for its piping-hot beignets and strong coffee, strolling by shops filled with carnival masks, you’ll start to understand the sweet mystery of New Orleans, part French, part Cajun – a place that exists in a world of its own.
The true center of Knoxville, TN’s downtown life is the 19th century Market Square, a bustling hub where all the different aspects of Knoxville city life converge. With a number of hotels right on the square, you can be near downtown’s many shops and restaurants, tasting Southern fare at the high end Bistro at Bijou or Tupelo Honey Cafe, and enjoying an evening at the recently opened Square Room, a state-of-the-art live music venue right on Market Street. Knoxville is also home to a well-known opera company, the Knoxville Opera, which performs at the multi-use, 1920s era historic Tennessee Theatre. Sports fans will enjoy a visit to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the only site of its kind in the nation; while history buffs will enjoy a visit to the East Tennessee History Center, where visitors can learn about interesting and often glossed-over history of early Tennessee. Just a few blocks down are historical attractions like Blount Mansion and James White’s Fort, in-house museums that take you back to Knoxville’s founding. A true blend of the modern and the antique, Knoxville’s downtown offers an eclectic variety of activities and destinations for its visitors.
Although Biloxi, MS is primarily known for its casino and resort attractions, there is more to this Gulf Coast city than meets the eye. Certainly, those looking for sandy beaches and beautiful waters will not be disappointed by Biloxi’s seaside, and gamblers will not be disappointed by the highly ranked casinos in the area, such as Beau Rivage. If you’re looking for a bit more, though, Biloxi has plenty to offer. For a glimpse into the city’s past, visit the historic Redding House, which has the distinction of being the only Biloxi Mansion still standing, or Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, which also boasts beautiful views of the water. For a bird’s-eye perspective, head over to the Biloxi Lighthouse, a cast-iron landmark of the city. Make sure to go early: the guided tours of the site happen between nine and ten in the morning. Art connoisseurs will enjoy the Frank Gehry designed Ohr-O’Keefe museum, dedicated to the work of George Ohr, the “Mad Potter” of Biloxi. No matter what you do with your time in Biloxi, make sure you get a taste of the famed Gulf Coast seafood at the Half Shell Oyster House down close to the water.
New Bern, NC
One of North Carolina’s foremost cultural hubs, New Bern, North Carolina’s original capitol, buzzes with art, theatre, history, and music. Although New Bern is not the size of New York City, you can find everything from an in-depth, interactive foray into American history to a local folk society for music—all within walking distance of the downtown area. If you get lucky, your visit will coincide with one of the town’s ArtWalks, hosted by the Craven Arts Council, an evening every other month when local galleries and shops extend their hours, and local authors, musicians and artists mingle the streets with New Berners and visitors alike. Local thespians also make up a number of well-reviewed companies that showcase a wide variety of theatrical offerings. Those looking for some regional, more traditional flavor will enjoy the recently built North Carolina History Center, an innovative regional history museum that makes up part of the majestic Tryon Palace complex. With the many activities and historical sites in New Bern, visitors may want to take advantage of the town’s guided walking tours, which will offer insight in to the town’s three hundred years as an artistic and political mainstay of the coastal North Carolina.
Wilmington’s charming, historic downtown district, embellished with Victorian architecture, sits nestled next to the Cape Fear River. Home to a number of quaint bed-and-breakfasts within walking distance of the town’s many shops and attractions, Wilmington is a well-kept vacationers’ secret. From anywhere in the downtown area, you are within strolling distance of the scenic Riverwalk, where visitors have the option of spending an afternoon at the beautiful Chandler’s Wharf shopping center, touring the North Carolina Battleship or boarding a riverboat for an entertaining afternoon cruise down Cape Fear. There is a rich array of offerings from local shops to museums from the Civil War era including landmark Bellamy Mansion, which plays host to a design arts museum. In the evenings, the beautifully renovated theatre Thalian Hall showcases offerings from local theatre to indie films. For ghost-hunting fans and history buffs, the 275-year-old Wilmington also plays host to a multitude of ghost tours – and even a haunted pub crawl or two. Dubbed “Hollywood East,” this North Carolina port city offers a plethora of sights, sounds and stories if you’re looking for a relaxed-but-interesting destination.
Every traveler that visits Maine is struck by its lush, old-fashioned beauty – and Portland sits right at the heart. A town of cobbled streets and waterfront views, Portland is a quintessential East Coast destination if you’re looking for a low-key holiday in a place surrounded by beautiful natural. Particularly stunning is Deering Oaks Park, designed by the architects of New York’s Central and Prospect Parks, which has a beautiful arched bridge spanning the Deering Oaks ravine and in the winter, a pond for ice-skating. High quality cuisine, particularly seafood, abounds near Portland’s beautiful Old Port district – try the Portland Lobster Co. to get a real taste of the Maine specialty. You’ll be right on Commercial Street, where shops and restaurants sit right on the working waterfront. Board a ferry for a visit to Casco Bay, or just have a seat by the pier for an afternoon of seal-watching. Then make your way to the Portland Observatory, one of the last wooden signal towers in the country, where a guide will lead you through a seven-story tour of the observatory’s history, finishing with spectacular bird’s eye views of the city and harbor. Don’t miss out on the stunning sunset by the port.
Floridian marine life and wildlife sit at the heart of Tampa’s character as a city. The main attraction is the 300-plus acre Busch Gardens theme park – but for those wishing to avoid long lines and crowded rides – Tampa has a more sophisticated side. It’s home to The Florida Aquarium, one of the top ten aquariums in the city, and – just adjacent – the America Victory Ship Mariners Museum, which offers a peek inside a rare fully-operational World War II ship. For those that prefer mammals to amphibians, the Lowry Park Zoo is a popular destination. Tampa is also home to a Historical Landmark District, at the center of which sits the Ybor Museum,. The museum is mainly housed in the 1920s-era Ferlita Bakery and adjacent Casita, and its exhibits offer insight into the Tampa’s original industry – cigars – and how it led to the growth of the city. You can download a locally narrated walking tour at the museum’s website or take advantage of those provided on-site. Those wishing to see more of Tampa’s history won’t want to miss the Henry B. Plant Museum, the grandiose Tampa Bay Hotel that the railroad magnate filled with treasures. The exotic and unusual are alive and well in Tampa if you’re looking to travel just off the beaten path.
Cut right down the middle by the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is home to breathtaking river views, a historic arts district and a big downtown market boasting characteristically Southern events like chicken wing cookoffs. Down-home Southern hospitality blends with the effortlessly urban in this bike and pedestrian friendly city. One of the crowning jewels of the city is the Walnut Street Bridge, at a half-mile long one of the world’s largest pedestrian bridges. On one end of the bridge sits Bluff View Arts District, a quaint cluster of galleries, coffee shops and restaurants that showcase Chattanooga’s finest art. A particular highlight of the district is a beautiful outdoor sculpture park. The district was christened “Bluff View” because its positioning – high on the bluffs above the river – offers unparalleled views of the river and the bridge. From there, it’s a short trip to downtown Chattanooga, where the character of the city comes out in destinations such as the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, a historic hotel turned train station turned hotel again. Stroll down Market Street and Warehouse Row to experience the city’s unique shopping and dining, then in the evenings spend your sunset walking the 13-mile Riverwalk, a pedestrian/bike friendly thruway along the river.
Charleston is an old Southern paradise of palm trees and mansions, an easygoing city where even parks – like the local favorite Waterfront Park – have porch swings (and in the case of the Waterfront Park – a pineapple fountain!). One of Charleston’s best-kept secrets is the quaint French Quarter, a landmark district famous for its architecture and art galleries that showcase homegrown Charleston art. Down by the water, you can visit the Dock Street Theatre, known as America’s First Theatre, which plays host to many local companies including the regional Charleston Stage. Meandering through Charleston, you’ll stumble upon some of the many majestic churches there, an eclectic mix of architecture ranging from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to the Circular Congregational Church. If you’re looking to delve into the city’s military history, the Citadel Museum, situated by the Military College of South Carolina, offers a comprehensive look into the city’s distinguished past. Drawing on many cultural influences from its past, Charleston is a quietly eclectic city that offers the pedestrian explorer all manner of insight into both its past and present, giving visitors the option to explore its colorful history, or just find a swing to sit on and gaze out at the river.
The city of Savannah, Georgia, is organized around a series of twenty-two park squares, green and luxurious, that make up one of the largest and most majestic public spaces in the US. Lined with live oak, the squares of Savannah have sometimes earned it the title of the most beautiful city in North America. A walk around Savannah will already yield some of its foremost sights: a multitude of beautiful old mansions in many different architectural styles, including some of the foremost examples of the rare Steamboat Gothic. You can also visit the Flannery O’Connor House, the author’s former home that has since been turned in to a museum, for insight into one of the city’s most well-known citizens. The recent influx of students to the well-known Savannah College of Art and Design (locally known as SCAD) has also led the city into a design renaissance: a recently designated Downtown Design District offers an array of locally made goods. Those looking to buy from up-and-coming designers can browse at ShopSCAD, the university’s student shop. Part student town, part Southern magnificence, Savannah has a long-standing commitment to beauty that manifests in every part of the city, from its own design to the many artists who choose to call it home.
A city that celebrates its multicultural heritage and roots, Phoenix is a truly and wonderfully eclectic destination. You need to go no further than the Historic Heritage Square, which pays tribute to Arizona’s Western roots and also hosts constant festivals and celebrations for everything from Diwali to Matsuri. Heritage Square also offers an array of well-reviewed restaurants, from Pizzeria Bianco to Nobuo at Teeter House. Phoenix’s most celebrated museum, the Heard Museum, offers historical insight to the indigenous tribes of Arizona and the Colorado Plateau, showcasing exhibits and artwork that pay tribute to the Native American culture. Downtown Phoenix is also home to the Roosevelt Row Arts District (locally known as “RoRo”), an area that connects downtown to a number of historic Phoenix neighborhoods. Roosevelt Row is home to the largest art walk in the nation on every first Friday, and often plays host to outdoor events, live music, Food Truck Fridays, and an outdoor farmer’s market. Local art abounds in galleries and shops, a unique expression of Phoenix’s diverse identity. Stop by a RoRo coffee shop like JoBot Coffee, or pick up a local piece from MADE Art Boutique to experience the fruits of this Southwestern cultural mecca.
Pirates, Victorians, and plenty of shopping: this Texas beach town does not disappoint. The City still takes pride in having mostly withstood the hurricane in 1900, and rebuilt since (you can still watch a film about it at the historic Pier 21 Theater, which also runs a film about former Galveston resident, dreaded pirate Jean Laffite). The centerpiece of Galveston’s historic district is the Strand, a street of shopping and some of Galveston’s best restaurants, where you can travel back in time with treats like saltwater taffy from La King’s Confectionery, and visit curiosity shops like Hendley Market. A short and scenic walk to Postoffice street will bring you right into the city’s arts district, where you can tour The Grand 1894 Opera House and visit the Tremont House, a spectacular hotel right on Galveston’s waterfront. Galveston is also home to many state parks and beaches, one of the most notable being Galveston Island State Park, which houses 2000 acres of barrier island habitat a wonderful place for you to lose yourself on one of the many hikes that meander through the park’s salt marsh and prairie land, especially avid birdwatchers, who will enjoy the ornithological diversity in the state park.
In recent years, Asheville has become known as one of the top cities in the nation for quality independent art and its funky, laid-back atmosphere reflects that reputation. One of the major attractions of the city is its music scene, which encompasses up and coming artists and a serious old time blues history. Strolling downtown through a burgeoning arts district that boasts 30-plus local galleries, you can expect to be serenaded by street musicians of all kinds – and you can always pay a visit to nationally renowned venues such as The Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club. There’s no need to leave the downtown area, as many of the sights and sounds are easily within walking distance, including several local breweries that offer tours (Asheville has been dubbed Beer City, USA numerous times), and the many unusual local landmarks in this renaissance city. To get started on your Asheville adventure, look for the street signs of the Urban Trail Walking Tour, a self-guided two-hour overview of the city (you can download an informational mp3 guide at the city’s website). Don’t forget to look out for famous folks (celeb-spotting is common) as you’re strolling around town.
These “walkable” cities offer something for everyone. If you are interested in making a move to a new location, consider researching on foot to get the best feel for a city or community.