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The Best Walking Towns in America

Whether you're looking for a new hometown and want to be able to walk to work or are searching out the best city where you won't need to rent a car for your next vacation, we've identified the cities where you can get from point A to point B on your own two feet.

New York City skyline with urban skyscrapers at sunset. cocozero/Shutterstock

New York City

It might seem overly obvious, but New York is the easiest place in the country to get around without a car. In fact, having a car is probably more of a liability than a benefit in the City That Never Sleeps. The density of the metropolis ensures that you’ll never be more than a couple blocks away from somewhere to get groceries or meet friends for a drink, and the city’s many parks make for excellent strolls. Walk along the 1.45-mile-long High Line, a beautifully curated city park built on an old elevated freight line in Manhattan, or people-watch in Greenwich Village.

Oakland California Night Sky Downtown City Skyline Lake MerrittChristopher Boswell/Shutterstock

Oakland, California

Although it’s becoming more and more expensive to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are huge perks to living in the slightly more affordable and relatively greener city of Oakland. Lake Merritt provides a scenic walking loop right by Civic Center and is just a block away from the Oakland Museum of California. You can stroll up Piedmont Avenue where a handful of small bookstores and restaurants, including local favorite Fentons Creamery, provide excellent destinations. For more off-the-beaten-path walks in Oakland, check out the book East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland. If you live in Oakland but commute to San Francisco for work (as so many do), you’ll find it easy to walk to a BART or MUNI train station from almost anywhere in the city to cross the Bay.

Asheville, North Carolina, USA at twilight.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Asheville, North Carolina

This medium-sized city has long been popular for its lush foliage and Southern hospitality. The 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum, which lies just to the west of Asheville, is a perfect place for hours of walking through manicured gardens and nearly untouched forest. The city has enthusiastically embraced farm-to-table dining in the last decade, and you’ll find plenty of restaurants that incorporate local ingredients as you explore Biltmore Avenue on foot. Check out the Sunday supper at Rhubarb for a rotating menu of tasty, seasonal fare.

Richmond, Virginia, USA downtown cityscape over Main Street.ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Richmond, Virginia

Taking a walk through some of the tree-lined paths along the James River in Richmond will quickly let you know why people love to live in this capital city. The natural beauty, along with the huge number of public parks and museums, including the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, make it a cultural capital in the South. Walk the gorgeous North Bank Trail and then wander down to the Maymont Mansion and Nature Center, where more scenic walking awaits you. Don’t miss the most bike-friendly city in every state.

California Palm Trees and City of San Diego, California USADancestrokes/Shutterstock

San Diego, California

Although southern California is synonymous with sprawl and highway driving, San Diego’s public transit system and year-round pleasant weather makes it a great city for pedestrians. With plenty of huge parks like the Mission Trails Regional Park on the east side of the city and Balboa Park smack dab in the middle, nature lovers will easily be able to get their fix. Of course, there’s also the boardwalk and plenty of beaches to stroll along to catch a nice sea breeze.

the Jefferson Memorial during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Washington, DCf11photo/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital provides a patchwork of diverse and interesting neighborhoods to peruse on foot. Walk through the famously ornate Chinatown gate on H Street and 7th, then pick from any number of delicious restaurants all packed together, like the famous Momofuku CCDC or Matchbox, the incredibly narrow pizza joint that has become a local favorite. Of course, you can never go wrong with a weekend jaunt down the National Mall or around the Tidal Basin. Don’t miss these these 7 tricks to make your daily walking habit even healthier.

Famous Lombard Street in San Francisco at sunrisef11photo/Shutterstock

San Francisco, California

With pleasant weather year-round, is it any wonder that so many California cities have made the list? San Francisco is so geographically small that, despite its hills, it’s fantastically easy to get around by foot. The Mission District is a cute and very walkable neighborhood; start your day there by getting some pastries at Tartine Bakery, then walking down the street to Dolores Park for a little morning picnic. For longer walks with more nature involved, visit Golden Gate Park or the Presidio, which offer plenty of hiking trails and coastal vistas.

BostonSean Pavone/Shutterstock

Boston, Massachusetts

Old American cities like Boston were more often designed around pedestrian traffic rather than car traffic, and that infrastructure continues to make Beantown an ideal walking city to this day. The Bay Village and Back Bay neighborhoods are especially pedestrian friendly, with small blocks and a shared border with the scenic Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, a nearly 50-acre urban park. From there it’s a brief walk to the waterfront, where you can catch a concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell or learn to sail at Community Boating Inc.

View from Hudson River Waterfront Walkway in Jersey City.f11photo/Shutterstock

Jersey City, New Jersey

Jersey City seems to have absorbed some of the walkability of its Big Apple neighbor. It has an 87 overall “walk score,” according to walkscore.com, which means that it’s very easy to get all your errands done on foot. The Historic Downtown and Journal Square neighborhoods are especially walkable, with high concentrations of hip bars and restaurants like Orale Mexican Kitchen and Dullboy, a small corner bar with tasty custom cocktails. No matter where in the city you live, it’s an easy commute by train into Manhattan.

Miami Beach, Florida, USA on Ocean Drive at sunset.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Miami, Florida

This coastal city may be huge and sprawling, but its neighborhoods are highly walkable. Get a taste of the city’s significant Cuban influence in Little Havana, just east of downtown, where you can get tasty, authentic Latin food at Cafe Caribe Restaurant or Latin Cafe 2000. More adventurous hikers can easily get out of the city into the neighboring Everglades National Park for unparalleled hiking, camping, canoeing, and birdwatching. If you’re with friends or family, try out these tricks to keep your group walk interesting.

Panorama of Philadelphia skyline, Ben Franklin Bridge and Penn's Landing sunsetf11photo/Shutterstock

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly has been getting radically hip over the past decade as young professionals have migrated down from New York in search of cheaper rent and a vibrant creative scene. Many of them have found both in Philly, which boasts plenty of nature trails for pedestrians at Fairmount Park and Penn Treaty Park, both with excellent waterfront views. Downtown offers plenty of trendy bars and restaurants easily accessible by walking or train, like the kitschy vegetarian restaurant Vedge.

Seattledibrova/Shutterstock

Seattle, Washington

If you’re a fan of long walks through charming neighborhoods and leafy green parks, Seattle might just be the city for you. Here, you can visit Volunteer Park, home to the fantastic Asian Art Museum, for a pleasant stroll by the duck pond, or wander through the famous Pike Place Market to pick up some local coffee and fresh-caught fish. Walk up the Howe Street Stairs for a view of some of Seattle’s lovely historic homes. Check out these tips to get the most happiness out of your walk.

Portland, Oregon, USA skyline at dusk on the Willamette River.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Portland, Oregon

The City of Roses is speckled with green parks like the Tom McCall Waterfront and the long and narrow Director’s Park, which is surrounded by museums and libraries to boot. For some quirky fun, visit the famous Powell’s City of Books, catch a flick at the tiny Living Room Theaters across the street, then walk up Harvey Milk Street to dine in style at the historic Jake’s Famous Crawfish.

Chicago SunsetMaxyM/Shutterstock

Chicago, Illinois

Once you learn to navigate the train system known as the “L,” you can get anywhere you need to go in this city. Walking around the Wicker Park neighborhood will take you by a handful of charming bookshops, bars, and venues like The Den Theatre, where you can see intimate performances of original plays. From downtown, walk east along the riverwalk to get to the Lakefront Trail, a well-maintained 18-mile paved trail along Lake Michigan. Make sure you know these 15 benefits of walking for just 15 minutes.

Baltimore, Maryland, USA downtown cityscape at dusk.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Baltimore, Maryland

This port city has been home to greats including Edgar Allen Poe, Frederick Douglass, Billie Holliday, and Babe Ruth. With so much history comes plenty of contemporary culture to enjoy, and Baltimore’s many museums, performance venues, and public parks are a testament to that. Strolling through the Mount Vernon neighborhood, you’ll find the Walters Art Museum and the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, along with fantastic restaurants like the popular Afghani spot The Helmand. For some scenic walking, visit Patterson Park or the Canton Waterfront Park. Next, find out which cities are the fittest in America.

Robin Babb
Robin is a freelance writer and editor in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a regular contributor to The Weekly Alibi. Her writing has also appeared in edible, The Establishment, and Mask Magazine. She is particularly interested in food, music, pop culture, and their intersections with social justice.