The fast pace of modern life means that most Americans tend to drive cars for transportation, often on large, fast roads. In recent years, however, people have been rediscovering the joys of getting around on foot. Not only is walking good exercise, but it also gives people a chance to take in their neighborhoods and actively engage with their communities or the communities they’re visiting.
We asked TravelAwaits readers to share their favorite walkable cities and the results are in. Read on to learn more about the best places in America to slow down and enjoy a stroll.
1. Boston, Massachusetts (Winner)
It’s no surprise that a city officially founded in 1630 is built to be enjoyed on foot. This historical city has tons of great areas to walk through, but BOStoday’s report on Boston’s walkability singles out the Beacon Hill neighborhood, which received a nearly-perfect score of 99 from Walk Score. Beacon Hill is home to the State House and is known for its federal rowhouses, narrow streets, and brick and cobblestone features.
The city’s North End is another walkable neighborhood that will please a diverse range of tastes. Back Bay, downtown, and Chinatown are also dense enough to be considered viable walkable neighborhoods. To get between areas, try out Boston’s public transportation or the public bike system.
2. Washington, D.C.
Another fantastic East Coast city to explore on foot is Washington, D.C. Visitors who are looking for somewhere to walk certainly won’t want to miss the National Mall, an enormous park that is full to the brim with monuments, memorials, museums, and other cultural landmarks. If you want to walk but don’t want to drive, consider exploring the area by bike.
Another underrated area to walk in is D.C.’s U Street. This historically African American neighborhood is home to great music, food, history, and art.
3. San Antonio, Texas
Though I can’t read the minds of TravelAwaits readers, I can certainly guess that the main reason they chose San Antonio as one of America’s most walkable cities is its River Walk. The miles-long riverside pedestrian area is packed with shopping, dining, art, and entertainment. TravelAwaits writer Janie Pace recommends staying right on the River Walk for easy access to the area and its many appealing amenities and restaurants.
4. New York, New York
Trying to drive a car in New York City is a recipe for frustration with gridlocked traffic and limited parking. Luckily, getting around the city on foot and using bikes and public transportation is the norm. Whether you’re exploring the world-class museums of Manhattan, the hidden gems of Brooklyn, or the free underground art of the subway, you’ll enjoy your time walking the streets of NYC and taking in the sights.
To find some natural beauty in the midst of the city lights, spend some time walking in Central Park (or one of New York’s other incredible parks). There are countless seasonal activities located there, each with its own unique appeal.
5. Las Vegas, Nevada
A desert city may not spring to mind when thinking about walkability, but Las Vegas is a city engineered to keep people comfortable. One popular approach to visiting Las Vegas is to hop from casino to casino on the Strip, breaking up forays into the Nevada heat with trips into air-conditioned palaces and cocktail lounges that serve up icy drinks.
Another walkable area of Las Vegas is Fremont Street, which features a host of new and refurbished properties and activities that will keep you entertained and give the Strip a run for its money. The fun doesn’t end there; plenty of new attractions debut every year — from restaurants, hotels, and casinos to performances and museums.
6. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is best known for music and food, but there are also some lovely places to explore on foot. Downtown is truly the center of the action, as you can easily get around and see popular spots like the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and other music-related haunts and hangouts. The Graduate Nashville is a perfect home base for your time in the city.
Cumberland and Riverfront Parks are both lovely places to escape some of the bustle of the city. Another fun way to get walking in Nashville is to try to find these five murals throughout the city.
7. Santa Fe, New Mexico
The stunning natural beauty and unique architecture make Santa Fe a great city for a walk. The Santa Fe Railyard District is a good place to start. The district brings together food, art, entertainment, and shopping all in one walkable, bikeable area.
The city and surrounding area are studded with beautiful walking and hiking trails. For example, the Grasshopper Canyon Trail is a popular path in Santa Fe National Forest that would make a great day trip from the city center.
8. New Orleans, Lousiana
The complex blend of cultures that mingle in New Orleans makes this city a popular destination. Guests who want to be shown the city by a local have a huge array of walking tours to choose from. You can choose one that fits your interests, like a tour of the Garden District, a voodoo tour, or a food and cocktail tour.
One of the most iconic walking districts in the city is the French Quarter — its historic architecture and numerous bars have made it legendary. City Park and Crescent Park also draw scores of visitors, but there are plenty of other parks to choose from.
9. Charleston, South Carolina
It’s no surprise that this reader pick made it on the list. The charming Charleston Historic District is yet another lovely place to spend a day or two on foot. From gorgeous old church steeples to the “rainbow row” of brightly painted houses, the historic district is a feast for the eyes. There are also ghost tours, shopping, dining, and art galleries.
An alternative walking option for nature and ocean lovers is one of Charleston’s excellent beaches. From Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island to Edisto Beach, there’s no shortage of options for maritime walks.
10. Portland, Oregon
With all of the great food and beer in Portland, you may find yourself looking for a few places to walk off some calories. Look no further than Portland’s Pearl District, a stylish neighborhood full of bars, restaurants, and galleries set in repurposed warehouses just north of downtown. The Alberta Arts District and Mississippi Avenue are also densely packed with interesting diversions.
Oregon is home to some of the most stunning natural beauty in the nation, and Portland’s parks and gardens reflect that. Washington Park is a large green space that is home to the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden.
11. Seattle, Washington
The next TravelAwaits reader pick is also in the Pacific Northwest: Seattle. It seems like no one can quite make it through a trip to Seattle without snapping a picture of the famous “Public Market Center” sign at Pike Place Market. After walking through the market and sampling food and coffee, consider making your way to the Capitol Hill neighborhood for more shops, art, and counter-culture vibes.
North of Fremont — another eminently walkable neighborhood — is Green Lake, an idyllic spot to stroll along while looking out over some water and green space.
12. Honolulu, Hawaii
Our list ends in Hawaii, a veritable paradise. Laid-back vibes and good weather make anywhere a perfect place to walk, but taking the hike to Diamond Head State Monument elevates the experience. The views from the volcanic crater above Waikiki are sweeping panoramas that make the physical effort of getting there worth it.
A slightly more tame — but no less beautiful — walk can be found at Ala Moana Beach Park. This beach is popular with locals and tourists alike and even offers an all-terrain wheelchair and beach access mats for people with limited mobility.
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards.