Walking Tours: Five cities worth exploring by foot

A picturesque window in downtown Santa Fe
A picturesque window in downtown Santa Fe

October is National Walking Month—and walking tours are a great way to find hidden gems in your own city or to explore other cities as a tourist. Need more motivation? In most areas of the country, autumn is a perfect time to get outdoors, and walking is a low impact activity that’s good for you and good for the environment.

If you search online, entering the terms “walking tour” and
 “NAME OF CITY,” whatever your destination, you are likely to 
find information about walking tours that are free or relatively inexpensive, often led by people who truly enjoy telling others about the places they know and love. Alternatively, many cities offer podcasts, apps, maps, and instructions to help you explore a place on your own.

You can go with friends or family, or go it alone. Here are five cities, among many across the country, that are well worth exploring by foot:

New York, New York

In New York City, there are so many places to see that you might not know where to start. As just one example, you can take a self-guided tour of the Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan with its rich history of immigration. If you have grandparents who came through Ellis Island, you may even want to trace their roots. You can download free podcasts that point out some of the historical highlights of the area. Alternatively, also in the LES, you can participate in a free, guided walking tour, sponsored by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, held every Sunday at 11AM through the month of November. The group meets in front of Katz’s Delicatessen.

New Haven, Connecticut

Home to Yale University, New Haven is filled with history, character, and great restaurants. You can walk the New Haven Green or pick up a free map at the campus Visitor Center for a self-guided walking tour that highlights architecture, public art, sustainability and women at Yale. Before you go, you may want to dig into some in-depth information online at Architecture of Yale, Public Art at Yale, Sustainability at Yale, and Women at Yale. Another option for walkers is to purchase a copy of the Blue Trail map, which includes another self-guided tour route, and provides a brief history of the University. A few lunch recommendations: Claire’s Corner Copia (100 percent organic and sustainable), Louis’ Lunch (home of the first American hamburger), and Miya’s Sushi (the only sustainable sushi restaurant on the East Coast).

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Atlantic has called Santa Fe America’s #1 art city. It’s a great place to wander in and out of galleries, shop for crafts, and savor the tastes and culture of the Southwest and contemporary fare available in the city. The Santa Fe School of Cooking offers four different restaurant walking tours that allow you to burn off a few of the calories you’ll consume along the way. Tours begin at the school where guests meet and greet a guide, and get to taste some treats before visiting some of Santa Fe’s top restaurants. The Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau has also put together a number of free walking tours, including a Chocolate Lover’s Odyssey, a Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown Tour, a Coffee Lover’s Tour, a Literary Landmarks Tour, and New Deal Art Legacy Tour.

Charleston, South Carolina

Aside from its southern charm and location on a beautiful peninsula, Charleston is laid out in an easy-to-navigate, pedestrian-friendly grid—-just made for walking. Each October, the city’s Preservation Society offers its annual Fall Tours of Homes and Gardens that guides walkers through history and highlights Charleston’s unique architecture and colorful neighborhoods. The tours are self-paced and self-guided with volunteer guides stationed at each house or garden. Tickets sell out so they need to be reserved and paid for in advance. The website of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau list a variety of other walking tours, including one that takes visitors to the city’s oldest graveyard at night.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco City Guides is a group of volunteers who “love the city, its history, lore and legends.” They offer an amazing number and range of walking tours including tours of Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco, Billionaire’s Row, Chinatown and the Golden Gate Bridge. There is a list of the tours online, organized by neighborhood and date. Many are seasonal but some run throughout the year.

Don’t let this list limit you. October is National Walking Month, as good a time as any to get outdoors and explore the places around you.

Have you taken any walking tours you’ve enjoyed?

*This post is part of a linkup at Travel Photo Mondays.

Similar Posts


  1. I’m a big fan of walking tours (as well as just walking around for miles on my own in a city). Some of my favorites are run by Context Travel — very knowledgeable guides with a focus on unique aspects of a city. I took a free walking tour of NYC’s Soho and Chinatown — think it was Free Tours by Foot — fun and interesting.

  2. I just met someone from Walks of New York on Facebook this morning- so timely! Thanks for including Santa Fe. It’s a great walking city and we have some walking tour posts on our blog to help people know what they are seeing as they go.

  3. In Brisbane in Queensland, on the east coast of Australia there are Greeters who offer free walking tours showing you whatever element of the city you’d like to focus – or be taken on a magical mystery tour!
    There’s a great one they do showing off the many city sculptures – some that are quite tucked away so would be easily missed!
    If you’re ever down under its worth checking out their site 🙂

  4. Hi Irene,
    Great tips! I love walkable cities! And I happen to live in the one of the best waling cities in the world – NYC! I never get tired of walking around it everyday:) I did enjoy waling in New Haven Santa Fe and SFO. Yet to make it to Charleston – it’s on the wishlist and will keep your tips in mind.

  5. We did walking tours in Oxford and Bath in England; last year in Kilkenny, Ireland; a few years ago in Evora, Portugal. We found these by showing up at the “official” tourist information place and asking about them. We also did two walking Scala Reale tours in Rome with our sons. They were the predecessor of Context Travel. Their tours can be pricey, but worth it. We also do Hop On, Hop Off bus tours in most cities we visit, but the walking tours obviously get you closer to the ground (as it were) and if it’s a small or private group, there is much more opportunity to engage with the guide. Have I done any walking tours in my home town of Philadelphia yet? No, of course not.

  6. Thanks for stopping by my Naples post and giving me a recommendation for that documentary! I followed you on Bloglovin and look forward to seeing more of your travel tips!

  7. Thank you, Irene! Love to walk new cities as I feel one gets a better sense of place when going by foot. I would add Vancouver BC to the list—beautiful, friendly, lots to see, and mostly flat.

  8. Great post! We’re fans of walking when it comes to exploring cities – not really interested in mashing our faces up against a bus window. We second Sam above. Central Vancouver is walk-friendly – English Bay, False Creek waterfront, etc.

  9. My hometown of Philadelphia is a great walking town–the historic district has the largest collection of Georgian architecture outside of England!

    I also love virtually every European city–developed when cities were truly walking towns 🙂

  10. this site is so damn gold. i found the site from atravelerslibrary.com. i feel so lucky now because i do a blog about travel too (in Thai language) so sometimes i translate people work into Thai language. may i please translate this article into Thai language for Thai people can read it. i ll refer to your site. thxs in advance. love love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *