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.