Years ago when I first moved to New York, I spent nearly every free minute walking street after street, block after block, mile after mile—a chance to explore streets and neighborhoods and parks, to savor the surprises and odd juxtapositions that only cities provide. A cheese shop next to a book store next to a dive bar beside a lamp shop neighboring a candy store selling obscure foreign licorice.
I know that many of you may prefer a natural setting. I too love a good stroll in the mountains, by a river or through a forest. Better yet, how about a forested, mountainous area with a beautiful river or lake? Or, how about a hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, traversing geological epochs and ending up at the bank of the Colorado River? (So what if it was 10 miles back up and I almost didn’t make it in 100 degree-plus August heat?)
But given my druthers, there’s something about city walks, offering endless chances to people-watch, experience cultures, and discover restaurants and neighborhoods that happen best on foot (rain or shine). Maybe it’s a purposeful historical or architectural walking tour with a knowledgable guide. Perhaps it’s more aimless than that, like when my wife and I made the surprise discovery of the perfect Turkish eatery and a sidewalk table in an unknown Berlin neighborhood. Or that stroll we took a year ago around Royal Street in New Orleans, peering into boutique shops and galleries and coming upon the most chill jazz band playing on a street corner? These experiences never would have happened if we relied on Uber or a taxi or cruised by on bicycle.
There’s something about the pace of a good walk. Yes, even if I do move a bit slower in the early morning hours as the sun’s coming up, I do like to move pretty fast—sometimes to my wife’s chagrin. No wonder during recent travels we put on five, six, seven miles a day and barely noticed it until I checked my day’s steps.
What about you? What’s your favorite place to walk? Would you rather be in a city or out in undistracted nature? And how often do you take the chance? Perhaps you’d like to share that most frequent stroll in the neighborhood where you live.
As always, I look forward to reading your answers and the opportunity for this community to hear from each other.
Enjoy these Saturday prompts, including occasional breaks from the “sturm und drang” of the body politic? I hope you’ll consider becoming a paid subscriber, if you’re not already, to sustain these posts and all the other writing.
*Photo Credit: Central Park in New York City by Julieanne Birch via Getty Images.
I would just like a body able to stroll again. Enjoy it while you have it, youngens.
I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I love to walk the Medieval streets of the Old Town as well as the beautiful forest near my home. But mostly I just love to walk! It reminds me that there is a world beyond my computer screen!
I must preface my comment by noting that you said “years ago” you loved walking in a city. Me too. But these days, there are some serious safety issues to consider when walking in most any city, certainly mine. And walking or running in most any park, if alone, is also risky. When my mom and dad retired, years ago, I bought them a parking-included, membership to the Milwaukee County Zoo. They loved walking all the pathways there, and did so multiple days every week in more temperate months. There were plenty of benches, lots of trees, green spaces, lagoons, children to watch, animals to watch, snacks to eat, friendly people everywhere and *no* car/truck traffic, whatsoever. A very safe beautiful place, wheelchair and Walker friendly. I have bought a membership for myself. And plan to use it liberally.
A three-way tie for first place:
1. Any redwood forest - THAT is a cathedral.
2. Old growth forests in the Smoky Mountains. Joyce Kilmer forest takes the prize.
3. Paris, early in the morning, before tourists are out and when small merchants are setting up and taking deliveries for the day. Any city is completely different at different times of day.
I am 77 - I live in Indiana directly across from downtown Louisville, Ky. I live 1 block from the river. I love walking along the river - even though it is paved. There is also a walking bridge that I enjoy walking over when it is not so hot. My daughter bought me a dog stroller so I can walk across the bridge when it gets cooler (dogs are not allowed on the bridge unless in a stroller or backpack). I walk Emi every morning - about 2 to 3 miles. When my grandmother was in her 90's she told me to never stop walking - she said if you do, you won;t be able to, So I walk every day :)
Mount Rainier National Park. I live 1-2 hours away (depending on which trailhead I’m going to), and the hiking there is fabulous. Not a lot for beginners, most trails have some elevation gain (it is a mountain after all!), but incredible views and scenery.
Wherever my dog likes to walk me….Central Park…Carl Schurz Park. She knows where the squirrels live.
I live in Peekskill, NY on the Hudson River. My City designed the river walk a few years ago, and I love to do the walk each morning- I can usually do 5 miles. The Hudson is not the ocean, but it’s wide, and has hills all around. There is such a calming effect water has upon the soul, and I always feel good when I return home. I take the Hudson Line train to Manhattan every Sunday and walk from Grand Central to my family who live on E 12th Street. Quite a different walk but enjoyable for different reasons. I love watching people, and enjoy seeing the many dog walkers out on Sunday morning. Walking is such a wonderful activity.
A walk in nature is always a gift, the silence accentuates the birds singing and the wind in the trees. Right now, I would like to be walking in Vienna, Austria. While the inner city is always fun, hopping on a street car, and looking for an interesting spot is so easy there, with so much history. An outdoor market catches your eye so off you go. The fruits and vegetables are all so tempting, I have to remind myself that I already have plans for dinner. The breads from the bakery are even more tempting, so I move on to a churchyard where Beethoven was originally buried. I always choose to go in winter as I like to experience winter. Living in California, winter can be wet we hope, but hardly ever cold.
I appreciate you asking as it brought back memories and makes me look forward to my next visit!
Drop me in a city and I’m home - nothing to do with courage but affinity. New York is home on every street. Midtown to lower east side, or up to the 80s. Down 42nd to the U.N. Then along the water. Or Athens where I’m fully home. Paris in winter.
I have never walked in London, Vienna, Prague or Berlin. I did walk in Mexico City where I was taken aback by beggers and soldiers with rifles in front of many buildings, thinking those things could never happen in my America. (a sarcastic Ha ) I pushed my baby in his stroller along Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee, NJ and saw the GW Bridge, but I always had to wash his little bald head when back to apartment as air was dirty. I liked walking through the Paramus, NJ malls. But best of all, I liked the walk home from high school. My dad gave me $2.25/week for school lunch and bus tokens. To have a nickle in my pocket, I saved on the tokens and walked home. The town - Bradford, PA, usually the coldest town in the state . There were two routes. One was past The Dresser Mansion built in 1903 at a cost then of a million dollars, 28 rooms, a ballroom,decor from Europe.A classmate of mine on occasion, walked that far with me, for his mother had married the then present Dresser, so he lived there. Dresser Industries was concerned with oil, gas pipelines, etc, (Bradford is oil country. Lots of wells screeching day and night in the surrounding area.) participated in supplies for WW II and also the Manhattan
Project. I am still in touch with him on occasion through Classmates. This way also passed by what everyone said was a 'red light" street. If some of us were out cruising, we would dare drive down it.
In the winter, I wore white rubber boots , and they rubbed so bad while walking, I had raw red rings
on each leg.
The other route went through Main Street past the stores, the diner, the library and the building where my dentist had an office on the second floor. Daddy bought a new car and would never drop me off below the office window thinking that the man would see the car and charge more. One day, the owner of the jewelry store came out and asked me if I was interested in an after school job. Of course. So I addressed envelopes containing advertisements to town residents. I saved my money for a pair of white leather roller skates the store also sold. The owner charged me full price. (eye roll!)
Which ever route I took, my dog was always waiting for me on the corner near my house. Somehow, dogs have an unexplainable awareness of time.
I live in what has been described as a dystopian hellhole called San Francisco. This city is built to walk. At only 7x7 miles it's definitely human scale. Yes we have plenty of diversity to keep things interesting.
1: Aspen Maroon Bells trails after August when tourists head home
2: Kaua’i beaches and trails
I love to walk at the Denver Botanic Gardens (or the Los Angeles Arboretum when I'm visiting my grandson in CA).
Muir Woods. Even when it's hot, it's cool under the redwoods. The fragrance is something between freshly sawn lumber and petrichor. ... The other place is any trail in the Pisgah Forest in North Carolina. The forest has, hands down, the sweetest, clearest air I've ever breathed.
My favorite way to see San Francisco, a city I have lived in or near since 1980, is via a swim in the beautiful Bay. I belong to a rowing and swim club at the iconic Aquatic Park where one can see the famous Ghirardelli Square, Coit Tower, and Pier 39 from the water which provides a majestic view while we swim among the seals and sea lions, tall ships (museum boats) and a view of Alcatraz to our north in the greater part of the Bay. It’s an exhilarating swim and a lovely view.
I live practically on the San Francisco Bay. One of my favorite walks is a 12 minute drive from my home to Palo Alto’s Baylands Nature Preserve. Migrating birds,resident shore birds and waterfowl, fish, deer, and an occasional bobcat or coyote may all be my companions as I breathe in the salt air and savor the vistas to the east and west. The distance roar of a jet readying to land at SFO reminds me that civilization is not too far away but still, I see only the nature surrounding me. I see the clouds in the sky, not the plane.
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads ~ Henry David Thoreau
I can't really walk anymore, at least not a nice long walk, so I'm envious of those who can. When I was younger, we used to go to NYC every year on the first weekend in December, just for the day. I LOVE New York at Christmas time! We'd spend the whole day strolling around Manhattan, maybe shopping in FAO Schwarz or Macy's, enjoying the sights, sounds, and people watching. In NH there's a park that used to be a zoo - Benson's Wild Animal Farm, I believe it was called - in Hudson, NH. They've made a beautiful walking park out of it. It's about an hour from our home and we've sometimes gone there in mid-morning or early afternoon and spent the rest of the day just strolling around there. Beyond that, Old Orchard Beach in Maine comes to mind. It's a great place to relax, stroll around, and unwind. Wish I were younger or in better shape so I could do those things again!
I’ll submit 3 - first is in my neighborhood, it’s a lovely walk about 45 minutes includes a creek with visiting egrets, ducks. I have watched the new ducklings learn to swim and grow up and leave for many years. Second: Chicago - walking from the Lincoln Park area through Old Town and Rush Street, Michigan Avenue across the river to downtown, the Art Institute. Third: a walking trail in Tiburon in the North Bay Area - the trail is an old railroad track. It goes along the bay with spectacular views of Mt. Tam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the wondrous fog and if you go far enough, San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. There are ground squirrels, birds, pelicans, boats of all kinds. We love to walk out to a bench under a tree and just watch it all with wonder. It reminds me each time of the first time I visited the Bay Area. Seeing the beauty of the bay, ocean, bridges, mountains was just overwhelming. 2 years later, my family moved here and I am still in awe of the natural beauty.
I most frequently walk or run along the Los Angeles river (many sections are public parks), but my favorite is to walk or hike up off Mulholland Drive, which has some of the best views in the city, and very beautiful sunsets.
I walk two to three miles nearly every day in my winding, hilly neighborhood, marveling at hummingbirds, coyotes, bobcats, and occasionally Gila Monsters. But one of the best city walks I will always treasure was on my first solo trip to London, a few months post 9-11. From the Princes' Quadrangle (cheap hotels) on the West End through Nob Hill to some street with an Arabic newsstand next to an Italian coffee shop next to a French patisserie...I'd buy the London Times and USA Today, a chocolate croissant, and a large Amalfi coffee then sit to watch the parade of uniformed schoolchildren, business people, and tourists wander past. On the return to my hotel, I'd traverse the length of Hyde Park along the pond to a gate opening on the street to the Quad. It felt so terribly civilized and structured, a sense of sanity in an unsettled time.
Thank you, Steven, for encouraging us all to get out and experience what's around us, wherever we are.
I love walking in the foothills. Placer County is beautiful! ❤️
We just got an off grid cabin, for the summers, in the mountains in NY. Forty acres bordering a state forest on three sides. We have been walking the dogs twice a day and making new trails along the way. Once a week we try and do parts of the Finger Lakes Trail, and picnic along the way. In the winter months we do our SE Georgia small town walks, while picking up litter and staying in shape. It’s nice to be outside and a great bonding experience for our “pack”.
I’ll take a day in nature anytime. It’s very therapeutic.
I like walks involving food and wine. Did a guided walk recently (Devour tours) in the city of Bordeaux where we walked with a small group of strangers to visit historic sites in the old part of the city, and small shops stopping to talk with the proprietors and sample their specialties including, pastries, cheese, chocolate and wines. I also like the walk from my cabin on a cruise ship to a fabulous restaurant where I am served food that I didn't have to cook for a change.
My favorite place to walk is Savannah, GA. My daughter was in school there and whenever I visited I would walk and photograph all day long.
In the past, however, I loved to walk in the desert that was behind my house in Arizona. Always on the lookout for the resident “shoulder-less” critters, of course.
I live near Mount Vernon - George Washington’s home in Virginia. I love to take my dogs walking there & sit on the Piazza to see the Potomac River unobstructed like it was in his day. Nearby are many local river walks that are like outbound adventures where the dogs navigate the fallen trees and wildflowers abound as you follow the river’s edge.
A secluded beach.
I was born and raised in NYC where I spent most of my adult life with a few cities thrown in between - Philadelphia, Kansas City, MO, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Old Town Alexandria, VA. I too have strolled the streets and mews and hidden enclaves of NYC delighting in hidden places like Pomander Walk at 95th and Broadway. I was surprised and delighted at the charming Country Club Plaza in Kansas City with its Spanish architecture and beautiful fountains. And I now live in beautiful upstate NY on the border of the Berkshires where I walk every day up hills and through fields beautiful as a National Park in all (dry) weather. But the place I loved to walk the most - and walk I did constantly for the five years I lived there - was Old Town, with its historic significance, interesting houses, nooks and crannies, and the Potomac riverfront. I encourage everyone who has not been there to visit and then drive up the Potomac Parkway to Mt. Vernon and visit the home of our first venerable president, George Washington. Thank you for giving me this respite from the news to reflect on the beauty and delights of my country, which I love so much.
I grew up in a state with lots of water and woods and green trees, and moving to Dallas-Fort Worth was a radical change. I did find a nature trail that is challenging and the trees grow close to the dirt trails and there are roots to climb over and up and down paths to hike. I prefer that to the typical city "nature trail" that is often paved, or so wide you don't feel enveloped by the trees, and often smooth enough for bicycles -- that is just not the same experience. But the nature preserve of Cedar Ridge borders an escarpment and is a preserve, not a park.
Of course, nothing compares to hiking in the Redwoods. Even San Francisco Muir Woods -- I was delighted to discover the Ocean Trail and Lost Trail -- it's not all the paved for tourists main loop.
Alas, degenerative spine and arthritis has ended my hiking days for the last five years and as much as I yearn to give those a try again, I don't think I could really make it. Gone, too, are hours in presidential museums and the Smithsonians of Washington DC.
But woods -- trails that are narrow, single file, and rugged, not tamed -- that's my sense of peace, safety, aloneness.
I enjoy walking my dogs throughout my North Tacoma neighborhoods and on the waterfront.
I am partial to the natural world. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Now, I am just as happy walking in woods in my Connecticut shoreline community. I lead hikes for groups and the overwhelming majority of the hikers I attract are middle-aged to elderly women. Would love to know where the menfolk are. I'm 71 and many of my hikers are of a similar age. I'd say all are over 50.
Salt Fork State Park in Ohio....love it.
My favorite walks were in Sequoia National Park. An 80 degree summer day turned into 70 degrees among the great trees, and you could walk 2 miles without seeing another human. Not as spectacular as Yosemite, but a much more tranquil experience.
We walk almost every morning for fitness, but our true love is walking in a city and getting a sense of the place. Even if it is a city we know well, we'll still get out and walk. We typically do 10-13 miles a day when we're on vacation. Boston, New York, London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Buenos Aires are all favorites!
I like walking in a forest preserve or a park. No cities for me, please. Too peoply. When I lived in Tucson, my favorite thing to do was hike the Tanque Verde trail. The saguaro cacti’s were huge, and there were mountains everywhere.
Getting lost visiting a city is great fun and sense of adventure. Thanks for reminding me.
Right now, I can only walk a short distance around my neighborhood. My dog is a slow senior pup AND it is brutally HOT here in NE FL.
Parley's Canyon Trail in SLC is a beautiful place to take a long walk. 🚶
A mile of empty beach near our home on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
My wife and I did virtually the kind of walking tours you describe every trip we took to Rome. We enjoyed every moment of discovery (walking through remnants of the 4th century Servian Wall on our way for a morning coffee was one such moment). We opened every church door we passed and enjoyed the art and architecture of each building. We paused, listened, watched and tried to gain a “sense of place” as we walked about. Every step led us to a new “find”. Thank you for sharing your discoveries in NYC. Maybe we can “follow in your footsteps” if we get a chance.
When I lived in NYC I walked all the time. It was always a pleasure to see a new shop or restaurant.
Now I live in the suburbs and walk in beautiful state parks for long hikes.
When I travel I walk every where I can.
Any rural spot in Deutschland feeds my soul. Closer to home is Cascade Falls near VA Tech. On a warm October day the trees, the creek, the solitude, and the water falls are heartbreakingly beautiful. The sound of leaves on the earthen floor as I traverse the woods leaves me filled with gratitude.
Retiro Park, Madrid. Like NY Central Park, but ... Madrid!
Where I live has a lake, a pond, deciduous and pine woods, swamps and fields. The variety of wildlife is fascinating to discover and watch. I've learned where the hummingbirds live, where to find yellow warblers, pileated woodpeckers, and indigo buntings, and I'm learning new bird songs.
In the snow, I'll find tracks from black bears, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, beavers and otters. Every walk is different and I enjoy the change of seasons.
I live on 25 acres of wooded riverside land about 50 miles out of Sydney. Walking the dogs every morning is a great pleasure as we see wallabies and so many birds and bugs and great rocks and trees. But San Francisco where I grew up is fascinating too. Love your work!
Are used to live in the DC area, I loved to go up to the Shenandoah National Park and walk on the fire trails there. It was quiet; I hardly ever saw anyone else. Just me and nature.
The Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine.