The 25 Best Cities for Walking

Whether you’re in the market for a new ‘hood or planning a trip, you can take advantage of these 25 cities whose pedestrians give cars a run for their money.

March 23, 2012
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Did Your City Make the List?

Even though putting one foot in front of the other is the easiest form of exercise there is, it's still hard to find the motivation to bypass the car and head out on foot in your everyday life. But with a couple of tools--including a visit to Walkscore.com, which grades cities and neighborhoods on the ease of finding entertainment or provisions on foot, and Prevention.com's at-a-glance guide to the attractions that you'd never notice on a drive--you can get (ahem) one step closer to a more exciting pedestrian lifestyle.  The closer a city on this list scores to 100, the better the walkability. Read on to learn what makes these metro areas walker-friendly.

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Cambridge, MA
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1. Cambridge, MA

Walk Score: 88.8

You never know what you'll find in this bustling college burg--and that's exactly the message of the city's Golden Shoes event, which is held each May. Stroll the streets in search of gold-painted shoes hidden in places where people like to walk. Plus, the Harvard hometown is so dense with history that exploring it on foot is the best way to take in the period architecture, and maybe soak up some extra IQ points by osmosis. Visit Bostoncitywalks.com to learn more about a guided tour of Harvard Square and other key Cambridge sites. 

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New York, NY
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2. New York, NY

Walk Score: 85.3

New Yorkers have long used their own two feet to book it around town. But recent pedestrian-friendly enhancements all over the city have considerably upped how pleasant that experience can be. Two favorites: The High Line--which transformed 1.45 miles of long-neglected elevated freight train tracks into a birds-eye-view promenade above the shore of the Hudson River--and a more walkable Times Square.

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Jersey City, NJ
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3. Jersey City, NJ

Walk Score: 85.2

Just over the Hudson River in New Jersey is this charming walkers' hotspot, which is among the top-ranked "Best Fitness Walking Cities," according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Hop between neighborhood farmer's markets in its historic neighborhoods or earn your walking bona fides trekking Liberty State Walking Trail, which spans the width of the state to the Delaware Water Gap--a whopping 130 miles!

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San Francisco, CA
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4. San Francisco, CA

Walk Score: 84.9

Hilly reputation notwithstanding, the city has serious walking cred in neighborhoods like Chinatown and the Financial District. (Related: Boost your fat burn with hill training) San Francisco has also just launched a city-sponsored program called WalkFirst, which works to improve pedestrian safety and walking conditions with sidewalk buffers, revamped intersections, and better lighting in key pedestrian areas citywide. Walk San Francisco, an advocacy group that promotes pedestrian activity and safety, offers group walks as well.   

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5. Berkeley, CA

Walk Score: 81.6

Head here if you want a better shot at a walk-to-work setup. Nearly 15% of Berkeley commuters walk to and from their jobs. (Related: Commute to work by bike!) You can also take part in "Everyone Walks in Berkeley," a city program urging residents to walk--to school, work, or just up and down the stairs--the first Wednesday of every month.

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Boston, MA
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6. Boston, MA

Walk Score: 79.2

While the Freedom Trail has long been a way to stay fit while learning about the birth of our nation, Boston has seriously stepped up its efforts to create a citywide walker's paradise. To wit, WalkBoston--an initiative to make the city safer, easier to navigate on foot, greener, and more community-based, which they do by encouraging businesses and individuals to create a pro-walking atmosphere. They also offer awards to businesses that create inviting parks and seating areas, or individuals who advocate for increased pedestrian safety measures. WalkBoston's initiatives create a sort of universal access--with more than just a nod to citywide mobility for individuals of all incomes and abilities. 

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7. Paterson, NJ

Walk Score: 75

Not far from New York City, Paterson boasts a dense infrastructure that makes it easy to complete errands sans car. Plus, the city offers a mix of historic walking tours, as well as access to the nature trails that highlight important periods in New Jersey's industrial history--converting former industry-based spaces into outdoor "living room"-style park settings in Great Falls State Park--making it a bonus for recreational walkers. 

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Chicago
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8. Chicago, IL

Walk Score: 74.3

Anyone who's visited or lived in the Windy City knows it's a walker's dream. Look around just about any central neighborhood and you'll see people getting around town the old-fashioned way--including many pedi-commuters. The city also offers plenty of free and low-cost recreational programs to choose from in the Chicago Park District. Just visiting? Check out the Chicago Greeter program: You'll meet a Chamber of Commerce sponsored local for a free guided tour of a neighborhood. 

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Philadelphia
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9. Philadelphia, PA

Walk score: 74.1

Philly is so committed to keeping pedestrians safe that its Center City district boasts the largest comprehensive pedestrian sign system in North America. And, the city of Brotherly Love is committed to creating more walking destinations for all ages. This spring, Sister Cities Park in Center City opens, with attractions like a family-friendly café, children's discovery garden and play area, and a fountain commemorating Philadelphia's global sister cities--adding to the city's already 10,000 acre park system.

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Newark, NJ
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10. Newark, NJ

Walk Score: 74

Mayor Cory Booker seems to have doubled down on pedestrian safety initiatives, making the tightly packed metropolitan zone more accessible for walkers. There's a strong focus on sustainability, with a Greening Newark program that includes free guided bird walks twice a month--so you can get a firsthand look at why Mother Earth is worth preserving.

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Seattle
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11. Seattle, WA

Walk Score: 73.7

You know you're in a pedi-friendly city when the municipal government publishes a Seattle Walking Map, making it clear that a greener, healthier population is a top priority. Check it out at: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/walk_map.htm. Other attractions include the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, the Myrtle Edwards Park, Elliott Bay Park and the Graham Arboretum. 

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Burbank, CA
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12. Burbank, CA

Walk Score: 73.6

If your impression of Burbank is a series of big, box-like structures that house TV and film studios, you may want to take a closer look. Studio executives have been known to ditch their wheels to walk to nearby lunch appointments, and residents and visitors alike can enjoy a healthy mix of nature paths and urban walkability--including nearby Universal City Walk. Who says you can't have it all? 

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Hartford, CT
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13. Hartford, CT

Walk Score: 72.7

Car-free recreation is one of the city's selling points--and proof that it's taken full advantage of state funding for safer, better pedestrian access. From wide promenades to intersections that take pedestrians out of the periphery and into easy view, Hartford is more walker-friendly than ever. Hop between attractions like the Riverfront and the Arts and Entertainment District, as well as the city's abundant parks--and know that you're never going to "run out" of sidewalk, or safe places to cross. 

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Providence, RI
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14. Providence, RI

Walk Score: 72.7

This historic New England college town recently enhanced streetscapes to put pedestrian safety at the forefront, making it all the more enticing to take in the quaint neighborhoods on foot. A mix of hilly and flat terrain provides ample walking opportunities for every fitness level.

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Miami
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15. Miami, FL

Walk Score: 72.5

This oceanfront city is a built-in bikini-bod factory--whether you choose to walk on the beach (sand adds resistance!), burn off the yummy lunch you enjoyed on pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Road, hang out in Brickell, or cruise through Little Havana and Coconut Grove, you'll find yourself closer to your fittest self with every step. 

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16. Elizabeth, NJ

Walk Score: 71.8

This city's plentiful parks and mass-transit stops to Manhattan makes it a walker's dream.  Elizabeth's 46 parks include Warinanco Park, a county park designed by Frederick Olmstead, who also designed New York's Central Park. With its winding trails, flower gardens, ice skating rink, track, fitness course, tennis courts, football, soccer and baseball fields, there's something for every healthy lifestyle.  Plus, it's built on a former landfill, making the development the ultimate in recycled goods.

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17. Yonkers, NY

Walk Score: 71.2

Walk through the scenic nature park known as Tibbets Brook Park in this town just north of Manhattan and you'll find members of the city-sponsored Senior Silver Stars Walking Program out on the trails. To thrill your mind, work your body and connect with nature, wind your way through Downtown Yonkers to stroll the walking path through Sculpture Meadow, a sculpture park on the bank of the Hudson River.

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Costa Mesa, CA
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18. Costa Mesa, CA

Walk Score: 70.6

Residents say the city doesn't appear to be as walk-friendly as it is--but you're never far from amenities like grocery shopping or entertainment in many of this Orange County city's neighborhoods. And citizens are motivated to make their town as walk-friendly as possible, recently passing a bond so the city could purchase 12 additional parks to add to the already extensive system.

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19. Torrance, CA

Walk Score: 69.7

This metro area boasts that it is "the city with the hometown feel." And while walking the low-key neighborhoods is always an option, the Madrona Marsh Nature Center is the best feature for walkers to enjoy, with paths to explore throughout the Center's 10 acres.  

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Minneapolis
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20. Minneapolis, MN

Walk Score: 69.3

Minneapolis boasts multiple walking clubs broken up by interest, ability, or both.  And while winters are long, the Skyway System--an interlinked group of enclosed footbridges connecting various downtown buildings--make quick work of any weather-related excuses not to walk. Add to that the 50-plus miles of groomed outdoor trails for fair-weather walking, and it's clear why Minneapolis has been named a Gold-level Walk Friendly Community. 

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21. East Los Angeles, CA

Walk Score: 69

Take a detour from the typical tourist stops in West Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, and you'll find some unexpected gems, like the Latino Walk of Fame. Even the most in-the-know Angelenos can discover a surprise or two--including more than 90 acres of parklands, which seems like the last thing you'd expect to find in this city.  

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22. Glendale, CA

Walk Score: 68.8

Last year, Glendale passed a "Safe and Healthy Streets Plan," designed to get residents to swap out car commutes for biking and walking--by making the necessary safety improvements, including retrofitting streets to accommodate bike lanes. The plan is so comprehensive, it not only seems to defer to people walking and biking for transportation and recreation, but appears to be set up to defy your expectations of California Car Culture.

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Oakland, CA
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23. Oakland, CA

Walk Score: 68.2

This Bay-Area city offers free, 90-minute walking tours of various downtown districts twice-weekly from May-October. And, each February, the city celebrates Black History Month by hosting free New Era, New Politics tours of downtown on foot, including the African American Museum and Library of Oakland, and the Oakland Youth Court, named for civil rights activist Judge Donald McCullum. 

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Pasadena, CA
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24. Pasadena, CA

Walk Score: 67.7

Old Pasadena is known for its varied art and architecture (including Beaux Arts and American Arts and Crafts styles)--and the city capitalizes on this by offering both a 60-minute Walking Architectural Tour through Pasadena's oldest commercial area, and a Cultural Affairs Old Pasadena Public Art Walking Tour--a varied walk tour featuring Pasadena's Public Art collection.   

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Arlington, VA
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25. Arlington, VA

Walk Score: 67.1

A stone's throw from our nation's capital, the city offers guided and self-guided walking historical tours. County leaders are showing a strong commitment to making errands on foot accessible to more and more residents, and Walk Arlington publishes "Walkabouts," which are self-guided tours that include area trails as well as pedi-accesible errand-running terrain. (http://www.walkarlington.com/pages/walkabouts/)

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Portland, OR
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Portland, OR (pictured), has long been considered a green leader among cities. So it's little wonder that the municipal government publishes a book called Walk There!. 

Allentown, PA, is in the midst of implementing a plan called "Connecting our Community" that would provide better connectivity between park trails and in-town walking.

New Haven, CT, not always known as an urban oasis, is taking advantage of state funding to make pedestrian safety a priority. Visitors can also take part in an art stroll or a tour of Yale's leafy campus. 

Long Beach, CA, has business and shopping districts, parks and waterfront areas that are increasingly foot-friendly. Local government has also implemented a program to keep bikers from riding on sidewalks, putting pedestrian safety (and comfort) at the fore. 

Los Angeles, CA, may be known for its car culture and the resulting smog, but it's taking major strides to up its walkability, especially downtown. More and more Angelenos enjoy living in neighborhoods that have enhanced pedestrian attributes--from safer signals to more tightly-packed amenities. 

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