Park the car and take a stroll in some of America’s most walkable towns.
Begin your visit to North Carolina’s premier port city with a two-mile stroll along the award-winning Wilmington Riverwalk. Start your day with breakfast at a waterfront cafe before beginning your adventure on foot in the city’s 230-block National Register Historic District. It’s an enticing blend of old and new that features must-see sites like Bellamy Mansion, Latimer House, and St. Andrews Church, which today is home to the Brooklyn Arts Center. These are some examples of the many historic buildings that now house the themed museums, art galleries, trendy shops, brew pubs, wine bars, and fine-dining restaurants to give downtown Wilmington its eclectic ambiance.
If you want to check out new hip districts in historic areas near downtown with great food and watering holes, try the Brooklyn Arts Distrist, the Cargo District, the Soda Pop Distrist, or South Third. These popular new hotspots have great food, music, and ambience for people of all ages.
Two of the area’s most florid walking destinations are just a few miles from the historic district: Airlie Gardens sprawls over 67 acres with over 75,000 blooming azaleas, lakeside nature trails, and a butterfly house. The nearby New Hanover County Arboretum features guided walks through splendid seasonal gardens and around its signature Koi pond.
And, for the complete Wilmington walking experience, take the short drive across the Intracoastal Waterway for an oceanfront amble at Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, or Carolina Beach with its popular seaside boardwalk.
Historic Home Tours
The Bellamy Mansion, Burgwin Wright House, and the Latimer House offer tours to the public.
Cameron Art Museum
Home to an extensive collection featuring North Carolina artists, outdoor sculpture gardens, and nature trails on the nine-acre property.
Battleship NORTH CAROLINA
Take a water taxi across the river for an inside-and-out tour of the famous fighting ship and its moving memorial museum.
Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park and Greenfield Lake Amphitheater are two of the best Wilmington venues to enjoy music concerts under the stars.
Bring your most comfortable walking shoes to Charleston, South Carolina’s historic city by the sea. Start with a morning stoll along Colonial Lake, then meander into the tree-lined neighborhoods south of Broad Street. All roads lead to The Battery, the legendary stone promenade overlooking Charleston Harbor with iconic Fort Sumter on the horizon.
Downtown Charleston is a stroller’s paradise of historic churches, cemeteries, pocket parks, and blooming gardens. You’ll also discover antique shops, must-see attractions like the Gibbs Museum of Art, five-star restaurants, and casual sidewalk cafes. The open-air Charleston City Market features local crafts like hand-woven seagrass baskets, while nearby indoor tours include the South Carolina Aquarium and the new International African American Museum.
For a real adventure, hike across the 2.5-mile Ravenel Bridge above the Cooper River for stunning 360º views from the apex. On the east side of the river are Mount Pleasant waterfront parks and inspiring outdoor exhibits at Patriot’s Point. To the west along the Ashley River are famous garden plantations and historic Charles Towne Landing trails. For the best local oceanfront experience, check out Kiawah Island’s Beachwalker Park, where frolicking dolphins come and go with the tides.
A signature collection of 13 historic homes in vivid pastel colors set along East Bay Street and the Upper Battery.
The bustling heart of downtown Charleston with historic sites, art galleries, international retailers, and superb restaurants.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
More than 66 acres of historic buildings and gardens feature seven miles of walking trails along the Ashley River.
West Ashley Greenway
Nearly 10 miles of all-weather surface for walking and biking from oak-shrouded suburban neighborhoods to sprawling tidal wetlands.
When Savannah founder James Oglethorpe created the city’s original plan in the early 1730s, his visionary design included a public park for every neighborhood. Nearly 300 years later, today’s Savannah is a walking destination of international renown with 22 downtown garden squares, each with its unique fountains, monuments, and sculptures. Be sure to include Chippewa Square on your itinerary and take a short break on the park bench featured in the film Forrest Gump.
Downtown Savannah is home to one of America’s largest National Historic Landmark districts, and around every corner are strollers’ delights that range from beautiful houses of worship to stately homes in the Victorian District. River Street is Savannah’s pedestrian-only waterfront area with boutique shops, arts-and-crafts galleries, brew pubs, and casual restaurants. You can also browse and dine in the four-block City Market, where two outdoor plazas host art shows, fresh-food markets, and live entertainment. And if you wander too far, catch a ride back to your starting point on the city’s free trolly service.
Day-trip destinations during your Savannah visit can also include hiking and biking on the six-mile McQueen’s Island Trail and tours of the nearby Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens.
Three unrivaled Historic District art museums feature more than 4,000 works by European and American masters, plus outdoor sculpture gardens.
Savannah has long been a culinary destination with acclaimed downtown restaurants that include Circa 1875, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, and Paula Deen’s Creek House.
Savannah’s Mercer Williams House and the 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery were featured locations in the novel and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Just a 20-minute drive from the downtown area, “Savannah’s Beach Town” offers strolls along the oceanfront and tours of Fort Pulaski.
The Tennessee Riverwalk is a delightful 16-mile waterfront pathway with some of Chattanooga’s finest attractions along the way. Start with a Tennessee Aquarium tour, then stroll up to the Bluff View Art District with its Hunter Museum of American Art and Bluff View Sculpture Garden. The Walnut Street Bridge takes you across the water to Coolidge Park in the trendy Northshore neighborhood, or you can stroll south into the historic downtown area with its inviting shops and restaurants. The recent connection to the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway adds a nature-lover’s extension to your Riverwalk adventure. At the same time, nearby Lookout Mountain is a perfect day-trip destination that offers sweeping vistas and a choice of six scenic hiking trails.
The 23-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail along the Reedy River leads to downtown Greenville’s Falls Park, an evergreen urban oasis with garden paths and pedestrian bridges. It’s adjacent to the city’s revitalized heart, featuring walking tours of historic neighborhoods, flowering pocket parks, and public art displays. In addition to the exhibit pathways of the Greenville Zoo in Cleveland Park, the downtown area also has more than 100 locally owned retail shops to browse and creative, independent restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating. Four of South Carolina’s finest state parks—Paris Mountain, Caesars Head, Jones Gap, and Table Rock—are just minutes from Greenville and offer extensive trail networks with waterfalls and spectacular views.
Jacksonville boasts the nation’s largest urban park system, so there’s a great walk to be enjoyed here at every turn. Among the most popular in-town destinations is Riverside Park in the lively Five Points area, Baldwin Park with its 15-mile paved rail trail, and the flower-lined pathways at the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens. The University of North Florida campus features five unique eco-trails, including wetland boardwalks, while the Talbot Islands State Park offers pristine beach walks and maritime forest trails. Be sure to also schedule a vigorous wildlife hike at the 46,000-acre Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve or a more leisurely stroll in the revitalized downtown area of Fernandina Beach on nearby Amelia Island.
Start your walking tour of the Tampa Bay area with a ramble through delightful downtown St. Petersburg and its surrounding historic neighborhoods. Then head across the water to the signature 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk, your gateway to the Arts District that includes the Tampa Museum of Art, private galleries, antique shops, and sidewalk cafes featuring spicy Cuban cuisine. In addition to the award-winning ZooTampa, you’ll also find plenty of great nature trails in the area, including a 14-mile trek through Morris Bridge Park, seven miles of hammock-forest paths in Hillsboro River State Park, and Eureka Springs Park with its garden and boardwalk tours.
The Longleaf Trace is your best introduction to walkable Hattiesburg. It’s a multi-purpose linear park with a rail trail that stretches 44 miles from the rural community of Prentiss to the heart of the historic downtown area. Arriving there, you’ll find plenty to explore on foot in Hattiesburg, including several fine cultural museums, antique stores, and a public art trail with dozens of murals and sculptures. When you’re ready to take a break, you can choose from scores of coffee shops, brew pubs, and locally-owned restaurants with menus that feature farm-to-table produce. You’re also welcome to take a strolling tour of the 300-acre University of Southern Mississippi campus with its famed All-American Rose Garden.
San Antonio, TX
The San Antonio River Walk has been acclaimed throughout Texas and beyond as one of the nation’s best urban promenades. You’ll find great attractions along the 15-mile waterfront path, like the city’s expansive Public Art Garden and the adjacent Briscoe Western Art Museum. Students of American history will want to take a few steps off the River Walk to explore the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes four Spanish colonial missions and the legendary Alamo fortress. Additional in-town destinations for strollers include educational exhibits at Confluence Park and the 38-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden with the Texas Native Trail highlighting the state’s plants and wildlife.
Reposted from an article in Ideal-LIVING Magazine, 2023 Summer Issue –
Best Places to Live