Walk This Way

by Country Inns & Suites
Monday, October 10, 2011

There’s nothing like seeing a new place through the eyes of a local. Although you might not have a pal in a city to show you around, taking a walking tour led by a local expert is the next best thing.

Consider that with a walking tour, the legwork is done for you. Instead of spending your time navigating an unfamiliar landscape, you can follow along and soak up the experience.

Another benefit is the opportunity to meet interesting people. Some tours, such as New York’s Big Apple Greeter, actually pair travelers with resident New Yorkers based on language, neighborhoods requested and interests. All that, and it’s free of charge.

Your Walking Guide:

  • There’s a tour for that. Is your passion architecture, food, history, gardens or neighborhood culture? Chances are, in most cities and towns, a walking tour awaits. Some tours, such as those offered by Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program, or the Coronado Historical Association in San Diego, are also offered on bicycle.
  • Take a foodie tour and skip lunch. Sign up for a stroll through Pittsburgh’s Strip District with ‘Burgh Bits & Bites or San Francisco’s Chinatown with Wok Wiz, and you’ll eat your way through colorful storefronts selling everything from homemade sausage to Peking duck.
  • Calling all preservationists. PreservationDirectory.com is a great resource for history buffs. The website is a clearinghouse for history-focused strolls, both guided and solo. Searching by state and region, you may find a route through bewitching Salem, Mass., or along the Art Deco facades of South Beach in Miami.
  • Dabble in the weird. If you’re looking for the offbeat, Weird Chicagofits the bill. Follow in the steps of serial killer H.H. Holmes, relive the bloody St. Valentine’s Day mob massacre or chase elusive ghosts for a few hours. With its voodoo-laced past, New Orleans is another city that loves to make you shiver. Explore the shady and sinister side of the Vieux Carré with Haunted History Tours or trek to an above-ground cemetery for a lesson in Big Easy burial customs and a gander at Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau’s final resting place. (Or is it?).
  • All by yourself. Sites like City Slicker (Charleston, S.C.), GPSmyCity (multiple, including Indianapolis and Portland, Ore.)and Trek Exchange (multiple, including Philadelphia and San Antonio) offer self-guided tours you can download to your smartphone and do on your own schedule. Check the city’s local tourism or convention and visitor’s bureau sites for more, and sometimes even free, options. Your job is just to show up with a curious mind and a good pair of walking shoes.