Traffic, car rentals, and packed public transportation don’t make for a relaxing vacation. For your next trip, choose one of these U.S. cities that are a paradise for walkers. Pound the pavement in the concrete jungle in New York City or stroll along the water in San Francisco—some of America’s best destinations are also the most walkable.
We compiled data from Smart Growth America’s Foot Traffic Ahead rankings to determine the best walkable cities in the US. This non-profit group measures destination walkability in the 35 largest US metropolitan areas by analyzing walkability metrics to create an overall walkability score.
Michael Rodriguez, Director of Research at Smart Growth America, explains how they determine which city is the best for walking. “When we talk about walkability in Foot Traffic Ahead, we’re asking two questions: How many businesses and destinations are within walking distance, and are there sidewalks, crosswalks, and other safety features that make it easy to walk from Point A to Point B?”
Rodriguez says these walkable areas are some of the most popular tourist destinations. “Travelers can likely save on transportation costs by choosing to visit our top-ranking metros and staying in walkable areas.” After all, Rodriguez explains, “Few recreational tourists spend money to go stay in an empty business park on a weekend.”
The report found that the most walkable cities in the U.S. tend to be on the coasts, except for Chicago.
These are the best cities to walk in the US:
- New York, New York (Walkability Score: 100)
Since less than half of New York City residents own a car, it’s no surprise that The Big Apple is the most walkable city in America. The city block grid design makes it easy to find your way without getting lost (or being glued to your smartphone), and you’ll find endless choices for breaks to refuel on every block.
New York’s public transportation system is the best in the country, with buses, subways, trains, and ferries making the city even more accessible.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Little Italy, NoLita, and Bowery.
Best Walkable Hotel: Equinox Hotel New York
- Boston, Massachusetts (Walkability Score: 74.3)
Simply get lost along the charming streets of Boston, or add a little more purpose—and history—to your walk on the city’s famous Freedom Trail. Follow the line on the pavement for 2.5 miles and take a self-guided tour of Boston’s best neighborhoods and attractions. Or, download the Freedom Trail app to learn some of the city’s history while you walk.
Boston has a wide public transit network as well, with subways, buses, ferries, and commuter trains covering the city and surrounding suburbs.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Beacon Hill, Chinatown, and North End.
Best Walkable Hotel: Boston Park Plaza.
- Washington, DC (Walkability Score: 72.6)
The best way to see Washington, D.C.’s monuments is on foot. Start at the National Mall and work your way from the Washington Monument down to the Lincoln Memorial. The city’s diverse neighborhoods are all extremely walkable, but if you prefer a more peaceful walk, head to Rock Creek Park, an urban oasis with plenty of walking trails to explore.
When you get tired of walking, Washington D.C.’s extensive public transportation network makes it easy to get around without a car. The city’s subway system extends into two neighboring states (Virginia and Maryland).
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: U-Street, Dupont Circle, and Mount Vernon Square.
Best Walkable Hotel: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC
- Seattle, Washington (Walkability Score: 69.4)
Seattle is a hiker’s paradise with three stunning national parks in its backyard. Get in some warm-up walks around the city, exploring the lively Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. When your energy starts to flag, you can find an amazing cup of locally brewed coffee practically everywhere you turn in the city.
Seattle’s rapid transit network has improved significantly over the last few years, and now offers a choice of light rail, streetcar, monorail, and commuter rail for getting around the city.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Downtown, International District, and Belltown.
Best Walkable Hotel: The Charter Hotel
- Portland, Oregon (Walkability Score: 68.5)
Portlanders have a walking mindset that’s reflected in the design of their city. The Smart Growth America study states, “Metro Portland and Seattle share a Northwestern environmental commitment that encourages walkable urbanism.” Portland is not only an extremely walkable city but it’s also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, with a wide network of designated bike lanes and bike paths.
When it’s raining, buses, streetcars, and the light rail offer alternatives for navigating Portland.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: The Pearl, Old Town, and Downtown
Best Walkable Hotel: Harlow Hotel
- San Francisco, California (Walkability Score: 66.2)
Don’t let San Francisco’s hilly terrain deter you—it’s one of the most walkable cities in the US. Climb up high for incredible views of the bay, meander through the city’s many public parks, and definitely don’t miss a chance to walk across the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
When you’re ready for a ride, San Francisco’s web of buses, light rail trains, streetcars, and iconic cable cars covers all corners of the city.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Tenderloin, and Polk Gulch.
Best Walkable Hotel: Hotel Emblem San Francisco
- Chicago, Illinois (Walkability Score: 65.9)
While the Windy City is at its most walkable in the spring, summer, and fall, you can still get around by foot even on the coldest winter days, thanks to Chicago’s Pedway. The Pedway is the city’s system of underground tunnels and overhead bridges connecting more than 40 blocks in downtown Chicago.
Chicago’s train system nicknamed the “L” for its elevated tracks, began operating in 1892, making it the oldest metro system in the country. There are over 140 stations throughout the city and suburbs to help you explore without a car.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: East Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, and Near North Side.
Best Walkable Hotel: Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile
- Los Angeles, California (Walkability Score: 59)
Los Angeles is a famously car-centric city, with traffic-clogged freeways and ample parking lots, but that wasn’t always the case. Many neighborhoods within the city were originally designed as walkable urban enclaves.
The city is trying to change its dependence on automobiles and return to its walkable roots. “Los Angeles is the most densely populated metro in the U.S. and there is an understanding that they have reached the limit of freeway expansion as a part of their transportation system,” explains Smart Growth America.
The city recently invested $180 billion to expand and improve its regional transit system.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Santa Monica.
Best Walkable Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Walkability Score: 57.2)
Nicknamed the “City of Bridges” for the more than 400 bridges connecting communities across the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, Pittsburgh is great for a scenic stroll by the water.
If you’re considering relocating, Pittsburgh earned high marks in the walkability study for housing affordability in its most pedestrian-friendly areas.
Regarding public transportation, Pittsburgh has 27 light rail stations, 700 buses, and boasts the oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the U.S.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Downtown, Friendship, and Bloomfield.
Best Walkable Hotel: Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Walkability Score: 55.1)
With all of the unique regional cuisine that Philadelphia has to offer (like cheesesteaks, hoagies, and water ice), you’ll be grateful for the city’s high walk score and the chance to walk off your indulgences. In addition to a vibrant downtown area, Philadelphia has more than 10,000 acres of public green space for when you need a nature fix.
Philadelphia is also home to the sixth-largest public transportation system in the U.S., the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which includes trains, subways, trolleys, and buses.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West, and Avenue of the Arts South.
Best Walkable Hotel: The Notary Hotel
- Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota (Walkability Score: 54.4)
There are over 40 colleges and universities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, and a dense cluster of walkable amenities have sprung up around these lively communities. Downtown St. Paul is undoubtedly the best neighborhood for walkers, with everything you could need located within just a few blocks.
Although the walk between the centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul would be long, a light rail connects the two.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Downtown, Summit Hill, and Summit-University.
Best Walkable Hotel: Hyatt Place St. Paul/Downtown.
- Miami, Florida (Walkability Score: 54.2)
Avoid Miami traffic and explore this lively city on foot instead. Soak up the sun while you stroll along the 7-mile Miami Beach Boardwalk, or eat your way through the Calle Ocho neighborhood on a walking restaurant crawl while being serenaded by live music.
Miami has a 25-mile elevated rail system, Metrorail, that is a great way to get between Miami International Airport and Downtown Miami without needing a car. Once you’re downtown, hop aboard the Metromover, a free public bus traveling through the city’s most popular areas.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Downtown, Wynwood-Edgewater, and Little Havana.
Best Walkable Hotel: 1 Hotel South Beach.
- Charlotte, North Carolina (Walkability Score: 51.7)
Although Charlotte is a fairly car-dependent city overall, it’s a great example of what the Smart Growth America study calls “walkable villages within a big city.” Head to Uptown Charlotte (the city’s center) to see this in action. This area is divided into four smaller neighborhoods or wards, which are very walkable.
Although Charlotte’s public transportation network isn’t as robust as others on this list, it does have buses and two short light rail lines.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Uptown, Plaza Midwood, and South End.
Best Walkable Hotel: The Ivey’s Hotel.
- Austin, Texas (Walkability Score: 50)
Austin is an oasis of walkability in Texas’ famously car-centric culture. Downtown Austin is by far the most walkable area in the city. Designed in a grid system, this compact city center is easy to navigate and features acclaimed restaurants, lively bars, and boutique shops on practically every block.
Although Austin’s public transportation is limited to its Capital Metro Bus System, the city is also reasonably bike-friendly if you want an alternative method for getting around than walking.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Downtown, West University, Bouldin Creek.
Best Walkable Hotel: Thompson Austin.
- Atlanta, Georgia (Walkability Score: 49.4)
Atlanta’s walkability really depends on what neighborhood you’re in. In Peachtree Center, in the heart of downtown, you’ll find many shopping and dining hubs within easy walking distance from one another. Once you get further from the city center, it’s more likely that you’ll need a car to get around.
The city is also prioritizing improving its bikeability, as evidenced by the Atlanta Beltline Trail, a 22-mile rail trail that encourages walking and biking.
Atlanta’s public transportation system, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) serves over 100,000 people daily across its network of buses and trains.
Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Peachtree Center, Sweet Auburn, Midtown.
Best Walkable Hotel: The Westin Peachtree Plaza.
The Least Walkable City in the US
If you’re wondering what least walkable city in the U.S. is, Las Vegas ranked last out of the 35 cities on the list. The study notes, “The only high-density walkable urbanism in the metro is along The Strip.” However, The Arts District and downtown are both reviving, so hopefully, Las Vegas will see improved walkability outside of The Strip.
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