If you’re trying to be a more informed traveler, you probably have heard of eco or sustainable travel. However, the secret to being a more conscientious and sustainable tourist isn’t an easy, “one-size fits” solution. There is a lot of varying information floating around the internet about ecotourism.
This could lead the average traveler to get discouraged about their options. Maybe you’re wondering how you can truly make a difference without breaking the bank on a ritzy “Eco Resort”? As a full-time traveler, budget tourist, and sustainability expert I feel you. Even though I have a degree in Sustainability and minored in Tourism Studies, I know just how overwhelming this amalgamation of information can be.
That’s why I’m going to lay an easy solution right at your feet. Literally!
I love the idea of Walkable Cities as a tourism destination for environmentally-minded tourists from all walks of life (see what I did there?).
Guest Blogger: Brittany Merriman, Bon Voyage Brittany
Disclosure: Our site contains Affiliate Links. Clicking an Affiliate Link and purchasing something we recommend, won't cost you anything extra - it probably will save you some bucks. It will though give us a small commission which will help this site remain a free resource for travelers to explore our world together.
Why Choose a Walkable City? Pick a Reason!
In terms of Urban Planning, cities that are easily walkable have a myriad of benefits. Walkable cities encourage residents to live healthier, more active lives. This understandably leads to happier citizens who tend to be longer-lived. Pretty obviously, a city is defined as “walkable” if it encourages residents to walk or ride bikes rather than drive to their destinations. How an urban planning department can achieve this might not be as obvious.
One way cities achieve this is by planting trees and creating more green spaces (think: parks). Studies have shown that even looking at trees can improve our mental and physical health. That means that Walkable Cities are naturally placed tourists (and residents!) will find more relaxing, more beautiful, and easier to breathe in.
Additionally, a “Walkable” city utilizes public transportation and/or bike lanes in clever, holistic ways. If large areas of a city are not easily accessible via public transportation or sidewalks tourists and residents will find it more difficult to explore. Tourism dollars will be stuck in one part of a community, instead of permeating throughout the area. This will naturally lead to some neighborhoods being more “run down” than others.
The most obvious benefit to Walkable Cities, however, is the ability to budget your travel expenses. How much money did you spend on your last vacation other than renting a car or paying for an Uber? In cities where biking, public transport, and walking are the norm, tourists can feel safer saving their money and exploring the cheap way: by foot.
Imagine visiting a new place and being able to enjoy the sights, tastes, and activities that the city has to offer without having to drive 40 minutes to each new destination. Imagine strolling from your hotel or Airbnb to a city park, museum, or eatery. Imagine saving hundreds of dollars on a car rental, and using that money to learn a new activity or experience a new cultural attraction. Sounds romantic and inspiring, right?
For those who cannot, or do not want to walk, these cities still have you covered! Not only are Walkable Cities easier to traverse on foot, but they tend to have great public transportation and ADA-accessible sidewalks throughout the city. This means that you don’t have to wear down the soles of your shoes just to avoid taking a cab.
Top 3 Walkable Cities in the USA for Eco-friendly Sightseeing
Cities with a “Walkability Score” of over 70 are considered “very walkable”. That is, most errands can be accomplished on foot. The closer the cities score to 100, the more walkable the city is considered to be here are the Top 3 most walkable cities in the USA.
Solo pianist in Central Park in Manhattan, New York
1. Eco-friendly New York City Walks
Rated the “Most Walkable” city in America, New York shouldn’t be a surprise. It is not uncommon for Big Apple youths to never bother to even get a driver's license. There is a reason for that: almost everything in New York can be accomplished on foot. Although many places in New York are walkable, neighborhoods like Little Italy, Bowery, and the Flatiron District have walk scores of 100. The highest possible.
While in NYC, why not take a walking food tour and explore the city's famous foods on foot (and by mouth)? Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and get an iconic shot of the skyline. Take a Manhattan street art tour, and stroll through The High Line Park - the opportunities here are honestly endless!
Explore New York (Affiliate Link from CJ)
Hillwalking in San Francisco, USA will reward you with amazing San Fran city views - and it's good for your health and the environment too!
2. San Francisco Eco-friendly Activities and Walking Tours
San Francisco trails behind New York City by only a point, making this city incredibly walkable overall. Visitors to SanFran’s Chinatown and Tenderloin districts will find walking easy to accomplish, with each district having a score of 100. The Downtown Union Square district follows at a close third with a score of 99.
Fun suggestions for tourists include making your way around China Town to sample authentic cuisine. Stroll down Jackson Street for a taste of quaint, old-world charm. Get your beatnik fix on Columbus Avenue or hike up the stairs at Lombard Street aka “Crookedest Street in the World”.
Get the most out of your San Francisco Walk (Affiliate Link from CJ)
3. Eco-friendly Neighbourhood Walking in Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is home to not only Harvard and MIT, but also a plethora of history. Visitors to this bustling city will be impressed with its walkable neighborhoods. Unlike NYC and San Francisco, the neighborhood in Boston has a perfect walkability score. However, several neighborhoods score in the high 90s, making Boston still easily traversable without wheels. Visitors wanting an eco-friendly walking experience should check out Beacon Hill, North End, and Bay Village for an on-foot experience.
Adventurers on foot will be delighted with Bostons Beacon Hill and North End Districts. Take to Boston's oldest commercial center, Maverick Square, or go a bit more modern at Downtown Crossing. Of course, history buffs of all ages won’t be disappointed in any Boston neighborhood.
Author and Guest Blogger Brittany Merriman of Bon Voyage Brittany is a globetrotting sustainability nerd eager to bring the joys of living an ethical and eco-friendly lifestyle to women everywhere. She has been a full-time nomadic adventurer for over four years. Her hobbies include long walks up mountain slopes, longer ski runs down mountain slopes, and drinking wine pretty much anywhere. Visit Bon Voyage Brittany and follow her on Instagram.