If you’re like most people, you have a set of established routes for your work commute, dog walks and grocery getting. It can take extra time and energy to change up that routine. And who has extras of time and energy laying around? One way to break free from your regular strolls, rolls, runs, and rides is to create a wish list (okay, if you insist, you can call it a bucket list).
Don’t know where to get started? Here’s some ideas and inspiration for generating such a list.
Themed destinations and routes
What do you love? Beer? Art galleries? Garden stores? Whatever it is that gets you excited, let that passion guide your next walk or ride. Some ideas to get you started:
- Beer and coffee: My husband and I like to visit breweries. Turns out the promise of a flight or pint is a great motivation to walk many miles all over the Twin Cities. Similarly, I like to walk to local coffee shops.
- Parks: Choosing a park, and getting there by walking or biking is a great way to learn more about new-to-you neighborhoods. Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul have a lot of parks, so get out there and explore!
- Cemeteries: Cemeteries like Lakewood, Pioneers and Soldier, Fort Snelling National Cemetery are great additions to your walking list as they are beautiful, serene places with the benefit of a built-in history lesson. Remind yourself of the etiquette when visiting a cemetery. Here’s an example but every cemetery will have a unique set of guidelines and rules.
- Independent book stores: Support local businesses while walking or riding your bike. Independent Book Store Day would be a great day to do this. Minnesota Public Radio compiled a great list of Minnesota independents. Mark your calendar for next year: Saturday, April 30, 2016. Do the same on Record Store Day.
Push yourself to go a greater distance, or faster, or without looking at your smart phone! Whatever would stretch you, consider adding that challenge to your wish list. Here’s some of mine:
- Walk from sunrise to sunset (this may happen on the Winter Solstice – is that cheating?)
- Walk the length of major thoroughfares in Twin Cities (Central, Cedar, France, Lake/Marshall, etc.)
- Complete 85,000 steps in a day to beat my current personal best of 80,000 steps
Walking and biking events are a fun way to experience routes you wouldn’t normally access. They often also benefit a cause. Win win! Missed an event? No problem! Events often post their course on their website so you can retrace the route on your own (if it doesn’t involve private land). For example, I plan on walking the Twin Cities Marathon course on a different day and at my own pace (read: beer stops!).
Other events and event inspired routes both local and national:
- Minneapolis Bike Tour
- Minnesota State Fair Walking Tour
- We Walk! Marathon
- We Love Our Presidents Walk
- The Big Parade in Los Angeles
- The Great Saunter in New York City
- Freewalkers events (most in New Jersey and New York)
- Walk2Connect events in Denver
Don’t forget about the routes that many people have worked hard to get funded, created, and maintained – our city, regional, and state trails. My list is based on where I live and work but please share in the comments the trails in your neck of the woods. See the next tip on why this can help inspire all readers.
- Grand Rounds Trail (in segments or in its entirety)
- Bruce Vento Regional Trail
- Midtown Greenway
- Superior Hiking Trail
- Three Rivers Parks Trails
- Minnesota state trails
- The Circle Trail at Pipestone National Monument
- Echo Canyon/Summit Rock Trail (Turns out that it pays to read the comments on streets.mn)
- Mesabi Trail
Routes that require travel
I have a goal of spending at least 24 hours in all U.S. States and Territories and Canadian Provinces. Exploring a new place on foot or wheels is a great way to walk the line between tourist and local. While exploring streets and neighborhoods without guidance from predetermined routes has its benefits, experiencing a new-to-me city or region by trail is often less stressful and a more efficient use of precious vacation time.
- 4T Trail in Portland, Oregon (completed)
- Trail of Squares in New York City
- Atlanta Beltline
- Centennial Trail in the Black Hills
- Katy Trail in Dallas (completed)
- Indy Cultural Trail in Indianapolis
- Razorback Regional Greenway in Northwest Arkansas
- San Antonio River Walk
- Inn to Inn Hiking along the west coast (started by a Minnesotan!)
- One to watch: Wolf River Greenway in Memphis
Instead of going it alone, learn from an expert guide. Here’s a few guided tours I’ve either completed or have added to my wish list:
- Minnesota Historical Society tours
- Food Cart Tour in Portland, OR
- Urban Hikes: Forgotten LA
- Walks led by urbanologist Max Grinnell in Boston and Chicago
Meet me in the comments for a chat
- What’s on your wish list?
- Have you completed anything mentioned in this post? Share your experience!
- In what walking/biking events have you participated?
- What personal challenges have you set for yourself?
- What trails in Minnesota do you consider to be destination worthy for our out-of-state and international traveler friends?
- What features are missing from our trail system that are attractive to people who travel to bike/walk/roll on trails?
Does walking in a Second line in New Orleans count?
Most definitely. Sounds like a cool life experience!
New Orleans is on my list of possible places to celebrate my 40th birthday in January. Do you have travel tips for the Big Easy?
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few months in New Orleans, and it’s a great place to celebrate any occasion. Some tips would be to look for a hotel in the Warehouse District or the Faubourg Marigny. Both offer good access to the French Quarter, but with fewer drunk tourists stumbling by your window. Walking the length of the St. Charles Streetcar line is a great stroll, as is Magazine Street. Bourbon Street is hilarious, but also kind of terrible. The Backstreet Museum in Treme is great and should not be missed.
Kevin, excellent tips. I appreciate it!
Take the St. Charles streetcar
A couple summers ago, my girlfriend and I walked Lake St from the center of the Lake/Marshall bridge to the Lake/Excelsior split. It wasn’t as long as the ones listed here, but it was awfully nice. We brought cameras and documented the sights.
Carlos, sounds like a great way to spend the day. What do you like to document on those types of walks?
I’m not a religious person at all, but someday I want to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
That would be incredible.
Nice Sauconys! They are a seriously comfortable walking shoe, especially for long distances.
I’ve walked all over town to the point where it’s hard to find much that excites me anymore, but I do like to take long walks when I’m on vacation. Walking from the battery to the top of Manhattan is a fun day. I walked from the loop up to the northern tip of Chicago on one snowy day as well. Winter walks are underrated (you’ve just got to dress for it).
Since metro transit is pretty awful (moreso lately) I’ve also taken to walking the 3-4 miles home on some days since it’s faster than the bus. I try to vary my path a little for variety, but every choice I make is inevitably bad. The pedestrian realm here is just debased and terrible compared to other cities. I would regularly walk 10+ miles in Boston every day and enjoy almost every bit of. Here not so much.
I used to collect Saucony Jazz shoes!
Great tip on NYC. I plan on completing your Chicago suggestion in October. I agree with you on winter walks.
I’d love to know more about what you think would make walking in the Twin Cities better.
For readers who may be visiting Boston, what’s your favorite route(s)?
Thanks for chatting!
Get lost in the North End… Walk Mass Ave from Somerville to Boston…
Regarding Boston I’ll second Bill’s suggestions, Mass Ave takes you through a really great cross-section of town with a lot of variation and some great views.
I’m also a fan of taking a walk from somewhere downtown-ish out through the common and public gardens then through back bay … choose your own adventure there. You can take the comm ave greenway if you like something park-y with nice old brownstones, or go down Newbury or Boylston if you’d rather be in crowds and look at shops and restaurants. or stick over by the Charles on the Esplanade if you like it a bit more green and enjoy rivers.
Meandering along the fens is nice too, you can go all the way out to the arboretum or franklin park zoo if you want to make a day of it. Boston’s “emerald necklace” beats the grand rounds by a mile for quality and variety.
Regarding what Minneapolis can do better: almost everything.
The sidewalks are in horrible disrepair in most places. They’re too narrow pretty much everywhere outside of a select few spots downtown (and even in downtown most of them are still not wide enough for downtown crowds). When we do have the occasional wide sidewalk it’s almost always filled to the brim with street furniture and sidewalk café seating to the point where it’s back to being unusably narrow again. Speaking of street furniture, there’s not only too much of it, but it’s really poorly placed. It forces anyone trying to walk to jut back and forth and back and forth to the point where you’re rarely even walking in a straight line … down a block with a straight road. If it were some kind of landscaped meandering path it would be one thing, but it takes the form of dodging obstacles.
Then there’s the people. I’m not sure what it is, but no one in this city seems to know how to share the (admittedly inadequate!) public space. People cluelessly walk 3 and 4 wide, shuffle slowly and rarely compress down when they come across anyone walking in the opposite direction. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve shoulder-checked people because they refuse to even budge a little on sidewalk space and insist on walking two or more wide down a narrow sidewalk. Then there’s the distracted walking, or ‘MOA shuffle’ as I like to call it. People get so caught up looking at some stupid bauble in a shop window or across the street they will literally walk right into you or suddenly stop in front of you. You get some of this anywhere, especially in touristy areas, but the amount of it I see cannot possibly be justified by tourism. Plus it happens everywhere–not just around things that could potentially be construed as a draw for out-of-towners.
Lastly there’s the fact that the pedestrian realm is so completely and utterly debased here by car culture and infrastructure that it’s really just … unpleasant to walk. Every street crossing is a potential death sentence and often a minute or more long delay. You get great views of parking lots, driveways and speeding vehicles. Even in the areas that should be nice havens you either have crumbling and inadequate paths or some kind of intrusion of cars. Unless you drive to some isolated regional park and then walk around completely within its confines, you’re going to have your nice stroll interrupted on multiple occasions by hostile and dangerous interfaces with automobile traffic. No place is perfect in this regard (especially in America), but it’s verging on southwest US level bad here.
My local goal is to walk the perimeter (at least) of every single neighborhood in Minneapolis. And then move on to St. Paul obviously.
Sam, I am also going to walk the perimeter of every Mpls neighborhood as I republish neighborhood tours I wrote for my retired blog Minneapolis 81. Perhaps we’ll cross paths someday!
I’m sure you already know about this but this page is useful for this goal: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/maps/neighborhoods
I want to recommend Major Taylor’s Dark 2 Dawn ride. It includes some interesting and little known history, a chance to meet people you might not otherwise meet, and a fantastic breakfast to get you through the night.
I did it last year, and would repeat this year if I weren’t going to be out of town.