Top 10 U.S. Cities to Travel Car-Free

Car-free trips might be the travel industry’s next big trend. Explore a destination by foot, rent a bike for a few hours, zip across town thanks to public transit and take a day-trip excursion via car share. You’ll save money and curb your carbon footprint. Walking around has always been the best way to see a destination and have an authentic, local experience.

What are the best US cities leisure or business travelers can visit sans car?

NYC-travel-rankingTo answer this question, we examined the Walk Score, Transit Score and availability of car shares within a 15-minute walk of more than 5,000 hotels across the U.S. These 10 cities offer more hotel rooms in walkable neighborhoods and green transportation options than any other.

  1. New York
  2. San Francisco
  3. Boston
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Seattle
  6. Chicago
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Honolulu
  10. Portland

Travelers can save money, get exercise and lower their carbon footprint by walking from hotel to art museums, eateries, nightlife and shops while on a trip. And who doesn’t like the convenience of being able to get a cup of coffee, snack or drink without getting in a car?

Minneapolis didn’t make this ranking, but has the highest Bike Score in the US. Cycling and using bike shares are more ways travelers can go car-free. Meet Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association’s Brandon Vasquez says, “Being a large city for biking, we always suggest leaving the car and using the our great public transportation options, as well as the Nice Ride bike sharing program. You can access a large majority of Minneapolis on two wheels, with two feet or via the mass transit system (bus and light rail).”

Travel trends point toward growth of car-free or car-light trips:

  • Car Share Use Grows: Travel & Leisure’s most important travel trends for 2013 highlights changing travel preferences among Millenials and the growth of transportation-sharing models including car shares, bike shares and ride sharing. The New York Times reported that the number of people belonging to car-share services grew by 44% from 2011 to 2012.
  • Bike Shares Expand: More cities are investing in bike shares where you can rent by the hour to traverse town or sightsee and many hotels rent bikes on site. Bike shares weren’t part of our city ranking for car-free travel, but several of the top 10 cities already have bike shares programs including New York, Boston, and Washington, DC.
  • Travelers Seek Savings: Development Counsellors International reports that as travelers begin hitting the road on leisure trips in larger numbers following the economic recession, one thing remains constant – regardless of the cost of the trip, consumers are looking to get the most for their dollar. Have you checked the cost to park your car at a downtown hotel recently?
  • Business Travel Shifts Gears: According to Carlson Wagonlit business travel trends in 2013, companies are looking to control ground transportation costs and to track carbon footprint and emissions from travel.

Find a Hotel Near Your Destinations

By popular demand, we extended our unique commute time search features to travel planning. With our new Hotel Search Demo you can now find hotels by travel time (by car, bus, bike or foot) to destinations, attractions or meetings and within close proximity to public transit, car shares and more.

Walk Score also just launched ChoiceMaps to show the depth of amenity choice like restaurants, public transit, car shares and bike shares. Below is a screen shot showing depth of choice of car and bike shares around Chicago. Be sure to check out the best time to travel since you’ll be exposed to the elements! Learn more about our suite of products and services for travel providers.



Honolulu photo: Go Hawaii

1 Comment

  1. Wanderer

    Thanks for doing this list. Most of these cities are not a surprise, but some people will be surprised that Los Angeles made the list. But there are numerous good car free options for staying in LA.

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