All posts in “Local Living”

Oscar-Inspired Walkable Travel Ideas

Conde Nast Traveler created tantalizing tips for travel based on Oscar-inspired destinations. What if we wove walkability into their list? Here’s how Walk Score would rank the Academy’s most walkable Oscar-inspired vacations of 2013. All quotes below are from Conde Nast Traveler.

1. Les Misérables and Amour – Paris, France
“No, you don’t have to dress like a circa-1800s street urchin—or even sing—to become a character from Les Misérables.” Stroll past historical relics, museums, sights and be grateful for a non-miserable vacation in the City of Light. Paris is a Walker’s Paradise, with a heart of 95 Walk Score.

“If there’s one thing that Amour teaches us, it’s that—even if you’ve lived a long, full life—in the end, life is still too short to scrimp on your vacations.” Splurge in Paris, where Amour takes place. Romantic spots abound in Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to the Moulin Rouge show to restaurants and sidewalk cafes in abundance.

2. Silver Linings Playbook – Philadelphia, PA
“Though he’d never own up to it in so many words, Silver Linings Playbook‘s Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is mostly preoccupied with finding love. Honor his quest in his home city—the City of Brotherly Love….” Check out Philly’s quaint alleys and other walker’s delights. Philadelphia outranks Washington, DC (just barely) with a Walk Score of 74.

3. Lincoln  and Zero Dark Thirty – Washington, DC

“After the obligatory visit to the Lincoln Memorial (which was built long after his assassination), seek out relics from the president’s actual life in Washington.” The National Mall itself is a Walker’s Paradise, with enough culturally enriching museums, monuments (both inside and outside) to warrant a full weekend or week of exploration. A very walkable city in general with a Walk Score of 73.

“Visiting CIA black sites in Islamabad is obviously out of the question. And no, you can’t take a tour of the CIA headquarters in Virginia. But, if you’re an admirer of Zero Dark Thirty‘s Maya (Jessica Chastain), you can visit the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC.”

4. Argo – Los Angeles, CA
“In Argo, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) creates a cover as a Hollywood producer by strutting around Los Angeles.” Strutting is a cool-cat form of walking, but you must pick your neighborhood visits in LA wisely, as the city on whole has a Walk Score of 66, fairly car-dependent, but walkable depending on your location.

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild – New Orleans, LA
Beasts of the Southern Wild centers on a fictional Louisiana Bayou community that calls itself ‘The Bathtub.’ And if there’s one thing that the denizens of the Bathtub like to do—for better or for worse—it’s drink.” We all know drinking and driver are big no-nos. Set yourself up in a hotel in a walkable New Orleans area to explore the city. New Orleans’ Walk Score is 56, but the French Quarter is a Walker’s Paradise.

6. Django Unchained – Austin, Texas
“In Django Unchained, Django (Jamie Foxx) makes a scene in a Texas town simply by riding in on a horse. If you want to take a trip to the Lone Star state and show off your own equestrian prowess, head to… Austin.” Horseback ride in the day, walk around to Austin’s music scene at night. Austin’s Walk Score, however, is 45, so plan your trip accordingly.

Photo: Paris Tourist Office

Sweethearts: Factor Travel Time into Your Love Life

Valentine’s Day is just as swell a time for couples as it is for those who celebrate their singledom by having anti-Valentine group gatherings. I’ve enjoyed February 14 both ways over the years.

Love in two cappuccino cups. Photo via Jocelyn Milici Ceder.

The past several decades saw a big spike in single households and adults delaying marriage until later in life, which means more people live alone (or with roommates) and date from a distance.

“In 1960, married couples comprised a full 75 percent of total American households. By last year, that number had fallen precipitously to 48 percent, or less than half. The decrease corresponds to a similar rise in non-family households: single people, roommates and unmarried, co-habitating couples.” Source: CBS News

We at Walk Score wonder—what’s the ideal distance to live from your lover? Is there an optimal amount of space to maintain your independence and keep romance alive?

45-Minute Commutes Kill Romance
Research at Sweden’s Umea University shows couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% more likely to divorce. Yikes. Keep your commutes to less than 45 minutes, mates. It could make or break your relationship.

Do you agree a 45-minute commute is a breaking point for relationship harmony? What about the time traveled to or from your partner’s place?

Pick a Travel Time to/from Your Partner
Believe it or not, Walk Score has tools to factor travel time into your love life. At least tools to find any apartment, condo or house distance you prefer. Better to reside one or two neighborhoods away from your partner? Or rent within a few blocks to minimize travel time and gain cuddle time?

Search for apartments by travel time. Or find locations in which to live by travel time.

Additional resources for buying a home:

Top 10 Health Benefits of Walking

Sitting is the smoking of our generation, according to a Harvard Business Review article. Walking is the answer. A mountain of research brings this fact to light. Walking is a free, easy, low-impact way to combat adverse health effects of prolonged sitting, and so many other health ills. You don’t have to train for a marathon to combat unhealthy impacts of sitting. Just walk. It’s good for the body and mind.

“Walking is the closest thing to a magic bullet for health,” says Dr. Graham Colditz of Washington University School of Medicine. Put another way by Mayo Clinic obesity expert Dr. James Levine, “You don’t have to join a gym… You just have stop streaming Thursday Night Football, get off the sofa and go for a walk.”

1. Lose Weight by Living in a Walkable Neighborhood
Want a quick and easy way to lose weight? Find a walkable place to live. The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood. Neighborhoods with poor walkability are barriers to physical activity, while research shows people walk more if living in a walkable neighborhood.

Walkability impacts public health by “…affecting the relative convenience and viability of pedestrian travel and biking for both recreational and utilitarian (trip) purposes, and thus they influence the levels of physical activity,” reads a study from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Offset obesity by walking: A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that people genetically prone to obesity can offset that tendency by walking. A brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the influence of obesity by half.

2. Walk to Combat Cancer
Women who walked 1 to 3 hours per week had risk of death from breast and uterine cancer reduced by 19%. When they walked 3 to 5 hours per week, their risks of the same cancers were reduced by 54%, according to a study by Harvard University.

Men who walk briskly for at least 3 hours a week after being diagnosed with prostate cancer were 57% less likely to see the disease progress.

3. Walk to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center writes, “An analysis of numerous studies on walking and heart disease concluded that the risk for developing heart disease decreases as the amount of walking increases.” Retired men who walk more than 1.5 miles per day had a significantly lower risk for heart disease (compared to men who walk less), according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. Walking at a moderate pace (3 to 4 miles per hour) for up to 3 hours each week (equates to 30 minutes a day) can cut women’s heart disease risk by 40%, according to a Harvard study.

4. Walk to Reduce Blood Pressure
A Korean Institute of Sport Science study proved a decrease in blood pressure in those who followed a walking exercise similar to the recommended 30 minutes per day, five times a week given by the American College of Sports Medicine.

5. Walk to Reduce Diabetes Risk
A New England Journal of Medicine study tied walking with reduced risk of diabetes. The study of more than 3,000 overweight adults found that walking 2.5 hours per week (along with a healthy diet) reduced the risk by 58% of getting diabetes. For overweight adults 60 years and older, the reduced risk was 71%.

6. Walk to Keep Arteries Unclogged
A Journal of the American College of Cardiology study found that exercise before a meal may help stem the effects of high-fat foods on blood vessel function. Walking is good for the heart and its arteries and vessels in many ways, including stemming build-up and clogging of arterial walls. Unclogged vessels and arteries keep blood circulating throughout the body, to organs and limbs.

7. Boost Mental Health by Walking
Many studies prove that exercise can improve mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Depression, a disease that afflicts 9% of the American adult population according to the Centers for Disease Control, is reduced by walking, an activity that replenishes endorphins that influence the feeling of well-being. Physical activity also boosts self-esteem and cognitive function, according to research in the National Institutes of Health.

Want more joy? Cities with good public transit and access to amenities promote happiness.

8. Walking Combats Arthritis and Strengthens Joints
Knee arthritis sufferers were able to increase the distance walked by 18% and gained nearly 40% boost in joint function after finishing an 8-week walking study. They also experienced significantly less pain and needed less medication after walking, based on research in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

9. Enjoy a Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnancy doesn’t have to mean your health decreases. Walking just half an hour every day helps pregnant women prevent back pain, swelling, constipation and other pregnancy-related irritations and health conditions, according to research by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

10. Walk for a Healthy Brain
Walking regularly reduces brain atrophy and mental decline, resulting in a 50% reduction in risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia where thinking, memory and behavior deteriorate over time. This according to Rush University Medical Center research.

Seniors, take note: Exercise, including walking, in your 70s may stop brain shrinkage, a sign of aging linked to dementia, according to Edinburgh University research.

Tools that make it easy to live a healthy life:

  1. Move to a more walkable neighborhood.
  2. Discover places and nearby amenities within walking distance.
  3. Find a place to live where you can walk, bike or take public transit to commute or get around.
  4. Advocate for better walkability in your neighborhood.

Live in a walkable neighborhood to boost your health and prevent disease. Walkability matters. We have partnered with many researchers to explore the value of walkability. Find a place to live in a walkable neighborhood on Walk Score.

Walk Score Integral to America’s Top Art Spots

Where are the best spots in cities across the US to discover art? Walk Score was part of the criteria used for ArtPlace’s Top 12 American Art Places. We’re honored. Walking is more enjoyable when beauty surrounds you.

ArtPlace writes, “Art is inspiring and motivating. But it is also a powerful catalyst for change within communities, invigorating neighborhoods, supporting local businesses, and creating vibrant places.” We agree.

We compiled a variety of art shared on Walk Score near 10 of the 12 art places known for its art. Your favorite? What art gallery, public art or street art are missing? No photos of art in Brooklyn, New York or Miami Beach, Florida have been shared on Walk Score yet, two of ArtPlace’s top 12 communities. Add a photo to Walk Score’s site or iPhone app.

Dallas, TX – Cattle Sculptures

On hot summer days, people might want to join the cattle cooling their hooves in water.

Los Angeles, CA – Metal Sculpture Dangles Above Walkers

Precarious art that requires you to experience it in a new way can delight walkers of all ages.

Milwaukee, WI – Sculpture Facing Lake Michigan

Public art and a sweeping water view. What could be better?

New York, NY – Street Art

Graffiti-esque street art of this sort makes one want to hit the play button and dance.

Oakland, CA – Metal Sculpture on Lawn

This lawn sculpture entices children to climb inside, around (maybe even on) it. Ready?

Philadelphia, PA – Mural Art

Mural “devoted to the owner of a local restaurant” and right near a car share.

Portland, OR – Modern Sculpture

A colorful pole rises above pedestrians, offering photo ops or stroll eye candy.

San Francisco, CA – Mission District Mural

Art like this begs for interpretation, giving creative spark to passers by.

Seattle, WA – Dragon Sculpture

Nothing cues walkers near Pioneer Square that they’ve arrived in the International District like a fiery dragon.

Washington, DC – Phillips Art Museum

This relatively small-sized museum packs more than enough world-renowned art into its walls. A must visit.


10 Highly Walkable Ski Towns in North America

Telluride ski town’s core is a walker’s paradise
with a Walk Score of 100

Skiing is a heavily car-dependent winter activity. But in the spirit of healthy living and driving less, carpool-friendly or shuttle-bus-traveled trips with friends and family to ski resorts is just what urbanites sometimes need. The more you walk, the more in shape you’ll be when your feet are strapped to skis or snowboards careening down the slopes, right?

Ski resorts vary by snow quality, skiable acres, price, après ski life and lift lines. Ski towns also vary by walkability. A concentrated core of boutiques, restaurants and other amenities become lively pedestrian-friendly zones for dining, shopping, entertainment and group gatherings.

The Walk Score in the heart of these 10 ski towns make them winter walker wonderlands. All the better if you stay at a hotel, condo, vacation rental or bed and breakfast near their walkable core.

Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is a walker’s paradise for life before and after your feet are
strapped to skis or snowboards

1. Telluride, Colorado
(Walk Score in heart of Telluride = 100)

2. Whistler, British Columbia
(Walk Score in heart of Whistler = 100)

3. Sun Valley’s Ketchum, Idaho
(Walk Score in heart of Ketchum = 89)

4. Vail, Colorado
(Walk Score in heart of Vail = 85)

5. Aspen, Colorado
(Walk Score in heart of Aspen = 85)

6. Mammoth Lakes, California
(Walk Score in heart of Mammoth Lakes = 85)

7. Banff, Alberta
(Walk Score in heart of Banff = 83)

8. Crested Butte, Colorado (a late entry to the list, but a highly walkable ski town)
(Walk Score in heart of Crested Butte = 83)

9. Whitefish, Montana
(Walk Score in heart of Whitefish = 80)

10. Park City, Utah
(Walk Score in heart of Park City = 78)

What is your favorite shop, restaurant or place to play (aside from the slopes) at these 10 ski resorts (or a ski town not listed)? Share photos via Walk Score’s site or iPhone app.

Note: Crested Butte, Colorado was a late entry to this list, and a very highly walkable ski town like the others on the list.

Photos: Telluride Ski Resort and Mitch Winton

Attractive Alleys Draw Pedestrians

Alleys have dual connotations. Dark, sketchy pockets that quicken steps and fuel furtive glances. Or quaint, traffic-free, quiet spaces that lure people for events or simple strolls.

For most, it depends on the city and neighborhood. Attractive alleys or urban corridors draw pedestrians and offer experiences that make an area highly walkable. Numerous urban neighborhoods have these positive-vibed alleys.

Feet First Philly shared a tour of 12 quaint, cobblestone Philadelphia alleys that draw walkers. Krista Guerrieri of Feet First Philly writes, “Many of Philadelphia’s quaint alley streets are located in Washington Square West.” She also points out the value of well-designed, walker-friendly zones that any urban planner could create. “With its playful statues and wide sidewalk, Lawrence Court is a favorite place for young families.”

Belden Alley in San Francisco offers a cool, shady corridor of numerous European restaurants and hosts events on Bastille Day and other EU-significant dates. B44 is one San Francisco restaurant located in Belden Place.

Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square has several pedestrian-friendly alleys, including Nord Alley where events are often held. “Nord Alley has regular First Thursday Art Walk events,” writes Liz Stenning of the International Sustainability Institute. “Great alley to stroll through anytime to check out rotating art. In July the Tour de France was shown on a big screen.”

What are the attractive alleys in your city? Share your favorite alleys via Walk Score.

10 Stroll-Stopping Street Art

Street art can be anything from murals to sculptures—as diverse as people’s interpretations. Does street art make walking more enjoyable? What kind of art makes you stop in your tracks? Street art that is literally on streets, sidewalks, electrical poles or walls seems to be growing in urban areas. Some call it graffiti—others call it art. Fine lines can separate the two descriptions, as illustrated in the acclaimed documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.

I’ve compiled a collection of some of the best US street art on buildings and walls that has been shared (to date) on Walk Score. What are your favorites? Any eye-catching street art missing that you want to share? Add it on Walk Score.

1. New York City street art tour by blogger Heartthrob Suave, who writes he has “an affinity for abnormalities and a keen eye for detail”

2. Denver, Colorado street art

3. San Francisco, California street art

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota street art

5. Baltimore, Maryland street art

6. Charleston, South Carolina street art

7. Tulsa, Oklahoma street art

8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania street art

9. Los Angeles, California street art

10. Austin, Texas street art

Take a Family Walk, Stroll and Shop Local this Holiday Season

In the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and our busy holiday to do lists, we can lose sight of what matters most during the holiday season. The holidays are a time to reconnect with loved ones, spend precious time together and celebrate the magic of the season.

I love to shop, but I am not a big fan of the mall. The older I get, the less interested I am in receiving gifts other than the time with family. Gifts I do give, I want to have meaning. That is why we end up giving the gift of travel, or shopping at small local boutiques for that perfect hand-picked gift.

One of our family’s favorite things to do is to spend an evening strolling a walkable downtown core, exploring little shops along the way. Most cities have neighborhoods, main streets or a pocket of shops where local, small business owners work hard to showcase unique gifts for that special someone on your holiday gift list.

In Seattle where we live, there are so many great neighborhoods to explore and shop local, small shops. Here are just four of my favorite Seattle area neighborhoods. What places do you love to explore with your family to shop local and celebrate the holiday season?


Ballard Neighborhood: An eclectic charm all its own, downtown Ballard has become a super hip place to shop, eat and play. Browse Ballard’s Walk Score and neighborhood tours, or create your own.

Madison Park Neighborhood: Filled with fun, high-end shops, take the family for a hot chocolate and peruse the boutiques and businesses of the Madison Park neighborhood. Browse Madison Park’s Walk Score and neighborhood tours, or create your own.

East Side:

Main Street, Downtown Bellevue: While downtown Bellevue is filled with many large stores, there are also many great small businesses around the downtown core that welcome your business. Shop old Main Street in Bellevue, visit small independent restaurants and go ice skating while enjoying the Snowflake Lane celebration each night at 7pm from Nov 23 to December 31, 2012 near Bellevue Square. Browse downtown Bellevue’s Walk Score and neighborhood tours, or create your own.

Downtown Kirkland: Downtown Kirkland is super walkable, with a ton of shops and restaurants just steps away from the scenic shores of Lake Washington. Browse Downtown Kirkland’s Walk Score and neighborhood tours or create your own.

Stroll, Snap and Share for Chance to Win $500 for Holiday Shopping

Do you have a favorite neighborhood to shop local for the holidays? Add your favorite place to stroll and shop local for the holidays on Walk Score for a chance to win $500 gift card to shop locally. From small-town, main-street shopping hubs to walkable urban streets, share boutiques, tiny retail shops, bookstores, yoga studios, garden stores, bike shops, toy stores, cafes, restaurants, walkable retail hubs—you name it.

10 Classic Local Businesses

Local clothing boutique in Newburyport, MA

Small Business Saturday may be over, but supporting local businesses is important year-round. Small businesses are community gathering spots, they reinvest money into the local economy and make neighborhoods enjoyable to walk around. We chose 10 classic local businesses that were recently shared as part of our holiday shop locally $500 giveaway. Quite a variety of local boutiques, book stores, craft markets, co-ops, cafes and more—all ingredients for healthy, feet-friendly neighborhoods.

What’s your favorite local business? Share local business photos on Walk Score by Dec. 9 and tag it #walkshop for a chance to win $500.

1. Historic Grocery Store
Why shop here? In a former 1880s schoolhouse, George Bowers Grocery offers craft beer, patio dining and live music in addition to staple goods and groceries. Location: Staunton, Virginia (outside of Richmond)

2. Craft and Local Goods Market
Why shop here? Rust Belt Market offers a plethora of gifts and live music every weekend. Location: Ferndale, Michigan (near Detroit)

3. Kids Toy and Book Store
Why shop here? Book and toy stores are brick-and-mortar treasure troves for little and big minds. Locally owned Retroactive Kids, with a Walk Score of 92, is no different. Location: Columbia City neighborhood (in Seattle)

4. Food Co-Op
Why shop here? Get local and organic fruits and veggies to prepare healthy meals from this Colorado Food Co-Op (with an extensive bulk section) or one in any other town. Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

Farmers and artisan market in Alexandria, VA

5. Farmers and Artisans Market
Why shop here? Find local produce and handmade crafts at a market teeming with neighborhood local shoppers and small business owners at Four Mile Run market. Location: Alexandria, Virginia (outside of Washington, DC)

6. Local Coffee Shop
Why shop here? Coffee shops are community gathering spots where locals brew caffeine-infused warm or cool drinks and people read papers, log onto computers, visit or just relax. Condesa Coffee in Atlanta is right next to the Freedom Park trail (perfect for bikers or walkers to stop in). Location: Sweet Auburn neighborhood (in Atlanta)

7. Clothing Boutiques
Why shop here? Several boutiques shared from this New England port town are in the highly walkable downtown area. Smitten, one local boutique with a 95 Walk Score on Inn Street, offers fashionable women’s apparel. Location: Newburyport, Massachusetts

8. Vegan Bakery
Why shop here? For Midwesterners who want a break from meat-filled holiday calories might discover surprisingly delicious vegan pastries at Mud Pie Vegan Bakery (Walk Score = 82). Location: Kansas City, Missouri

9. Hardware Store
Why shop here? Locally owned with a wide variety of goods, Herrcke’s Hardware is in a nice brick building on a highly walkable street. Location: LaSalle, Illinois (outside of Chicago)

10. Jewelry and Bead Shop
Why shop here? With jewelry-making classes, beads, necklaces, bracelets and more, The Bead Lounge, seems great for gifts and gathering. Location: Audubon Park neighborhood (in Orlando)

Thanks to everyone who has shown support for local businesses (and walkability) by sharing photos on Walk Score. Share more local business photos. One lucky winner (on December 10) will get a $500 Visa gift card to holiday shop locally in 2012.

5 Tips: Spend Less Time in Car, More Time as a Family

Guest post by Anne Taylor Hartzell, mother of 2 and Hip Travel Mama blogger

Simplifying our daily routines can create more space for critical family connection.

Imagine your life before kids. Did you ever think you would be spending so much time in your car, running little people to various activities, watching NFL RedZone, games and lessons? Maybe you live in a walkable city or neighborhood, so this does not apply to you and your family. But chances are if you are a parent, you spend a lot of time in your car chauffeuring your kids from this activity to that, running errands to everyday places—grocery store, local coffee shop and restaurants. If all this running around has you plotting your next pit stop at the Starbucks drive through, you are not alone.

One in three parents spend 2 days a year in the car waiting for their kids. Did you also know that for every 10 extra minutes you spend in your car per day, you spend 10% less time in your community?

Having a strong sense of community is key to thriving families like ours and I’ve experienced the pull of simplifying our daily routine first-hand. It’s not easy and it may take time to get there. Here are 5 tips to help get you spend less time driving and more time living and connecting as a family:

  1. Outline Your Current Routine. How far are work and school from your home? How long is your commute today? What places do you frequent? Tally up estimates of how much time you spend in your car on a daily basis. Does this feel good? You should be able to answer this yes or no pretty quickly.
  2. Prioritize Daily Places. What do you like/dislike about where you live? Your kids’ school? Is your job something you could do at home, or could it be time for a job change? Rank the places that matter most to you and the distance between them.
  3. Map Out Pros and Cons. Would you consider moving homes, jobs or schools to make more time for the places and people that matter most in your life? List pros and cons of each move based on priorities above.
  4. Commit to Change. Capitulating won’t buy you more time. Once you’ve sat down and mapped it out, you must commit to taking that next step. It won’t be easy, but over time you will start to see the benefits in your family’s overall sense of connection and sense of relief.
  5. Make Small Adjustments Over Time. Recognize there are trade-offs to every change and what works for your family now, may not work for you five years from now. Be prepared to make tweaks and evolve your plan as you go.

Photo: ridemetro