“You want to do what?” my 11 year old asked me.
“I want to walk” I said.
“But how far is it?” she questioned.
“About 20 blocks (pause to see all three of their little noses wrinkle up a bit like I’m crazy) but it will be fun! You can ride in the car at home. In this city we’re going to walk!”
Our family is as seasoned as they come with road tripping but it means we always have a car at our destination. This makes it tempting to just get into the car and drive to whatever attraction we plan on visiting that day. But more and more we’re making a point of leaving the car in the hotel parking lot and walking the cities we’re visiting.
Here’s 7 reasons we’re going to walk the town on our next trip!
Most cities have sculptures, plaques and art displayed throughout their downtown core. One of my favourite parts of discovering a city with my kids is allowing them to touch, climb and read the art strategically placed along main areas. In Whitehorse, Yukon my children learned all about the Gold Rush, Sam McGee and traced their fingers along the words at the bottom of a favourite statue that read “dedicated to all those who follow their dreams.” When we finished our walking tour of Whitehorse they had learned important Canadian history, read famous poetry and were inspired to follow their dreams all while experiencing and roaming at their own pace.
My kids think it’s tons of fun to order food out of a truck then find a quiet (or not so quiet) park bench or picnic table to eat their meal. Food trucks are often an economical option for feeding your family on the road and many times offer food with local flair. The best part is you don’t have to ask your kids to sit quietly in a restaurant for over an hour.
In our travels we have found many of our destinations have parks right in the core of the city. My kids have used fountains as splash pads with the local kids in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. They have played at the edge of the Alaskan forest in Haines, Alaska and under the shadows of the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. We all know that outdoor playtime is a necessity for kids and finding a park with play equipment as you’re walking the city is always a bonus.
You Never Know What You’re Going To See
On our last trip to Toronto the second we walked outside of our hotel, we knew something was going on. There were police cruisers, police motorcycles and large black SUVs with darkened windows stretching two city blocks. We learned from talking to some of Toronto’s friendliest police officers that the Prime Minister was in town (and staying at our hotel!). My son had an in depth conversation with the officers about motorcycles, my daughters pet police horses and overall it was one of their most memorable parts of the trip.
Unfortunately homelessness is a reality in most urban areas. While at times we all shy away from having difficult conversations with our children, when walking through large cities, avoiding visible homelessness is almost impossible. I have taken these opportunities to have open age-appropriate dialogue about homelessness with the hopes of teaching our kids compassion, empathy and the realities of this important issue.
Teaching our kids how to navigate busy city streets is an important life lesson. This includes learning north, south, east and west in an urban environment and how to use landmarks to find your way. We also want to teach our kids how to walk through large crowds safely, how to deal with aggressive street vendors and sticking to highly populated areas instead of desolate and poorly lit streets and alleys.
I’m the first one to admit, that there’s only so much walking kids (young and old!) can do, so my deal with them is we walk on the way there and we ride the subway, street car or taxi on the way back to the hotel. For anyone who has ridden a subway with a non-urban-dwelling-kid, you know this can be a highlight of the trip!
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