Today is the big day: Worldwide Recess Day! What are you doing to get your 10-minutes of recess?
KEEN footwear is encouraging everyone to get out and play for at least 10 minutes today. Take a picture of your fun, upload it to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #TAKE10, and you could win a pair of KEEN shoes!
Here are five ideas for a fun day of recess.
1. Walk the dog!
If you don’t have a dog, volunteer at a rescue organization and walk some dogs who need it most. Better yet, adopt one of those dogs if you have the love and time to give a sweet pooch. You’ll receive far more from a rescued dog than you can ever give.
2. Invite a friend to coffee, and then walk there together.
Or, if you’re in Austin, Texas, walk to Gordough’s for a giant, made-to-order donut, then see if either you or your friend can finish one together.
3. Play tourist for a day in your own town.
Put on some shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and sandals with black socks, and go check out the sights! Don’t forget your camera!
4. Do a photo scavenger hunt with friends.
See who can find all the public art in your town first. If you’re in Chicago, you may need a whole weekend for this!
5, Make today a day of courage by doing something you’ve never done before.
Those are some of my ideas. Now, how are you going to play?
For more inspiration, check out KEEN’s Postano page.
While at first glance Stratford, Ontario may seem like any small, historic town in North America, it has a lot to offer the traveling walker. For those used to city life, Stratford moves at a slower pace, but it won’t disappoint in the way of world-class entertainment and restaurants. For the tourist who likes to walk and see the places they visit, Stratford is perfect as well, offering many walking tours, excellent paths to stroll along the river, a long street for shopping, and several gardens to explore.
Stratford, Ontario is about a two-hour drive from Toronto or a three-hour drive from Detroit. Although Detroit is an hour longer, crossing the border by car seems to be quicker than going through customs at the airport in Toronto. From Phoenix, prices for flights are cheaper to Detroit than they are to Toronto as well. Still, Toronto is a fabulous city with all its own reasons for visiting, so make sure to choose to visit Toronto, either on its own, or as a path to Stratford sometime.
To enter Canada by flying into Toronto, US citizens need to have their passports. To drive up from Detroit, you must have either a passport or the US Passport Card.
The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air.
~ From the US Bureau of Consular Affairs website
Where we stayed and why
If you read my previous article, you know we stayed at one of my favorite places in the world, The Verandah, a vacation rental owned by Debbie and Denis Harrison who rent out one side of their duplex home and live in the other side. The Verandah is perfectly situated for anyone wanting to visit Stratford mostly on foot. We were able to walk to all the theaters and restaurants from our home away from home. In fact, the only place we didn’t walk to was the grocery store, which was just a tad too far for carrying loads of groceries.
The Verandah has two bedrooms, both with queen-sized beds, and one-and-a-half baths. It has a full-size kitchen filled with glasses, dishes, pots, pans, and utensils–pretty much anything one might need to cook at home. There is an office with a large desk for those who must work while in Stratford, and they have high-speed wireless internet. For those times when you need to wash a load of clothes, there is a washer and dryer on site. For more images of The Verandah, go to my previous article.
All distances and step calculations mentioned below are measured from the front door of The Verandah, which is located at 29 Church Street.
Groceries and other necessities
If you’re staying in Stratford for any length of time and you have a kitchen available, you may wish to visit one of the many farmers markets or local food marts to take advantage of the fresh produce available in the summertime in Ontario. Thanks to groups like Slow Food Perth County, and others equally interested in eating locally and seasonally, there are several options available.
Sunday Slow Food Farmers Market: This market is open on Sundays from 10am to 2pm during the summer months. Be sure to check with them online for their schedule, as they close when temperatures start to cool down. While they are in operation during the summer, they sponsor special events, including a Food Truck Event and a Pork Party, celebrating Stratford’s history with all things pork.
The Slow Food Farmers Market is in the Market Square, just behind City Hall, between Downie and Wellington Streets. It is just over a quarter of a mile from The Verandah, making it about 600 steps one way.
Your Local Market Cooperative: This little grocery shop is owned and operated by the employees. Almost everything they sell is produced and/or processed in Ontario, the only exception being that their soymilk is from Quebec because they haven’t yet found a local producer. Breads are made onsite daily.
Regular hours are Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm, Sunday 9am to 5pm.
Located at 129 Downie Street, this store is .3 miles, or 600 steps, from The Verandah.
The Gentle Rain Natural Health Food Store: This store has been serving Stratford for 30 years. They provide all manner of organic groceries, natural household products, supplements, and other items you may need to eat and live healthily. Their selection and variety is a little bigger than the co-op downtown, but both stores have the same desire of providing local, seasonal, healthy choices.
Their hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm, Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.
The Gentle Rain is located at 30 Rebecca Street, which is approximately .5 miles from The Verandah, or 1000 steps.
Zehr’s: If you can’t find what you need at the farmers market, the co-op, or The Gentle Rain, Zehr’s will have it. This is your typical grocery store with a produce department, a frozen foods section, and a meat department. They have a variety of fish available, much of it local to Ontario, and they have a lot of familiar brands, such as Pepsi, Kashi, and Kellogg’s.
They are open Sundays from 8am to 11pm, Mondays from 10am-4pm, and Tuesday through Saturday from 7am to 11pm.
Zehr’s is located at 865 Ontario Street, which is not quite 2 miles from The Verandah. We did not walk there, but if you did, it would give you not quite 4000 steps one way.
LCBO: Need a bottle of wine for a dinner party? How about some unique beer choices? The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, known as LCBO, is a store located just off of downtown Stratford. It has a very good selection of wines, beers, and other spirits. If you’re looking for something specific, go to their website before visiting the store. Select “Products” and do a search for the item, along with the store location, and they’ll provide an inventory of what is available.
LCBO is located at 91 Wellington Street and is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 9pm, and on Sundays from 12pm to 5pm.
To walk there from The Verandah will earn you about 400 steps one way. The store is .2 miles from your home away from home.
Shoppers Drug Mart: For all those odds and ends that come up in a trip, there’s Shoppers Drug Mart. Similar to a Walgreen’s or CVS in the States, this chain store carries headache medicine, a variety of snack foods (including some fresh fruit!), umbrellas, sunblock, and much more.
They are open from 8am to midnight everyday. The one in Stratford is located at 211 Ontario Street, which is about .4 miles from The Verandah, or 800 steps one way.
It could be that Stratford is one of my favorite places in the world because it is host to some of the best coffee I have ever had. Starbucks does not exist in Stratford, at least not downtown or within walking distance. At first this may seem as a disappointment, but once you get a taste of Balzac’s or Revels, you’ll be glad you didn’t have access to Starbucks.
Balzac’s: This coffee house, which got its start in Stratford, has gone on to become a successful small chain throughout Ontario. Be sure and buy a pound or two of beans to stash in your suitcase so you can have a little taste of Stratford wherever you call home. I particularly enjoy the Atwood Blend.
Balzac’s is a place to go lounge with friends. There is plenty of seating indoors and a few tables outside as well. If you are walking with a puppy, there is often water available for them just outside the door and they are allowed to sit on the patio with you.
Hours are not listed on their website, but you may call them at 519-273-7909 for more information. In Stratford, they are located at 149 Ontario Street, which is .3 miles from The Verandah, or approximately 600 steps one way.
Revel Caffe: Restaurants around Stratford agree, the coffee brewed at this coffee house devoted to fair trade is one worth experiencing. The rich roasts will make such an imprint in your culinary mind that, weeks later, you will think wistfully of the warm smell of the brew and the bold flavors.
The owner, Anne Campion, will surely be part of that memory as well because she is passionate about her coffee and will happily talk with you to answer any questions you may have. While in Stratford, do as Steve McElroy from the New York Times did, and visit Revel Caffe often. Then, if your love affair has not been satiated, buy some beans to take home. You’ll be glad you did.
Revel Caffe is open on Mondays from 8am to 5pm, Tuesday through Thursday from 8am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 7pm, and Sunday from 9:30am to 4pm.
You can start your love affair by going to 50 Wellington Street, which is a mere .3 miles from The Verandah, or about 600 steps.
Sputnik: This little coffee bar tucked inside the skinniest building in Stratford is also tucked beneath what is rumored to have been the apartment Thomas Edison lived in when he worked in Stratford for a short time. The coffee here is good, although Balzac’s and Revel are just a little bit better. Sputnik is just one of those places that immediately makes a person feel at home, like you’ve been going there for years, even if it’s your first time in. The baristas make Sputnik special, that and the mid-century atomic atmosphere.
This coffee house is so small they don’t even have a website. They also don’t take credit cards, so be sure to take cash. For hours and more information, call them at 519-273-6767. Sputnik is just a hop from The Verandah at 46 Ontario Street, which is .1 miles away, or about 200 steps.
For more information about these and other coffee shops in Stratford, visit the food blog, Kitchen Dilettante.
It is important to note that many restaurants and shops are closed on Mondays in Stratford since the theaters are dark on that day. If they are open during the day on Monday, chances are good they will be closed on Monday evening. Be sure to check with the restaurant or shop for current hours.
The (OLD) Prune: Long ago, this restaurant was called The Old Prune, hence the parenthesis and the word “OLD” in the middle. Some still call it that. I did for a while because it was The Old Prune the first time I went there. Whether it is old or new, this has to be the best restaurant in Stratford. And that’s saying a lot because you can almost throw a stone from anywhere in town and hit a great restaurant. The Prune, though, is extra special. If there is one place in the world where I am bound to not only eat every crumb off my plate for every single course, but also to threaten to lick the plate itself, it is The Prune. Having left you with that pleasant image, if you only go to one high-end restaurant in Stratford, make it The Prune.
Calling all vegetarians: I know what you’re thinking. “If it’s that good, they probably make everything with duck fat and bacon.” Take heart, however. At The Prune, they offer an all vegetarian prix fixe menu. It’s true! And it’s all amazingly spectacular. Maybe that’s why this is my favorite restaurant.
Reservations are recommended, especially if you have a show to go to. They can be made by calling 519-271-5052, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at OpenTable.com.
The Prune is located at 151 Albert Street, which is a lovely half-mile walk from The Verandah. Walking there will give you approximately 1000 steps one way. Walking back will help you feel better after having embarrassed yourself by slurping up that last bit of malted chocolate ice cream. (Don’t worry. I did it too.)
Bijou: The experience at Bijou is tres unique, at least in this part of North America. It is not unlike a comfy bistro in Paris and the food is just as good (if not–dare I say it–better). A new menu is born out of the changing seasons and availability of local produce. Because it changes so often, the only menu available can be seen on a chalkboard right outside the kitchen window. The menu is prix fixe. Choose two courses for $48 or three courses for $55.
Remember the vegetarian thing I mentioned earlier? Well, although Bijou does not always have vegetarian options on their menu, if you mention to the hostess while making reservations that someone in your party is vegetarian, they will go out of their way to prepare something wonderful for you. And it will knock your socks off.
Reservations are recommended, especially for dinner. They are not open on Mondays but for the rest of the week they have two seating times for dinner. The first seating is from 5pm to 6pm. The second seating is from 8pm to 9pm. Call 519-273-5000 to make reservations and to ask about lunch hours.
Bijou is located at 105 Erie Street, which is only .2 miles from The Verandah, or 400 steps one way.
Pazzo Ristorante, Pizzeria & Bar: This two-in-one restaurant/pizzeria can be a little confusing, but it’s worth checking out both options during a trip to Stratford. The restaurant, which is located at street level when you first walk in the door, is for those times you’re dressed up for the theater and want something a little more upscale than pizza. The pizzeria, downstairs, is where to go when you’re a little more casual and just want to satisfy that pizza craving we all get now and then. You can dress up at the pizzeria too. Lots of people go there before a show, but whether you go to the restaurant or the pizza place, make reservations by calling 519-273-6666 or 1-877-440-9666.
Pazzo is located in the heart of it all at 70 Ontario Street. This will earn you 400 steps, being that it is just .2 miles from The Verandah, so be sure and go to the restaurant one night and the pizza place another to get double the steps.
Chocolate Barr’s: This chocolate boutique may not be a restaurant, but it is definitely gourmet and deserves to be highlighted. It is a perfect place to buy handmade (and delicious) gifts, along with the best dark chocolate I have ever had. For those on Weight Watchers, this is good news because dark chocolate is not only good for you but, when broken in to bite-sized pieces, only costs a Point or two.
But there’s more good news! If you walk there from The Verandah, you can get around 600 steps one way! It’s located at 136 Ontario Street, which is about .3 miles away. Stop by for some chocolate, then walk across the street to Balzac’s for coffee. What more do you need?
Things to do
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
With 14 shows playing at various times in four theaters, many of which are populated by names you are familiar with if you watch any movies at all, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival will steal your heart and create a longing to return year after year. It is high-quality theater, but not highfalutin and pretentious. Tickets can be had for a reasonable price, some starting around $30 per person. Even if you can only do it once, the experiences had, the stories told, the emotions felt are unforgettable and will last you a lifetime.
There are four theaters and a theater annex which house the different plays in Stratford. The Festival Theatre, is the largest theater in town. It is is located at 55 Queen Street. It is what gave Stratford’s theater festival its start. What started as a tent in 1953 is now a lovely building with tent-like peaks around its roof. The start of each show and the end of each intermission at The Festival is punctuated with the sounding of horns urging you in. It makes the event feel like an event from the very beginning.
To walk to the Festival Theatre from The Verandah will earn you not quite 2000 steps since it is almost a mile away. Imagine what that will be like when you return to your home away from home with a total of 4000 steps, and the breath of fresh air you can breathe not having to fight for parking!
The Avon Theatre is a bit closer to The Verandah. It is located at 99 Downie Street and, so, is right around .3 miles (or 600 steps) one way. The Avon used to be a vaudeville theatre and then a movie theater, but in 1963 was bought by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and made officially a part of the festivities.
The Studio Theatre and its Annex are not far from the Avon Theatre and, therefore, only add a few extra steps from The Verandah. It is located at 34 George Street East and is .4 miles, or about 800 steps from home. Both the Studio Theatre and the Studio Theatre Annex are more intimate spaces and are generally used for experimental plays and cabaret style shows.
Finally, the Thomas Patterson Theatre, which is named for the founder of the Stratford Festival, is another intimate theater which showcases both contemporary and classic shows. In the last two years, I have seen a vivid telling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and an emotional Elektra by Sophocles, both of which could be argued as classic stories portrayed by the Stratford Creatives in very contemporary lights.
This theater is located a half a mile from The Verandah at 111 Lakeside Drive. You can earn 1000 steps walking along the lovely river to get there.
Stratford Summer Music Festival
If there is one thing I wish I had participated in more during my two-week stay in Stratford this year, it is the Stratford Summer Music Festival. All the locals I spoke to had been to at least one show and they all raved, especially about Jan Lisiecki, a young pianist who apparently put on an almost spiritual performance at St. Andrews Church.
Truly, music seemed to pour out of every crevice in town, but unless it was right there, I seemed to miss much of it. It was a pleasure to walk along the river and catch one of the shows happening at the barge, and soon after I left, the Play Me, I’m Yours street pianos arrived for anyone to enjoy.
Should you be a bit wiser than I am, go to Stratford during the the Summer Music Festival and soak it up, as well as the theater. Many shows and activities are free for the listening. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. I’m already planning for next year.
One of the things that makes Stratford a walker’s paradise is the sheer number of walking tours offered through the Visitor Center. They have historical tours and architectural tours, garden tours and culinary tours. They even have a tour map for those interested in hitting all the favorited spots of local “It” boy, Justin Bieber, many of which are walkable around town.
The Visit Stratford website is a bit difficult to navigate. There’s just so much to do in Stratford that it seems they’re having a hard time knowing how to organize the information. My advice is to go to the Stratford Tourism Alliance when you get into town and ask them for information about walking tours. Some are free, others are between $6 and $8, depending on who is hosting them. The Tourism Alliance, though, will have all the information you need. Their main office is located at 47 Downie Street, or you can call them at 1-800-561-7926. There is also a small Visitor Centre located along the river, just beyond the Veterans Memorial plaza.
You can also do a small amount of searching with the free Visit Stratford app for your iPhone or Android phone. Although I couldn’t locate the free walking tours on the app, I did see information for all the places mentioned in this article, including The Verandah, restaurants, and other points of interest. It’s a good place to start.
The Avon River
The Avon River has some sort of magical, hypnotic powers. When walking along the meandering paths, a person can’t help but forget that time exists. All other pressures are massaged out of the shoulders and brain, thanks to the gentle roll of the water, the golden light of the sunset, or the fluttering leaves of the lazy trees. Add to that the bagpipes wafting from the Veterans Memorial plaza or the dixie music playing off the barge, and time definitely stands still.
Cross under the stone-arch bridge to get from one side of it to the other and you’ll experience a picturesque view you only thought possible in England or France.
Once on the other side of the bridge, take in the Shakespeare Gardens. Be sure to walk all the way past Anne Hathaway’s house and the little gazebo. The trees grow tall and provide comforting shade on a hot summer’s day.
This article only scratches the surface when it comes to what to see, do, and eat in Stratford. That’s why it’s a good idea to visit as often as possible, so you can see and do that much more the next time.
Have you been to Stratford? If so, where did you stay? What advice would you give someone going there? Do you have any questions about Stratford, The Verandah, or walking around town? Leave your questions and ideas in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you on one of my favorite subjects!
Just three weeks ago I was traipsing all over Washington, DC, breaking my own walking records. In all that time, over all those many miles, I got nary a blister and neither my feet nor my back complained. Over this last week, though, while merely chopping vegetables for dinner, an ache took over the joints of my feet and crept up into my back. By the time the recipe was simmering on the stove, I needed to sit down!
How is it possible that one week I can tromp around a big city like a 20-year-old in sneakers, and just a few days later I’m like an 80-year-old grandma hunched over the kitchen stove? I can’t help but wonder if the difference had anything to do with the kind of shoes I wore.
In the kitchen, I had on loafers–shoes that are cute and easy to get on and off, but which have little in the way of support. Alternatively, I didn’t go anywhere in DC without wearing a pair of Naot sandals, shoes I know to be lightweight and supportive for any test I put them through, even during a hot, sticky Mid-Atlantic summer. I don’t think this is just a coincidence and I’m pretty sure Steve Lax, President of Yaleet, Inc., the U.S. distributor of Naot Footwear, would agree with me.
He sat down with me for a phone interview recently and I asked him right away why Naot shoes are so consistently comfortable. His reply was simply: “It’s the cork and latex insole which creates your own orthotic from the heat and pressure of your foot.”
Naots, he said, start out comfortable and get more comfortable over time. Whether I’m trekking miles over historical brick sidewalks in DC, or hovering over a stovetop in Michigan, my feet and back stay pain free.
I’m not the only traveler who has been lured by Naot’s lightweight and comfortable selections. In 2001, Daisann McLane, then known as “The Frugal Traveler” for the New York Times, deemed Naot sandals her go-to summer travel shoes:
“Over time I’ve managed to find a few styles and brands that rate an A for both fashion and comfort. One is a slip-on sandal made by the Israeli manufacturer Naot, with a comfy black elastic-band upper and a leather insole that molds to the shape of your foot.”
She bought two pairs–one to wear right then and one to wear when the other one wore out, in case the style was discontinued. I also have two pair of Naot shoes–the Kayla style, which I deemed the perfect summer travel shoe in a previous article, and a new pair, the Esteems, which I wear for fancier occasions.
Back in the late eighties, when Naot started developing their shoe line, the only comfort shoes out there were made in Europe. Those shoes had a break-in period and the soles only lasted a couple of months. Plus, there was basically only one style–wide and clunky.
In Israel, where Naot shoes are made, people wear sandals 12 months of the year. A shoe that had to be broken in and whose sole lasted only two months wasn’t practical. So, the developers got to work and designed a shoe that was comfortable from the very beginning–that’s where the cork and latex insole comes in. They also used a supportive, long-lasting polyurethane bottom sole, as well as soft European leathers which prevent blisters. Naot shoes started out comfortable and got even more comfortable as a person wore it, plus it had a sole that could last. “It’s like the difference between the Model T engine and the jet engine,” said Mr. Lax.
As for clunky, Naot worked to resolve that too. “People don’t want to wear clunky shoes,” he said, so their in-house designers design shoes for comfort and style. Now, he said, “Naot has a shoe for every kind of foot.”
Even the heels are built to overcome the issues of comfort and clunkiness. “Our heels and wedges are angled to be a zero heel. No pressure is placed on the back.” No wonder I could walk a mile and a half to dinner and back in DC wearing my Naot Esteem shoes without feeling like I was walking in a heel.
These same in-house designers set the standard for removable, insertable orthotics. “Thirty percent of national labs are using our insole,” he said. What that means is, if you use an insertable orthotic, there’s a good chance it was designed by Naot’s designers.
Over the years, new styles have been added to Naot’s lineup of sandals, shoes, and boots, but they all must meet the standards set by the organization, standards that are shaped with a vision toward making the world a little better everyday. “It’s not all about money,” said Mr. Lax. “We are a very socially active company. We donate Naot shoes to shelters all over the country.” In fact, just the week before I spoke to him, he said they gave away 200 pairs of shoes at a shelter in New York City, and they have similar events on a regular basis in shelters nationwide.
So, now I know. When I’m traveling the globe, wearing my Naot shoes, my feet are held in consistent comfort and support because of a dedication to quality that runs deep within the company. It’s that attention to quality that not only makes my feet happy, but now it makes my heart beat a little happier, knowing I’m supporting a company that supports the community at large in such big ways.
Thank you, Mr. Lax, for your time and your company’s generosity.
American cities may be easy to navigate on foot, but not every American city caters to the walking tourist. For a lot of cities tourists count on buses, cars, and Segways to see the sights. In Washington, DC, though, even Segways have a hard time getting up close and personal with all the memorials and monuments in the area. This capital city, then, is a walker’s dream. Not only is it easy to achieve 10,000 steps simply by eating, drinking, and shopping, it is a city that can truly only be experienced on foot.
The guide below illustrates how Hubby and I strategized our time as tourists with the goal of achieving at least 10,000 steps a day. Our starting point for step calculation was the Hotel Rouge. Distance and step calculations are taken from the front door of the hotel to the meeting point of each activity. The Hotel Rouge is located at 1315 16th Street, NW in Washington, DC.
Things to do
Thankfully for the walking tourist there are at least a couple of tour companies devoted to seeing our nation’s capital á pied. My favorite is Washington Walks. In fact, we enjoyed their tours so much that we took four of them. Their guides are knowledgeable and friendly. The tours themselves are intimate and in-depth, filled with sights and information you can’t get from riding a bus all day. If we had been in town longer, we would have taken the other tours they offer.
It doesn’t matter how often I go to DC, there is always something new to see or, more likely, something that changes because I have changed. As a high school student and a young adult I visited DC as a tourist. Plus, when I first graduated from college, I lived just outside of the city in Maryland for nearly a year. Many weekends were spent strolling around Georgetown, the National Mall and the National Gallery of Art. In all those trips and during all that time I had never been to the Jefferson Memorial. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, as well as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial were installed since the last time I visited (which had been a long time).
One thing hadn’t changed, though–the power of these memorials and monuments to move something deep within me, inspiring that longing for their kind of greatness, their kind of far-seeing wisdom, even as they were set in completely human bodies, with strengths and weaknesses just like the rest of us.
All of these sights, along with the George Mason Memorial, are included in the Memorials by Moonlight tour around the Tidal Basin with Washington Walks. With an exuberance of one who loves what she does, our guide Phoebe introduced us to the stories of these men who had such an impact on American history.
Washington Walks tours are $15 per person and no reservations are needed. Children under the age of 3 have free admittance.
Walking calculations: For this tour, we took the Metro on the Orange/Blue Lines from the McPherson Square station to the Smithsonian station. Walking from the hotel to McPherson Square is .7 miles or 1400 steps, one way. The tour itself was 2 hours long and we walked approximately 1 mile, or 2000 steps around the Tidal Basin from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, where the tour began, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, where the tour ended.
The Reflecting Pool located in the National Mall may be getting a face lift just now, but that did not stop us from feeling the power of the memorials which sit around it. There’s the newest member, the World War II Memorial, the controversial but deeply powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the equally moving Korean War Veterans Memorial. Seth, our tour guide, took us around all of these memorials, as well as the Constitution Gardens, the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial for this tour.
As with the other Washington Walks tours, ticket prices are $15 per person and no reservations are needed. Children under the age of 3 are admitted free of charge.
Walking calculations: For this tour, we walked to meet Seth in front of the Queen Isabella I statue on Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW. That walk was 1.2 miles from our hotel, which is approximately 2400 steps. The tour itself was two hours and included approximately 1 mile of walking (or 2000 steps), from one end of the Constitution Gardens and Reflecting Pool to the other. Walking back to the hotel, we walked from the Lincoln Memorial up 15th Street NW, which was about 2.5 miles, or 5000 steps.
Starting at the Metro station for Dupont Circle, we were introduced to the spirit of this neighborhood by reading the quote from a poem by Walt Whitman, which is inscribed in the surrounding wall of the Metro station:
Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night – some are so young;
Some suffer so much – I recall the experience sweet and sad…
Dupont Circle may have started out as a playground for the nouveau riche in the early twentieth century, but it became the birthplace of the gay community in our capital city. The quote above was written by Whitman after the Civil War, when he served as a nurse to dress the wounds of soldiers and provide comfort to them. The poem became symbolic, then, for those serving the men and women dying of AIDS, and how that brought together the community.
Our guide, Carolyn, took us all around this beautiful neighborhood, telling us stories of a famous architect and his murderous, crazy brother; of rich socialites whose parties outshone those of the president’s; of an 80-year-old church which was burned by arsonists and reinvented itself to serve the changing community; and of a man who single-handedly cultivated the art collection that would become the beginnings for the National Gallery of Art.
There was far more on this tour than I can share here in this one article. Some of the photos below highlight things mentioned above, as well as some of the other rich pieces of history we encountered along our tour.
As with the other Washington Walks tours, ticket prices are $15 per person, except for children under age 3, who are admitted free of charge. No reservations are needed.
Walking calculations: We met just outside the Dupont Metro station, which is located at Q Street NW and Connecticut Avenue NW. The distance from the hotel is approximately .6 miles, which is 1200 steps. The tour was two hours long and we walked all over the neighborhood, about a mile and a half, which gave us 3000 steps.
This section of town is encompassed by Dupont Circle, so part of this tour overlaps with the other tour. Still, what we learned in each was surprisingly unique. It is incredible how much could happen in one 2-mile radius!
As you can imagine, Embassy Row houses a number of embassies from all over the world. Sandwiched among them are historical homes–some of which have since become embassies and private clubs, but all of which have fascinating tales to tell, especially when told by our theatrical guide, Victoria, who happens to be an actress when she is not leading tours.
We took fewer pictures on this tour because so much of it is wrapped up in the stories which took place in the homes we encountered: Rich socialites wreaking havoc on the sanity (and pocketbooks!) of their political and entrepreneurial fathers; Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marital quandaries; and the curse of the Hope Diamond, to name a few!
As with the other Washington Walks tours, ticket prices are $15 per person and no reservations are needed. Children under 3 years of age are admitted free of charge.
Walking calculations: We met near Dupont Circle, close to the Panera Bread restaurant, which is located on 19th Street NW. The distance from the hotel is approximately .4 miles, or 800 steps. The tour was two hours long and we walked about a mile and a half, which gave us 3000 steps.
Other Activities and Things to Do
The Library of Congress is a stunning building and definitely worth exploring. We thought it would be a good idea to take a public tour provided by volunteer docents, but for us it was not a good experience. At least thirty individuals were crammed into one tour and a woman who seemed to struggle to get from one place to the next had an equally difficult time projecting her voice over the chaos of the public hallways. We ended up leaving before the tour was over with the promise to one another that we would return and, next time, take a private guide with us or explore using the Passport to Knowledge guides or the iPhone app.
Walking calculations: We walked to the McPherson Square Metro Station, which was .7 miles (or 1400 steps) from the hotel. We then took the Orange/Blue lines to the Capitol South station. From there, we walked to the Library of Congress, which was .3 miles (or 600 steps) and walked through the Library long enough to discover it was too loud and crowded to enjoy the tour. By then, we had run out of time to start a new tour, so we headed back to the hotel the way we came. Overall, I estimate we walked about 500 steps around and in the Library of Congress.
As mentioned above, Dupont Circle is the birthplace for gay activism in Washington, DC. As a result, they have a smashing Capital Pride Festival every year. We were fortunate enough to be there the last weekend of the event, but sadly, we got there too late to participate in most of the activities. Since we were staying in the Dupont Circle area, though, we were happy to share in the spirited atmosphere. We even received our own Pride beads, which we wore proudly until the festival ended the next day.
For those interested in attending the Capital Pride festivities, they occur every June, which is LGBTQ Pride month across the United States.
Walking calculations are not included here since we did not get to participate in the actual festivities.
When I go back
After reading about Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, on Traveling Chicha’s blog, it became a place I want to go to, but I ran out of time before I could do it. It seems a great way to capture the spirit of the man and the era which helped shape this country. There is a fee for entering the Mount Vernon Estate: $15 for people over 12 years old, $14 for seniors over the age of 62; and $7 for children between 6 and 11. Children under 5 years old are free. Most organized bus tours include the price of admission.
A friend of mine who spends more than half the year in Washington, DC told me this market is a Must-Do for anyone visiting the city. Not only does she shop there for fresh produce, she goes there for unique gifts and to enjoy the craftsmanship of hand-made artwork, jewelry, and crafts.
Now that you’ve seen how Hubby and I did things, share your own ways for Walking Washington, DC. Do you know of other excellent walking tours? Do you take advantage of the free entries to places like the National Gallery of Art or the Smithsonian? How do you avoid the crowds and lines? Add your favorite hints and tips in the comments section below to help others plan their future walking adventures in Washington, DC.
America’s cities have some of the best opportunities for those who strive to walk 10,000 steps each day (or about 5 miles). Sometimes cities can be a mixed blessing, though. While a person has walking access to everything he or she could need–restaurants, shows, basics–that convenience can make it difficult to achieve all those steps. For example, if the grocery store is just a quarter of a mile away from home, the round trip only garners 1000 steps total. That’s where strategizing becomes important for walking those other 9000 steps elsewhere.
Fortunately in Washington, DC, it’s easy to have your cake and eat it too. In fact, I spent a little more than a week there recently and, according to my FitBit calculations, I broke a record for number of steps achieved in one day. (For those who can forgive my boasting, I hit over 19,000 steps in one day! Woo hoo!)
As you can imagine, DC is packed with things to do, places to see, history to explore. Because of this, I have broken down this part of the Walking America Series into three articles.
Part I, The Basics: This is the first of the three which lays the foundation for the ways Hubby and I strategized our time to achieve the greatest number of steps just doing day-to-day things. Basics include grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and other kinds of things needed to function on a daily basis. As an example, we hit the grocery stores everyday. This gave us a minimum of 1200 steps round trip from the hotel. You’ll see in these three articles that we picked up the other steps by walking for coffee in the afternoons, walking to restaurants, and taking walking tours.
Part II, The Tours & Activities: The next article is all about how we got our steps as tourists. Thankfully, there is an abundance of walking tours available in DC and we took four of them. You’ll see how much fun we had getting all our steps while reconnecting to our nation’s capital.
Part III, The Shoes: The last article is a revisit of the shoe question from a previous post. In DC I put my favorite pair of Naot shoes to the test and experimented with another pair from that same brand. I also had the opportunity to talk with the president of Naot’s US shoe division to find out why the results of my personal testing turned out the way they did.
I hope you’ll return for each article and provide your own insights as to how you navigate the world on foot.
Approximate mileage and step counts are provided for each location. Please note these calculations are taken from the front door of the hotel to the front door of our destinations.
Where we stayed and why
Hotel Rouge: Hubby and I chose the Hotel Rouge in large part because they advertised studio suites with kitchenettes and free wi-fi for Kimpton Hotel’s InTouch Loyalty members. Kimpton is known for its quirky hotels. Some can be better than others, but we could not have been happier with having access to a fridge and small sink in our room, along with dishes, silverware, mugs, and glasses–all replaced daily with a clean set by housekeeping.
We also chose this hotel because it is located on the edge of Dupont Circle and Logans Circle, lovely neighborhoods peppered with restaurants, coffee shops, and easy access to a couple of grocery stores and pharmacies. Anything else we would want to do was just a couple of miles away.
The hotel is three stars, which I think is very accurate. It has some shabby edges–the elevators could use a good scrub down–but it is otherwise a good place to call home for a week. The staff was friendly, the room was spotless, and it was overall very quiet where we were in room 706.
There are other Kimpton Hotels in the area: Madera, Helix, Topaz, Palomar, and Donovan House. If Kimpton isn’t your style or budget, you can throw a stone from the Hotel Rouge and hit dozens of other hotels such as the Doubletree Inn, the Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard by Marriott, The St. Regis, The Jefferson, and Destination Hotel’s The Madison.
Hotel Rouge is located at 1315 16th Street, NW in Washington, DC.
Groceries and other necessities
Whole Foods: Not the largest Whole Foods we’ve ever been to, but then it’s hard to compete with the flagship store in Austin, Texas. Still, this gave us the freshest selection of produce in the neighborhood, along with easy access to yogurt, hummus, and other items we needed to eat breakfast and lunch at the hotel.
Tip: If we had the option, we found it best to go during the day. Once 5pm rolled around, the place became a madhouse and lines to the cash registers snaked around to the back of the store. The lines did move quickly, however, thanks to a long bank of cash registers and an audio/visual system they have in place to tell the next person in line which register is open.
Located at 1440 P Street NW = .3 miles, one way (600 steps)
Safeway: If I had my choice, I would not have stepped foot in this Safeway. It’s a bit on the grimy side, very limited in its selection, and it is somewhat of a Twilight Zone experience to check out there, thanks to finicky technology and absent-minded customers. Still, we went there to quench my husband’s Diet Mountain Dew addiction and once because Whole Foods had already closed.
Located at 1701 Corcoran St NW = .4 miles, one way (800 steps)
CVS 1 & 2: There are two CVS pharmacies located within half a mile from Hotel Rouge. They are equally stocked with the kinds of odds and ends needed during a trip. It came in handy when I ran out of hand lotion and when Safeway was out of stock of Diet Mountain Dew. Like Safeway, though, we encountered some checkout headaches at each location. The lines were occasionally long and the self-checkouts didn’t always work.
CVS 1 is located down the street from Whole Foods at 1418 P St NW = .3 miles, one way (600 steps)
CVS 2 is located around the corner from Safeway at 1637 P St NW = .2 miles, one way (400 steps)
Commissary: We visited Commissary during the one afternoon it rained. We had gone to Starbucks first, but all the tables and chairs were taken with people who had set up remote offices at all the tables there. Commissary was a nice break from the usual, so I’m actually glad Starbucks was full. This place is more of a restaurant, serving lunch/brunch and dinner, but they have coffee options as part of their menu, so we just got a nibbly to munch on and had our coffee with that. The coffee was so-so, but it was a neat place to sit and hang out with Hubby for a half an hour.
Located at 1443 P St NW = .2 miles, one way (400 steps)
Caribou: There are three Caribou Coffees within half a mile from Hotel Rouge. The one we went to was on 18th and M, tucked into the construction happening on the building in which it is housed. Thankfully, no hard hats are needed to enjoy a cup of ‘Bou, but other than that, there’s not much to say about this location that is different from Caribous around the country.
New to me: This coffee chain has started providing options for hot sandwiches for lunch, such as grilled cheese and gouda turkey pesto, in addition to their pastries and warmed breakfast options.
There are three locations very close to Hotel Rouge:
1800 M Street = . 5 miles, one way (1000 steps)
1101 17th Street NW = .4 miles, one way (800 steps)
1156 15th Street = .3 miles, one way (600 steps)
Cafe Luna: This little spot is located down a short set of stairs off the sidewalk along P street. We went there for their adorable patio and a couple of soft drinks. While there, we met a very nice woman who is a regular there, and her dog, Horatio. Inside it had more of a restaurant feel with a fully stocked bar. I’m putting it in the “coffee” category because our purpose was coffee-like, in that we weren’t looking for a meal, but they do serve brunch and dinner. If you meet Horatio, tell him and his mom I said hi.
Located at 1633 P St NW = .2 miles one way (400 steps)
Teaism: If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, a friend of mine recommended Teaism to try. Unfortunately, we never made it there, but she recommended it so highly, I had to share it. There are several locations in the DC area. The ones listed below are equidistant to the hotel.
2009 R Street Northwest = . 7 miles, one way (1400 steps)
800 Connecticut Avenue Northwest = . 7 miles, one way (1400 steps)
Listed in order of preference.
Nage: Walking up to this restaurant, I wasn’t overly impressed. It’s tucked into the same nondescript building as a Courtyard by Marriott. That’ll teach me to judge a restaurant by its doorfront.
The staff was warm, friendly, and even funny at times! The food was mouthwateringly delicious. I had mushroom baklava as my starter which was drizzled with blueberry compote. Even as I write this, I am craving that strange-sounding concoction. It is a brilliant combination. Hubby had one of their many fish choices and loved it. For dessert, I had a rich, creamy Lemon Goat Cheesecake. That’s when I asked Hubby to roll me out of the restaurant. Fortunately, we had a walking tour scheduled after so I could work off all that food!
If Hubby and I lived in DC, this would become a regular restaurant for us. In fact, by the time we left, we felt like regulars. The staff was so nice and the food was just so good.
Reservations did not appear to be necessary, but we made them to be on the safe side. You can too at OpenTable.com.
Happy Food Note: For those of us who eat vegetarian diets, they have several menu items devoted to meatless eaters. Not only that, but every week they have Meatless Mondays!
Located at 1600 Rhode Island Avenue, NW = . 2 miles, one way (400 steps)
Nora: Like Nage, this restaurant had a fantastic combination of friendly, helpful service and delicious food. Also like Nage, they had a fabulous vegetarian menu. In fact, I was able to do an entire Chef’s Vegetarian Tasting Menu! I never have that option when there are “Chef’s Tasting Menus” to sample. I had a refreshing cold cucumber soup, a hearty onion tart, a stick-to-your-ribs mushroom risotto, and pistachio shortcake with macerated berries and whipped cream. By the time I got to dessert, I felt like I might look like a giant macerated berry, but I still somehow found enough room to sneak in about half of the shortcake, most of the berries, and a scoop or two of the homemade whipped cream.
Reservations are recommended and can be made online at OpenTable.com.
Fun Food Note: According to one of our tour guides, Restaurant Nora is the first certified organic restaurant in the United States. Their website goes on to explain this a little further: “This means that 95% or more of everything that you eat at the restaurant has been produced by certified organic growers and farmers all who share in Nora’s commitment to sustainable agriculture.”
Located at 2132 Florida Avenue NW = .8 miles, one way (1600 steps)
Firefly: This cozy restaurant, located in Hotel Madera, another Kimpton Hotel, is quite good. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We had dinner there. My only complaint about it is that it can get loud as guests fill up the tables. We got there on the earlier side, around 5:30, before anyone else had arrived, so we had the whole place to ourselves. It gave us a chance to catch up from the day before the masses arrived. By the time we left, it was so loud I couldn’t hear Hubby, who was sitting across the small table from me. Still, it’s worth trying.
Reservations are recommended and can be made through OpenTable.com.
Located at 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW = .6 miles, one way (1200 steps)
Cashion’s Eat Place: We met friends here for dinner one night and had really great food but really horrible service. If Nage was all about friendly, welcoming, attentive service, Cashion’s was the exact opposite. Several times servers brought food to our table that was meant for other tables. Our own dishes took half an hour or more to arrive after we had ordered. The optimist in me wants to believe this was an off night for the place because the food really was worth the trip. Our friends have been to this restaurant several times and assured us the poor service was as much a surprise to them as it was to us, so maybe try it–and then let me know how it went.
The food itself is Mediterranean inspired. I inhaled the Cauliflower Soup and enjoyed the vegetarian dish put together by the chef, which was made up of veggies served that day. Hubby and one of our friends had salads to start and then chose Pacific Sablefish as their entree. We were all pleased with the dishes we chose–just disappointed at the service.
Located at 1819 Columbia Road NW = 1.3 miles, one way (2600 steps)
COCOVA: Like chocolate? You’ll love this chocolate boutique located in Adams Morgan. They have handmade chocolates, artisanal chocolates, chocolate classes, and, on occasion, they have FREE SAMPLE DAY! Check out their events calendar for what’s happening during your visit.
Located at 1904 18th St. NW = .8 miles, one way (1600 steps)
Staples: While in DC, we had to make a quick trip to Staples to buy a toner cartridge and ream of paper for the small printer we take everywhere we go. The store was very helpful, almost to the point of seeming paranoid to leave us too long on our own.
Located at 1901 L Street = .7 miles, one way (1400 steps)
UPS Store: Also necessary during many of our trips is the need to shred paper we’ve used in our business during the week. The UPS Store tends to have shredding services, be they “drop off and pay by the pound” or “self-serve” at a shredding machine. This one was self-serve and cost all of $2 to shred a stack of papers about an inch thick. It was nice to have access so close to the hotel.
Located at 1718 M Street NW = . 3 miles, one way (600 steps)
As always, if you have some ideas to add to our list of Walking DC Basics, please add them in the comments below! This is meant as a resource for all of us. Your contributions are always welcome with gratitude.
Now that you have all the basics down, get ready for some real fun touring the city!
Austin, Texas is a city on the move. Everywhere you look, people are walking, biking, running, and Segwaying around town. And that doesn’t include those in Lady Bird Lake who are kayaking, rowing, and paddle-boating. Sidewalks are prevalent, even across the bridges that span the lake, which divides downtown from the hip neighborhood known as South Congress (SoCo). It’s as if, from the ground up, the city’s planners wanted people to get out and experience the city with all their senses–not just from the isolating seat of a car.
Austin has a myriad of activities, events, and sights to see, all within walking distance of downtown. It has a high walking score of 89, which makes it an easy place in which to get 10,000 steps a day, and a no-brainer for those of us who plan travel with walking in mind.
Hubby and I were in Austin for the week of May 6th through the 13th. Although we ate like kings and sometimes came home looking like wet rats thanks to some downpours, we managed to have the time of our lives and get at least 10,000 steps each day.
A bonus for visiting Austin was the opportunity to reconnect with some friends I hadn’t seen in nearly 12 years. Thanks to my friend Heather, who lives in Austin, we got to enjoy the city from a local’s perspective while reigniting old friendships. (Thanks, Heather!)
Where we stayed and why
The Four Seasons Austin was our chosen destination for this trip. It is located at 98 San Jacinto Boulevard, right on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, and within walking distance to pretty much anything we wanted to do downtown. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the hotel is pure luxury, with a relaxing spa and a team of helpful concierges on staff.
All distances and step calculations mentioned below are measured from the front door of the Four Seasons.
Groceries and other necessities
Royal Blue Grocery: There are two of these little bodega-style general stores located within a half a mile of the hotel. They carry all sorts of goodies for lunch and breakfast, including specially made salads and sandwiches in the refrigerated section. They also carry all the ingredients to make your own sandwiches and salads, along with pretty much any other kind of food or beverage you’d be in the market for. I preferred the lighter, fresher feel of the one on Congress to the one on 3rd Avenue, but both carry a bounty of grocery goods.
Royal Blue Grocery on 3rd Avenue: .4 miles from the hotel (800 steps one way)
Royal Blue Grocery on Congress: .5 miles from the hotel (1000 steps one way)
Whole Foods Market: Most metropolitan areas in the United States have a Whole Foods these days, but there is only one Whole Foods which can claim flagship status. That store is located at 525 N. Lamar Boulevard and is 80,000 square feet of natural and organic goodness. Their produce department alone makes even the gloomiest of people happy with all its fresh smells and bright colors. We were in the market for fruit, veggies, yogurt, and unique lunch items. Indeed, Hubby found a new favorite dark chocolate while there–Taza stone-ground organic chocolate.
Check out their calendar for special events that happen on their rooftop plaza, such as Sunset Supper Cinema.
Whole Foods Market on N. Lamar: 1.2 miles from the hotel (2400 steps one way)
Second Street Market: It’s not much to look at, but this dingy little store came through for us on a number of occasions. Our first night there, we weren’t sure yet what Royal Blue would have on hand so we stopped in for some sodas and bottled water. Throughout the rest of the week, Second Street was where we went when it was pouring rain outside and half a mile seemed too far to roam for odds and ends. Don’t count on them for a lot of selection. They truly are a convenience store and not meant to supply a household with groceries. They are located at 200 San Jacinto Boulevard.
Second Street Market: .2 miles from the hotel (400 steps one way)
Caffee Medici: This cute little coffee shop is located at 200 Congress Avenue, right next door to Congress restaurant (see restaurant info below). It has an urban vibe to it and they pride themselves on providing one of the best cups of java around.
Caffee Medici: .3 miles from the hotel (600 steps one way)
Houndstooth Coffee: At nearly four miles away from the hotel, Houndstooth Coffee is, admittedly, a little too far even for us to walk. Still, I was taken there during my art tour of the city and I enjoyed it enough to pass it along as an option for coffee.
The Coffee Cup: This little shop was located within the Four Seasons complex on San Jacinto Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street. Convenience is what made it so appealing.
The Coffee Cup: .0 miles from the hotel. (Approximately 100 steps one way.)
University of Texas Fitness Institute: If you are like my husband, and you have been on a weight loss journey recently, you may be wondering to yourself, “What exactly is my body fat percentage”? Look no further than the University of Texas Fitness Institute for a Body Composition Analysis.
For $90 each, we got a full-body scan using a bone density scanner (DEXA). After the scan, we were given printed results and a consultation with a fitness expert, who walked us through our results. The body composition information is broken down into arms, legs, trunk, hips, and abdomen. We also learned how our bone density was stacking up. As a woman in her 40s, I was very relieved to see that my bone density is quite good, but the fitness expert reminded me I will need to add some weight bearing exercises if I’m going to keep it that way.
For Hubby and me, this was a huge affirmation that we are on the right path. Now all we have to do is add some weights to our routine and we’ll be good to go!
The Fitness Institute of Texas: 1.7 miles from the hotel (3400 steps one way)
Car2Go: Although we never needed a car while we were in Austin, if we were in the city for longer than a week, I could see the advantage of registering with Car2Go for $35 in order to use their little Smart Cars parked all over town. For rates and more general information on how it works, check out their website. Their main office is located at 800 W. 5th Street, Suite 100B.
Car2Go: .9 miles from the hotel (1800 steps one way)
Olivia: My friend Heather has lived in Austin for 15 years and she knows all the good spots. Olivia is one of them. She picked us up at our hotel and brought along another friend of mine for a mini high school reunion! This was the perfect spot–it had big open windows to let in welcoming light and a fun menu to explore.
Next time we’re in town, we’ll return to Olivia. This time, though, I’m going straight to dessert. The entrees were good, but the creme brûlée was sincerely the best I have ever eaten! (Thanks, Heather, for sharing it!) Sorry. No pictures were taken of the creme brûlée. It vanished before any of us could think of it! We did manage to get a shot of Hubby’s beautiful beet and goat cheese salad, though!
Olivia: 2.4 miles from the hotel (4800 steps one way)
the backspace: Hubby found this pizza joint online and I’m glad he did. After walking all over the city on a rainy day, this tiny restaurant, with its brick oven glowing behind the bar, was a comforting place to dry off and unwind. We stuffed ourselves silly on delicious appetizers of local squash, pumpkin seed pesto, and pecorino romano, as well as, warmed marinated olives, lemon, mint, and oregano. When our margherita pizza came out we discovered we had just enough room to eat the whole thing! The backspace is located at 507 San Jacinto.
The backspace: .3 miles from the hotel (600 steps one way)
parkside: Parkside is the sister restaurant to the backspace. They are located right next door to one another and owned by the same chef, Shawn Cirkiel, an Austin native. Since the backspace was so good, we decided to give parkside a try with my friend Heather on our last day in Austin.
Although parkside is known for its raw bar and oyster menu, we experienced the other side of the menu: excellent comfort food. The spring potato soup surprised me by being cold, but the flavors were so delicious that I couldn’t put my spoon down until I had eaten every drop–and I don’t usually like cold soups. Both Hubby and Heather ordered different salads: the butter lettuce salad for Heather, and the spiced beet salad for Hubby. Both mmm’d and ooo’d over their salads before continuing along that theme with their entrees of Dewberry Farms Chicken (for Heather), and Grilled Salmon (for Hubby). I loaded up on carbs that night by ordering and sharing a variety of sides: macaroni and cheese, polenta, grilled asparagus, and my all-time favorite, fried okra.
The picture below was taken after dinner when we were “fat and happy”, as they say.
parkside: .3 miles from the hotel (600 steps one way)
Congress: This was one of my favorite restaurant experiences outside of the ones shared with friends. The restaurant itself is understated elegance. There are magical teardrop chandeliers swirling and dripping from the ceiling. The chairs and tufted banquettes lend an air of comfortable sophistication as they are clad in what looks to be creamy linen. Warm woods frame the doors and cupboards, grounding the lighter, airier tones around the dining room.
The menu is either three-course or a seven-course chef’s tasting menu. No matter which you choose, be sure to go hungry because, by the time we got through the second course, I was stuffed. I’m still thinking about the tomato, plum, buratta salad I had at Congress. Buratta seems to be all the rage these days, available in nearly every high-end restaurant around the country. Chefs Bull and Meeker, though, separated Congress from the pack with their deliciously salty version combined with juicy tomatoes and plums.
If luxurious surroundings and thoughtfully delicious food weren’t enough, the service at Congress was some of the best we’ve experienced in a long time. It is what set the place apart for us. It made us want to stay and stay. Our water glasses were never empty and our other beverage glasses were refilled regularly with our drinks of choice. We never felt like we were overwhelmed by the service, but we also never lacked for anything either. It was just a very pleasant, delicious evening.
Congress = .3 miles from the hotel (600 steps one way)
Gordough’s: Okay, so I was good the whole time I was in Austin. I split entrees and dessert. I made sure to get at least three servings of fruit and vegetables each day. All that goodness deserves a little bit of bad, which is why I had to go to Gordough’s, the food truck specializing in big, greasy, made-to-order donuts.
Yes. They are good. No. I did not eat the whole thing. Fortunately, I had my friend Heather there with me so we could split it. Even then, though, we didn’t eat the whole thing. The “Dirty Berry” donut, with its grilled strawberries and melty fudge was just too much of a good thing.
Gordough’s = 1.4 miles from the hotel (2800 steps one way)
Things to do
Art in Austin
As I mentioned in my previous article, art is a big deal in Austin and it is not to be missed. Below is a list of places I visited, thanks to the connections and coordination of the magnificent concierge at the Four Seasons, Daisy Undercuffler. For more information about these places, please see the article I wrote devoted to Austin art.
(Disclaimer: I am including step information for these art locations, but I did not walk to most of them myself. Now that I know where they are, though, I feel very comfortable doing it next time I’m in town.)
Gallery Shoal Creek is located at 2905 San Gabriel Street = 2.9 miles from the hotel (5800 steps one way).
Davis Gallery + Framing is located at 837 W 12th Street = 1.5 miles from the hotel (3000 steps one way).
Blanton Museum of Art on the UT Campus located at 200 East Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard = 1.4 miles from the hotel (2800 steps one way).
Austin Postcard Mural is located on the building of Roundhouse Relics at 1720 S 1st Street = 1.5 miles from the hotel (3000 steps one way).
The Stevie Ray Vaughan statue is located along Lady Bird Lake Trail off of South 1st Street. That is .8 miles from the hotel (1600 steps one way).
The Willie Nelson statue is located at 310 Willie Nelson Boulevard. That is .1 miles from the hotel, or 200 steps one way.
Following is the continued list of art spaces recommended by Daisy at the Four Seasons, as well as Judith Taylor at Gallery Shoal Creek, and Lisa Rogers at the Davis Gallery. I was not able to visit these places during my time in Austin, so I have not included the step counts. I did, however, include the addresses for each so the next time I visit Austin, it will be easy to look up distances and calculate steps. (Remember, 1 mile is approximately equal to 2000 steps.)
Arthouse at Jones Center provides exhibitions, educational opportunities, and special programs for experiencing modern and contemporary art. It is located at 700 Congress Avenue.
Wally Workman Gallery currently represents 56 local emerging and established artists. It is located at 1202 West 6th Street.
Austin Art Garage has an appealing philosophy: “We’re just two guys that wanted to make it easier to find and purchase original art without entering a world of debt. …[We] aim to expose emerging artists while giving customers a no-hassle system to find and purchase a variety of affordable one-of-a-kind art works.” They are located at 2200 South Lamar Boulevard.
The Visual Arts Center, located on the UT campus at 2300 Trinity Street, is where emerging artists, faculty, and students come together to share their art. (Check their website for hours. At the time of this writing, they were closed for the summer.)
Mexic-Arte Museum is “dedicated to enriching the community through education programs and exhibitions focusing on traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture.” It was designated by the State Legislature of Texas as the Official Mexican and Mexican American Fine Art Museum of Texas. Visit it at 419 Congress Avenue.
Flatbed Press is a multi-use space which includes a publishing workshop as well as an art gallery. It is located at 2830 East MLK Boulevard.
Austin’s City Hall, the People’s Gallery is located at 301 West 2nd Street and is “designed to showcase regional artists and to encourage public dialog, understanding, and enjoyment of visual art.”
Central Market is a grocery store where you can see the large mural of local artist, Malou Flato, while picking up some produce. It is located at 4001 North Lamar Boulevard.
East Side Austin Showroom is a restaurant that supports local artists and apparently mixes a great cocktail. Add to that the fact that it keeps to Slow Food standards and this place seems to embody everything great about Austin. Can’t wait to try it out next time. It is located at 1100 East 6th Street.
Other things to do in Austin
Congress Avenue Bridge Bats: From March to mid-November the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tail bats in North America takes up residence under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Each night around sunset, between 750,000 and 1.5 million bats make a mass exodus from their perches beneath the bridge to go hunting for bugs. There are several ways to watch these little night flyers as they head out on their expeditions. Below are my recommendations.
Lonestar Riverboat Cruise: At $10 per person, this is a fairly inexpensive way to get up close and personal with the bats, right in the sight lines of their departure. Hubby and I chose this cruise line because it is family owned and their website indicated that they support local charities. Otherwise, there did not seem to be much difference between them and the other cruise line on the lake, Capital Cruises.
We were not disappointed. Half an hour before the bats were supposed to leave, our riverboat took a jaunt around Lady Bird Lake before heading to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where we watched the tiny little bats drop from their perches and fly away. Both cruise lines are located along the lake just behind the Hyatt Hotel. We walked from the Four Seasons, across Congress Avenue Bridge, down the steps and west along the trail until we came to the Lone Star Riverboat dock. Located around 208 Barton Springs Road, it is .6 miles from the Four Seasons (1200 steps one way).
Walk along the lake trail: All along Lady Bird Lake there is a walking trail. On our last night in Austin, I took a walk with my friend Heather just in time to watch the bats leave for hunting. We were on the north side of the lake and caught great glimpses of bats swooping overhead. It is my understanding that the south side of the lake has an even better view of them, but I was perfectly happy with what we saw.
One recommendation I would make is to stand along the edge of the trail, out of the way of walkers and runners, and look up, along the edge of the trees hanging out over the water. Bats zoom and swoop effortlessly, as if hurled around the tree lines, so we had to keep our eyes open to the skies. If we blinked, we would have missed some. We also knew they were coming because they make a signature high-pitched “peep”. There were several people who sat up on the lawn off the trail and they said they didn’t see any bats, so it seems important to step up closer to the water and keep your eyes pointed toward the zipping blurs in the sky.
Bonus: While we were waiting for the bats to come out, we saw some animal that lives in the water–it looked like a beaver–swim to the shore and dive into the foliage along the lake, so you never know what you’re going to encounter when you’ve got your eyes open and Mother Nature is your guide.
This walk took us back behind the hotel and along the trail, about 100 feet from the bridge. We may have gotten 100 steps for that walk, but it is hard to calculate.
Texas State Capitol: Texans are known for doing things BIG and the state capitol is no different. According to the Texas State Preservation Board, it is “the largest in gross square footage of all state capitols and is second in total size only to the National Capitol in Washington, D.C.” It is built up on a hill and Congress Avenue was built such that, for two miles south of it, there is a direct-line view of this massive building.
Although Hubby and I did not take a tour of the inside, we did walk around the outside of it on several different occasions and enjoyed the beautiful, lush grounds. On the State Preservation Board website, there are pamphlets available for download for self-guided walking tours inside the building, as well as outside on the capitol grounds. It truly is an impressive structure.
The State Capitol Building is located at 1100 Congress Street, which is 1 mile from the Four Seasons hotel (2000 steps one way).
Treaty Oak: More than 500 years ago, a grove of trees stood in the area now known as Treaty Oak Park. Back then, it was considered a sacred meeting place for the Comanche and Tonkawa tribes. Today, only one tree of the original 14 remains. In 1927, the American Forestry Association proclaimed the tree to be the most perfect specimen of a North American tree. Before it was vandalized in 1989, its branches spanned 127 feet.
Thanks to the preservation and rehabilitation efforts of many, the tree, which was poisoned with a large amount of incredibly toxic poison and predicted to die as a result, survived and has even gone on to produce acorns again. It is a beautiful tree, thick in its natural state.
To see this 500 year old tree, go to Treaty Oak Park on Baylor Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue. The distance from the Four Seasons is 1.2 miles (2400 steps one way).
The Spa at Four Seasons: After walking all over town, Hubby and I decided to treat ourselves to massages. I also had a manicure and pedicure. The spa is cozy and relaxing. The changing rooms provide electronically locked lockers, and they have showers and a sauna. The treatment rooms I visited, along with the waiting area, all had luxurious floor-to-ceiling windows that brought in peaceful, natural light, as well as views of the overflowing gardens.
The treatments were just what we needed to unwind. My massage was the 80-minute Relaxation Massage with Janet. Hubby went with a more intense Deep Tissue massage. Both therapists coaxed the knots, aches, and pains from our bodies.
I met Pam for my manicure and pedicure. She did a great job of polishing my nails to a beautiful shine and somehow managed to clean up my cuticles without making them peel the next day. I don’t know how she did that, but I am deeply impressed!
Unfortunately, we did not get many steps for walking to the spa since it is on the lower level of the Four Seasons hotel, but given that we walked more than 10,000 steps a day while we were in Austin, I think a little treat was in order.
Austin is a city rich in culture, history, natural beauty, and innovation. For its size, it is fairly safe and is incredibly easy to explore on foot. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that a week is not long enough to see and do everything in this state capitol, but one visit was enough to convince me that it is worth returning to.
Do you have a favorite place to go or thing to do in Austin? If so, share the wealth in a comment below! I love hearing from my readers! You always amaze me with your insights and ideas.
When people think of Austin, they often think of music:
That’s because Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. With over 200 live music venues, music is spilling out from everywhere as you walk down the street. That soundtrack of life you’ve always wanted? It can pretty much happen in Austin.
Austin is not just the Live Music Capital of the World, it is the State Capital of Texas, so when people aren’t thinking about music, they might think of Austin in terms of this:
Lest I forget, however, football is a religion in Texas. So, it could be that when you think of Austin, this comes to mind:
It seems that everybody associates Austin with either music, sports, or politics, but did you know they have a pretty rocking art scene too? That’s what I went there to discover last week. What I found out was that a week is definitely not long enough to explore all the art that’s created in this very inspirational, innovative town.
Daisy Undercuffler, the highly connected and helpful concierge at the Four Seasons hotel where we stayed, put together a long list of galleries, museums, public art displays, and studios for me to visit during my stay. There was so much, in fact, that I only made it about halfway down her list!
I started my tour at the Blanton Museum of Art located on the University of Texas campus. Although this museum does not specialize in local artists, this was a good jumping off point. The Rapoport Atrium alone was worth going to check out for its Stacked Waters installation by Teresita Fernández.
The Blanton Museum was playing host to two traveling exhibits when I was there. The first, American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River School Painting has since moved on. As you can imagine from the title, this exhibit focused on the art of men and women who drew inspiration from the landscape, specifically that of the eastern United States, in the Hudson River Valley. I have always been a fan of Thomas Cole, the founder of this school of painting. His work relaxes me and takes me on the spiritual journey he intended, using light, peaceful rivers, and majestic trees to calm my soul. I had never known, however, how important that group of painters was to the environmental movement, as well as how influential they were on the National Parks System.
The second traveling exhibit, Go West! Representations of the American Frontier will be there until September 23, 2012. Like the Hudson River School of painting, painters from this group also demonstrated the changing landscape, people, and events of the West as it was taken over by the settlers.
My next stop on the tour was Gallery Shoal Creek, directed by Judith Taylor, whom I was told, was the person to talk to in order to learn about Austin art. Ms. Taylor was so kind to walk me through her gallery and talk to me about all the local artists her gallery represents. I particularly loved the art of Katie Maratta, who creates long pencil drawings of West Texas landscapes. The drawings are done on ribbons of paper one-inch high and from 12 inches to 51 inches long! The viewer must get up close to the tiny images, almost stepping into them. The result is this feeling of vast expansiveness so common in the flat land of West Texas. It’s like traveling without leaving the ground!
I can’t say enough good about Judy and Gallery Shoal Creek. She really made me feel welcome to Austin and gave me such a wealth of information to carry with me on my journeys around town. Those resources, along with the complete list I was given from Daisy at the Four Seasons, will be available in my next article, Walk Austin. Judy and Daisy work together, by the way, to curate the artwork found in the lobby and reception areas at the Four Seasons. After my tour, it was fun to walk around the lobby again and recognize the names of artists I had encountered throughout the day.
One of those artists was one I discovered at my next stop, the Davis Gallery + Framing. I spoke at length with Lisa Rogers, the Assistant Gallery Director. Like Judy, she was armed with a wealth of information about local art and artists. She took me around the gallery and introduced me to the stories of the people who created the art in front of us. I particularly loved the art by Orna Feinstein who creates 3D images using paper, fabric and acrylic. Although her style was completely different from that of Katie Maratta at the Gallery Shoal Creek, they both draw the viewer into their artwork to get up close and personal with it.
And that artist whose work I stumbled across in the lobby of the Four Seasons? His name is Philip Durst. The Davis Gallery represents him and has a nice collection of his work on view. He is a collagist whose works are unmistakable as he creates whimsical patterns with the pages of old law books and Dum Dum lollipop wrappers, bright cereal boxes, and other fun finds. His wife is an artist in her own right, creating beautiful quilts, and Mr. Durst’s work was inspired by the patterns he sees in his wife’s work. Knowing these things made it all the more fun to discover two of his collages hanging in the lobby of the Four Seasons when I returned from my visit with Lisa.
Judy and Lisa were the two heavy hitters on my tour that day. They were welcoming and fun to talk with about Austin art. When I left their galleries, I had a longing to visit the city more often so I could participate in such things as the West Austin Studio tour, which is this weekend (May 19-20, 2012), and the East Austin Studio tour, which is sometime in the fall.
By the time I left the Davis Gallery, I was filled to the brim with information. It was time to pull back a little and process everything. So, I chose to check out some public art on my list.
The Austin postcard is a mural painted on the side of the Roadhouse Relics store. It measures 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Roadhouse Relics specializes in handmade, custom neon signs, by the way. Pretty cool. Check out their website.
My next stop was the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue located at Auditorium Shores along Lady Bird Lake. Although he was not originally from Austin, his music and his support of the music community in Austin before he died makes him a treasured son of the city.
Before the day was over, there was one more place I had to go. I dragged Hubby to the Willie Nelson statue located on Willie Nelson Boulevard (previously known as 2nd Street). Mr. Nelson’s statue was unveiled just about a month ago. It sits proudly in front of the W Hotel, which shares the block with Moody Theater. This live music venue, which seats nearly 3000 people, plays host to the award winning Austin City Limits on PBS. All this is important to know because Willie Nelson was the very first artist to play on Austin City Limits back in 1974 when it went on air for the first time. Mr. Nelson has been a great influence and lent his support to Austin’s music scene throughout the decades.
For grins, this is my favorite Willie Nelson song. I think it must be the theme song for every travel blogger, no?
For more information about art in Austin, take a look at Aether, the online visual arts magazine Judith Taylor puts together in collaboration with other gallery owners and directors.
Art Austin is an online guide to Austin art. It has a comprehensive list, by month, of all the events happening throughout the year. You can also click on different gallery and studio names to learn more about them. It’s a great resource.
My Walking America series continues this weekend with more from Austin! Be sure to subscribe to this blog to receive notification when it comes out!
I find rain to be exhilarating. I associate it with splashing in puddles wearing brightly colored rain boots and the whimsy of spring flowers. It can be a trickster, catching you unawares without an umbrella, so that you arrive drenched like a dog just getting out of the lake. In these moments, it levels the playing field, making even the best coiffed among us into just another human being with wet hair. To my knowledge, although plenty have been reduced to humiliation by rain, no one has ever actually melted from it.
During our short time in Toronto in September 2011, we got to test this theory three times: once on the day we arrived, once when we were out running errands, and once when we were trying to get to a restaurant three miles away. Each time, Hubby seemed convinced we were either going to drown in the drops, or that the water was molton lava, because he worried and fretted the entire time we were splashing through the downpours. It was quite adorable, really, to see him so concerned about me. He looked for overhangs that we could walk under and asked me a thousand times, “Are you okay?”
I was. The streets were shiny, the lights above were softened, the colors of the flowers popped through the grayness of the day. The rain made a beautiful city even more beautiful.
Of course, Toronto isn’t all about rain. It is a city that luxuriates in diversity. Even the weather is diverse. What is it they say? If you don’t like the weather in Toronto, just wait 10 minutes. Its motto is “Diversity Our Strength” and everywhere you go there is evidence of all the cultures, peoples, and possibilities that make up Toronto. No wonder I love it there.
Where we stayed and why:
Two identical condos are for short-term rent by the same trustworthy owners, Troy and Maria Sedgwick, at a high rise building located at 30 Grand Trunk Crescent in Toronto. The condos are fully furnished. They both have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and great views of Toronto Island and Lake Ontario. I loved listening to the ferry boats coming in and out of the harbor nearby. You can also see Rogers Centre, the CN Tower, and Roundhouse Park from the windows and balconies.
Three key features which helped us decide on this rental were:
- a desk area with high-speed internet;
- a washer and dryer in the unit;
- and, of course, walkability to practically everything we wanted to do in the city.
The kitchen seemed well-equipped. I say “seemed” only because we really did not use it for much other than storing the food we bought. We never actually cooked there. It even comes with a Keurig coffee maker and supplies, but we ended up going out for coffee a couple of times a day.
One surprise bonus was that, just leaving the condo and walking to the elevator gave us about 100 steps each time. It adds up if you do it enough!
All step and mileage calculations listed below are based from the front door of the building to a particular location.
Groceries and other necessities:
Longo’s: This higher-end grocery store had everything we needed for our stay in Toronto, including a Starbucks for a quick morning coffee run.
Longo’s = 200 steps one way (.1 miles)
Convenience Store: At the street level of the building was a small convenience store where I bought an umbrella and we picked up soft drinks and juice. Because it is in the same building, it is hard to give the mileage, but I believe it was about 100 steps one way.
Starbucks: If we had had more time, we would have explored the quirky coffee places I have read about in Toronto. As it was, we got a little lazy and stuck with the Starbucks that was in Longo’s, which was the closest coffee we could find in the zombie-like state that is early morning.
Starbucks = 200 steps one way (.1 miles)
Here are two places I’ll go for coffee the next time I’m in Toronto:
Balzac’s: First of all, how can you see the name of the place and not at least secretly smile like an adolescent boy? I fell in love with it in Stratford, Ontario, which I have written about in another blog and will be writing about again very soon! I did not make it to the Toronto version in the Distillery District at 55 Mill Street in Building 60. It is definitely high up on the list of “must-dos” for next time.
Balzac’s = 3000 steps (1.5 miles)
Tequila Bookworm Cafe and Books: Located at 512 Queen Street West, this little cafe came to my attention after returning from Toronto.
Tequila Bookworm = 2820 steps (1.41 miles)
Enterprise Rental Car: We rented a car to drive out to Stratford, Ontario for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It was easy to return from the condo building because it was less than a quarter of a mile away at 200 Front Street West in Simcoe Place.
Enterprise Rental Car = 600 steps one way (.3 miles)
Scaramouche: In our nearly three weeks in Ontario, Scaramouche was a stand-out above all others. Located at 1 Benvenuto Place, it was our very favorite place to eat. The food was delicious and the service was some of the best we’ve ever had.
We learned about Scaramouche through one of those serendipitous moments travelers rely on. We happened to have been seated next to Morden Yolles, one of the partners of Scaramouche, when we were at a different restaurant in Stratford. We were also lucky to see him again when we visited his restaurant in Toronto.
On the evening we were to trek to Scaramouche, we encountered another downpour. A quarter of a mile into our walk, Hubby decided we needed a cab, so, after much strategizing during the rush hour rain, we managed to get a taxi to take us to the restaurant. Happily, by the time we finished eating and were full as Australian sheep ticks, as my dad would say, we were able to walk the 3 miles back to the condo, enjoying the different neighborhoods and parks as we went. As a result, this was my favorite evening in Toronto.
Scaramouche = 6200 steps one way (3.1 miles)
Volos: This Greek restaurant, located at 133 Richmond Street West, was also a favorite. Not only were we warmly welcomed, we were treated to the bright, bold flavors of a talented chef and staff. We savored the rich earthiness of grilled vegetable orzo and spanakorizo. I had the freshest Horiatiki (Greek) salad I have ever had outside of Greece. It had olives that practically burst with juiciness and feta that melted on my tongue. To top it all off, they had an espresso that had a pleasingly smooth aroma and flavor. For more about our experience at this restaurant, please visit another article I wrote about Volos.
Volos = 1400 steps one way (.7 miles)
Things to do:
Hippo Tours: I took the 90-minute city tour with this company, but I have learned they are not operating in Toronto anymore. If you’re in Vancouver, though, you might want to check them out!
With the purple hippos ambling toward Vancouver, allow me to recommend the other tour company I was considering if I hadn’t chosen the Hippo:
Toronto Tours: The Hop On Hop Off City Tour appealed to me because I could customize the tour to what I wanted to see and do, or, I could sit on the bus for 2 hours and catch it all at once. Rates for adults start right at $40US. Children are $20US. This tour picks up from a variety of locations. I chose the pick-up location closest to where we were staying.
Toronto Tours = 600 steps one way (.3 miles)
Toronto Eaton Centre: I am not a mall or shopping kind of person, but I know others make a sport out of it. So, if you’re jonesin’ for some shoppin’, Toronto Eaton Centre will set your cravings at ease. While we were in Toronto, we made the trek to Eaton Centre because it was where the Apple store was and Hubby needed something from there. They have arranged the mall such that, the higher floor you go, the higher the price tags. I thought that was pretty clever.
Toronto Eaton Centre = 2200 steps one way (1.1 miles)
Roundhouse Park, Rogers Centre, CN Tower: All three of these landmarks are just across the street from the condo building. The whole area was sort of magical to walk around at night with the way it was lit. Next time Hubby and I are going to stop into the Steamwhistle brewery located in Roundhouse Park for a tour.
Roundhouse Park, Rogers Centre, CN Tower = 1000 steps one way (.5 miles)
Nathan Phillips Square houses the modernist Toronto City Hall on one of its corners. We watched a moving memorial in this square, dedicated to those whose lives were lost and those who gave themselves in service during 9-11 in New York. It seemed always bustling with activity and is a great people-watching destination. Bonus: According to the National Geographic Traveler, if you visit Toronto in the winter, you can ice skate on the frozen reflecting pool in the square. How fun is that?
Nathan Phillips Square = 2000 steps (1 mile)
Queen’s Park: This is a lovely, lush park that I found to be delightfully quiet in the heart of such a grand city. It borders parts of the University of Toronto and is home to the Ontario Legislative Building. Free guided tours are available through the Legislative Building, if that is of interest. Call 416-325-7500 for more information.
Queen’s Park = 2800 steps (1.4 miles)
When I go back:
Royal Ontario Museum: If I could spend just one day in Toronto and do only one thing, this is where I would go. The mission of the ROM speaks to a passion of mine. It is “to build bridges of understanding and appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures and precious natural environments”. Its exhibits showcase a mixture of natural history and world cultures.
If I was there on a Friday night between April and late-June, I would go to the Friday Night Live events where special guests provide sneak peeks into exhibits and activities. You have to be 19 years or older to get in for those events. The cover charge is $8 for students with ID and $9 for everyone else. Members get in free.
ROM = 4200 steps one way (2.1 miles)
Distillery District: The culture of Toronto seems to have been distilled (pun intended) into one place, the Distillery District. There are not just historic breweries housed on these brick-lined streets, there are art galleries, cafes, theaters, restaurants, boutiques, and other facets of culture unique to Toronto. This is where lots of music and art festivals are held. Check the calendar for events happening during your visit to Toronto.
One of my favorite things to do is ride a Segway and you can do that here with a Segway Distillery Tour. Prices start at $69 per person and last 60 minutes. There are also shorter tours and walking tours available in the Distillery District.
Distillery District = 3000 steps one way (1.5 miles)
St. Lawrence Market: Go to their website and try not to drool. It’s almost impossible. This market, located at 92-95 Front Street East, was named the Number 1 Food Market in the World by the National Geographic. It seems practically brimming with local vendors selling local wares to locals.
St. Lawrence Market = 2000 steps one way (1 mile)
Canadian Opera Company: When we visited, the 2011/2012 season had not yet started, but we passed the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts quite often during our walks. It was dripping with gorgeous images of operas to come. The National Ballet of Canada performs in the Four Seasons Centre as well. I’d love to be in town for one of their shows. The Four Seasons Centre is located at 145 Queen Street West.
Four Seasons Centre = 1600 steps (.8 miles)