My husband and I walk every morning together with our dog Lukas. Some mornings are hurried or busy because of work that awaits us when we return. Some are impacted by the sounds of traffic along a busy street. Even so, our morning walks are a source of joy to me. This time with my two favorite mammals is a blessing.
My favorite walks, though, are the quiet ones–usually on a Sunday–when there is little traffic and the sun is shining, but not hot. These walks carry with them a heightened sense of happiness because they allow us to hear the birds and provide time to ease into the day.
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.
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 email@example.com, 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 tresunique, 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 Andronicusand 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!
Recess is Back and KEEN challenges you to get out and play for at least 10 minutes on September 14th. Take a photo of your playtime, upload it to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag of #TAKE10, and you could win a pair of KEEN shoes!
A new winner will be announced every hour on that day from midnight to midnight on September 14th!
How will you get your recess on? Inspire others with your ideas in the comment section below for a chance to be featured in JP+C’s Top Ten Ways to Recess, to be published on this blog September 13th!
The FitBit Ultra wireless tracker is one of the ways a walking traveler can keep up with their steps each day. Personally, I chose this tracker because it is the easiest for me to use. I am absent-minded when it comes to these things and with the FitBit I rarely have to think about it. Every time I take a walking tour, climb a set of stairs, or walk more quickly from one place to another, that information gets wirelessly uploaded onto my FitBit Ultra Dashboard, which is then available to me online. If I want to keep track of calories, blood pressure, or glucose, I can add that information onto my dashboard as well.
Since having mentioned the FitBit in previous articles, I have received several questions about traveling with it. Below are four tips for traveling with this fitness tracker.
1. Remove the FitBit when going through Security at the airport.
While you can take your FitBit on an airplane, you must remove it, along with pretty much every other accessory, when you go through Security. I tend to clip it on my shirt the day of travel so I have more chance of remembering to take it off. The one time I forgot to remove it, it was visible to the Security official who reminded me to take it off before I got to the scanner. Because it was known to the officials, it wasn’t any trouble to remove it, stick it into the plastic bin with my shoes, and walk on through Security. Hubby uses the belt holster, so he takes off the whole kit and caboodle–belt, FitBit and holster–to put into a plastic bin before walking through the scanner.
2. Don’t forget to pack your base charging station.
Hubby and I take our computers with us when we travel, so we take one charger, plug it into a USB port, and take turns charging our FitBits whenever they start to get low on juice. I tend to be lazier about it than Hubby, so I charge mine about every two weeks, or when the website tells me the battery is low. This also uploads all the information to the FitBit website, in case I haven’t come near the base charging station in a while.
3. Don’t get FitBit wet!
FitBit is not waterproof and, according to friends of ours who have tested the theory, swimming with the FitBit will kill it. Another friend accidentally washed her FitBit and it died soon after. Just like with swimming, a dunk in the washer will destroy it.
According to the FitBit website, heavy sweat can also impact it, so when you know you’re taking a long walking tour on the hottest day of the year, be sure to wear your FitBit somewhere on the outside part of your clothes, not up against your skin. Hubby’s favorite place to keep his FitBit is on the belt holster that came in the box. My favorite place is on a pocket on my shorts or skirt. If I don’t have pockets, I attach it to the neck of my shirt.
4. Change the time zone when you travel–or not!
The FitBit tracker does not automatically change the time zone when you travel because it doesn’t have a geographic tracker built into it. If you want to make sure your FitBit is on the same zone as you are, be sure to log in to your FitBit Dashboard and tell it where you are. Hubby actually likes not changing the time zone when we travel within the United States or Canada because he says it gives him extra time each day to get in his steps when we travel to the East Coast from the West. For example, if his FitBit is set to Arizona time but he is in New York, that means that when it is midnight in New York, it is only 9pm in Arizona, so he has three “bonus” hours to get his steps in if it has been a low-step day.
Hopefully these little tidbits will help you travel with your FitBit tracker. Be sure to ask any other questions you may have about it in the Comments section below. If you have your own tips for traveling with a FitBit, add those too!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 AmericaSeries 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!