A city hike is an explorative walk through urban areas, and there’s no better way to enjoy Spring’s fleeting beauty, whether in your home city or while abroad.

I love seeing this history of a city through it's various layers of buildings, paint, scaffolding.
I love seeing this history of a city through it’s various layers of buildings, paint, scaffolding.

Jim and I started using the term “city hike” when we lived in downtown Salt Lake City and some of our Sunday afternoon strolls morphed into something slightly more intense.

Often, there is no set destination or predetermined length to a city hike. Instead, it’s more about having a mind set for exploring and following intuitions. On past city hikes we’ve followed our curiosity into abandoned and partially demolished buildings, discovered intimate nooks and alleyways, and found incredible cityscape views. We’ve also discovered scenic shortcuts, interesting historic placards, gorgeous vegetation, etc. Going for city hikes is now one of our favorite ways to enjoy the environments where we live and travel.

A couple night’s ago, I took advantage of being on reserve at JFK by going for a more-than-eight-mile city hike in Manhattan. The weather was absolutely perfect and the hustle and bustle of the city was thumping to the beat of sweet spring.

Unplanned city hike through Manhattan, NYC on April 15th 2014
Unplanned city hike through Manhattan, NYC on April 15th 2014

Interesting modern synagogue (above) sandwiched between more typical NYC architecture. 49 White street:

Interesting modern synagogue sandwiched between more typical NYC architecture, near Broadway and White street.

Spur of the moment dining is often a part of my city walks. One dollar pizza: classic NY tradition still going strong. 381 Broadway:

Spur of the moment dining is often a part of my city walks. One dollar pizza — classic NY tradition still going strong.

City hikes often involve taking the time to notice the oddities around you, and the scene below was an interesting bit of visual irony for the city that never sleeps. I wanted to ask him what he was doing but didn’t because I didn’t want to wake him. Was it performance art? A guy making a statement or joke? Or something else entirely? 520 Broadway.

City hikes often involve taking the time to notice the oddities around you — this was an interesting visual irony for the city that never sleeps. I wanted to ask him what he was doing but didn't because eI didn't want to wake him — was it performance art? A guy making a statement or joke? or something else entirely...

When I’m on a city hike, I purposely keep my eyes open to try and see all the small beautiful things I often don’t have time to notice every day, like this decorative Art Noveau pediment over a doorway in SoHo. 611 Broadway.

When I'm on a city hike, I purposely keep my eyes open to try and see all the small beautiful things I often don't have time to notice every day, like this decorative Art Noveau pediment over a doorway in SoHo.

Walking can work up an appetite, so when I saw this Spanish-styled churros con chocolate shop, I went with my gut and tried it out. 284 Mulberry Street.

Walking can work up an appetite, so when I saw this Spanish-styled churros con chocolate shop, I went with my gut and tried it out.

Defunct NYCPD headquarters turned apartments. 240 centre Street:

Defunct NYCPD headquarters turned apartments at 240 centre Street.

Little Italy:

Little Italy, NYC

Chinatown:

Chinatown NYC

I love to go on city hikes that transition from daylight into night. 210 Elizabeth Street, Nolita:

I love to go on city hikes that transition from daylight into night. 210 Elizabeth Street, Nolita.

I love finding a good place to do some low-key people watching when I want a break. Union Square:

I love finding a good place to do some low-key people watching when I want a break. Union Square.

City hikes put me into a different frame of mind, and even super iconic buildings like the Empire State Building can be seen with fresh eyes:

City hikes put me into a different frame of mind, and even super iconic buildings like the Empire State Building can be seen with fresh eyes.

1369 Broadway:

1369 Broadway

Times Square:

Times Square

Two of New York’s most beautiful buildings, Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building:

Two of New York's most beautiful buildings Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building.

Exploring the interior of buildings can be really fun too, and a nice way to take a break from the elements. Grand Central Terminal:

Exploring insides of buildings can be really fun too, and a nice way to take a break from the elements. Grand Central Terminal.

5 hours, 9 miles, many shops, a handful of parks and eateries later, I finally decide to end my city hike. And of the best parts about city hikes is that it’s usually pretty easy to take public transit back, or go in a loop so that you don’t have to back track.

5 hours, 9 miles, many shops, a handful of parks and eateries later, I finally decide to end my city hike — one of the best parts about city hikes is that it's usually pretty easy to take public transit back, or go in a loop so that you don't have to back track.

— Laura Rowley

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

9 comments

  1. Love this!! Just spent the last few days traipsing all over Charleston doing the same – a fabulous way to see things and the best part – mostly free!! Mostly because like you I need the occasional food stop 🙂

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