Hiking does not require access to forest trails or mountaintops, nature preserves or valley fields. These are all great places for a trot through nature, but cities can offer some of the many same advantages when hiking with the kids.
Commune with nature. The right route through a city can offer beautiful neighborhood gardens, grassy parks and paths through trees and brush.
Exercise. No matter where you are, walking is a great form of exercise and a fantastic way to burn some energy. If your route takes you to a look-out point above the city, those little legs (and yours) will even build some muscle along the way.
Bond as a family. Getting outside without the distraction of electronics, tv, and toys provides some of the best family bonding opportunities. It doesn’t matter whether you’re forging a trail among the trees or cruising along sidewalks, alleys and stairways, it’s all time spent together.
Entertain the kids. City treks offer so much to look at. Kids can keep an eye out for cool cars, beautiful flower patches, pets hanging out in windows and on porches, and local schools (ask them how a school you pass by looks different from their own). Being out and about also shows little ones the city from a different perspective.
A recent hike to the lookout above our neighborhood offered a view onto the rooftop of our daughter’s school, a tower near where we used to live, and the retro neon sign of a theater by our local metro stop. Plus, we had to climb several staircases and traverse a spiral ramp to get there.
City hikes also offer some added benefits that you won’t get out in the woods:
Explore a local neighborhood. Following a new route may find you walking down streets and past stores, homes and cafes you’ve never seen or visited before.
Take in the city views. While it’s fun to explore a city at street level among the buildings, finding your way to a high point offers a completely different perspective. Climb to the top of a hill and challenge everyone to find a city monument, the hotel or house your staying in, or a local school or playground you’ve passed by.
Change up the norm. We all slip into our usual weekend routines. I find that living in the city we don’t often go for walks that do not have an ultimate purpose. A recent hike from our house to a nearby lookout was a great deviation from our usual weekend habits.
Learn fun and crazy facts. Of course, you can come up with fun facts about animals, trees and flowers. But, I’m willing to bet that passing by a house that’s had cars crash into three times over the years due to its unfortunate location at the bottom of a steep street (True story! House – obviously fixed – pictured below!) will perk up little ears even more.
So next time you find yourself in an urban setting, whether for vacation, a day trip or because it’s home, turn your perception of hiking on its ear. Head out in the “wild” city streets and do some trailblazing of a different kind.