15. Long Beach, CA – I think Long Beach is still one of the well-kept secret gems of America. Sure, there are places around the city I would classify as ghetto sprawl, but, they are REALLY trying to make Long Beach into a hip and walkable city. The downtown has high rise condo and apartment towers, outdoor restaurants and cafes, a movie theater, hotels, a beautiful harbor, and even a bowling alley! It’s quite a nice place to visit… except for that horrible smog problem. On a personal side note, my photo of Long Beach was used in a CNBC article this week (also see page 7). Long Beach Photos
14. Oakland, CA – I get really tired of reading Oakland bashing on the Internets, especially when most people have never been there. The truth is, there are some fantastic neighborhoods in Oakland if you know where to look. The City is also doing a lot to encourage mixed-use development, especially near transit stations. Oakland has many diverse neighborhoods, some great food, and pretty good weather. Oakland would probably get a lot more *positive* attention if it did not have San Francisco to the west and Berkeley to the north. Oakland Photos
13. Madison, WI – I grew up just 2 hours from Madison, WI, and sadly did not see much of it until I was just about to move away from Illinois for the final time. What a beautiful downtown! I know that Madison has one of the best reputations for biking and walking of any city in the country. I can also say that the best beer I’ve ever had was from a microbrewery in downtown. The last time I was in Wisconsin, I briefly stopped in Madison and stumbled upon a fantastic Indian restaurant. If I get to spend more time in Madison in the future, I can see it easily creep up this list. At a minimum, I probably won’t go hungry or thirsty there! This photo (courtesy of Wade Johanson) is pretty much how I remember downtown: beautiful lights, a nice streetscape, and snow!
12. Austin, TX – I had really high expectations for my visit to Austin last year. And I learned one important thing… to add “for Texas” to the end of of the sentence “Austin is very walkable.” There are many great things about Austin: the nightlife, the high rise condos and apartments, bike paths, music, the funkiness of the city, etcetera. But, I still found it to be very car-centric and didn’t have the cozy feel that many East and West Coast cities have. I definitely think it’s worth visiting if you’re in Texas, because it’s the best city I’ve visited there. The flagship Whole Foods store alone is worth the visit–that place is amazing! Why does Austin top Madison on my list? Because of a) the weather; and b) I know it better. Austin Photos
11. Honolulu, HI – One of the most beautiful spots for a city I’ve ever been to… unfortunately the sprawl and auto-obsession sometimes distracts your attention away from the beauty a little too much. Nonetheless, there are walkable areas of the city. Especially the Waikiki area. Yes, it’s very touristy. But, they’ve done a great job making it more pedestrian-friendly. In addition, Honolulu does have a great bus system called… wait for it… The Bus! Don’t forget to stop by Leonard’s Bakery for some tasty malasadas. Honolulu Photos