Boston: Take a tour of one of America's most walkable cities

It's the next best thing to being there  Credit: J.P. DeLauri/
Having become Californianized after living there nine years, it's great to go back home to city where driving a car is a headache and your two feet are the most efficient way to get around.

Boston is known for being one of the most walkable cities in America, and one of the worst for driving. Most people who live here use the car only to escape for the weekend.

You can get almost anywhere here on foot, and if your feet get sore, the subway called the T" can finish the job. So "pahk the cahr" and come along for a decent low-impact workout.

Winters in full swing, but thats no excuse to stay inside. Its 20 degrees, but with a trench coat, scarf, hat and gloves, Ill power around the Back Bay to combat the East Coast chill.

Beacon Hill will be the starting point. From the front of the Boston Common on Beacon Street Ill make my way down the brick sidewalk, passing stately colonial-style homes.

Eventually I come across a place where everybody knows my name, the Bull & Finch Pub. The bar was the inspiration for the NBC hit series "Cheers." Here youll run into a bunch of slow-walkers gawking and taking pictures. I thread my way through this wide-eyed bunch like a running back heading for a touchdown.

The Arthur Fiedler Foot Bridge will take me over Storrow Drive and onto the banks of the Charles River. This is a haven for runners, walkers and inline skaters, and it's a great place to hang out in the summer.

The footbridge lands you in front of the Hatchshell, where Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops for decades. It's home to one of the nations biggest July Fourth parties, where the Pops play before the fireworks show. In the background, you can see the red line of the T arching over the river toward Cambridge. This scene was made famous in the 1980s on the hit show "St. Elsewhere."

Cruising along the river, I can really pick up the pace. With Cambridge on the right, the Back Bay neighborhood on the left and downtown behind me, a unique view pops up: The Hancock and Prudential towers stick up out of the rows of brownstone and red-brick homes with about two or three blocks in between. Each home has a unique Victorian architecture, many with tiny front yards that run along tree-lined sidewalks. The residents range from college students to millionaires. From this perspective it looks like a small suburban neighborhood with two skyscrapers.

Twenty minutes and about two miles later, MIT is in clear view. Ill take the Mass. Avenue Bridge over the Charles that leads right into the campus. The walk back over the bridge offers a splendid view of the golden dome of the State House nestled in atop Beacon Hill, with downtown in the background.

The Bunker Hill monument, a symbol of victory over the Redcoats, is in the far distance in the predominantly Irish neighborhood of Charlestown. To the right, Boston University and the lights of Fenway Park are barely visible. The winds are whipping up on the Charles, so its time to find some caffeine and warm up for the home stretch.

In the Back Bay, I find a Starbucks near the corner of Newbury Street and Mass. Ave. Its here that youll begin to feel the pulse of the city. Shoppers, street performers, homeless and punk-rock wannabes fill these eclectic few blocks.

Heading back toward the Boston Common down Newbury, the scene gets a little more refined. Upscale restaurants, sidewalk cafes and pricey art galleries dot the street. History blends in with nouveau riche as I pass Delucas Market (established in 1903), then the Armani store that arrived in the mid '90s. My pace is slowed a bit from the pedestrian traffic, but Ill pick it up shortly in the Common.

I make a right onto Hereford Street, where the final leg of the Boston Marathon takes place: a left on Boylston, and then a few blocks to the front of the Boston Public Library, where about 10,000 runners and walkers will finish the 104th running April 17.

I imagine its 1979. Im Bill Rogers, with a sizeable lead and three blocks to go. I Pass the Pru and the Lenox Hotel, the crowd is roaring as I blaze into Copley Square for my third title.

Back onto Newbury Street Ill head into the Public Gardens. Since theres more space here, Ill pick up the pace and whiz by the ponds where the swan boats float in the summer. After passing a few statues of Revolutionary War heroes, Im on the Common.

A word to the wise: Do not play the three-card monty! I once lost a hard-earned 40 bucks in bar tips while in college.

The next day, my friend at work, who grew up in the rough area of Roxbury, explained that theres actually a fourth card involved.

How come I saw people win? I asked.

Those guys are friends of the dealer," he said. "Theyre playing with their own money!

With the skyline in the forefront, its all uphill from here. Up Beacon Hill, past the outdoor skating rink toward the State Capitol. Up the steps of the Statehouse, Ill take in the view, call it a day and tackle the rest of the city tomorrow.

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