While the Kansas City metro as a whole is admittedly car-dependent, downtown Kansas City, Mo. is a walker’s paradise. Everyday retail items, groceries, nightlife and even health care providers are just steps away. Walk Score.com illustrates this in the green areas of the Walk Score Map, shown at right.
If you don’t feel ready to give up your four-wheeled steel cage quite yet, consider these tips for navigating downtown on foot:
Proper Attire. If you can make it 10 blocks in heels or dress shoes without complaining, more power to you. But for the majority of us, comfortable shoes are key. I learned quickly that even my two-block commute to work was exponentially more enjoyable without foot pain, so on days when I need the extra height, I pack flip flops or ballerina flats for the road. (Oversized purses and messenger bags also come in handy on these days. As well as a plastic grocery sack that keeps whatever happened to stick to the bottom of my shoes contained.)
Dressing in layers is also the way to go. A mild day might feel chilly in the shade and steamy in the sun. And when your blood starts pumping after five blocks at a brisk pace, you’ll be ready to shed your jacket and sweater and show off your favorite new tee.
Timing. If you’re on a schedule, it can be hard to know exactly how long you should give yourself to arrive at your destination. The best option is to do a test run before you’re actually on the clock, but if you can’t squeeze that in, you can also take advantage of the Google Maps walking mode. Google’s speed calculations vary, and I can’t tell you much about their algorithm, but it seems to assume a foot speed of roughly 15 to 20 minutes per mile.
Motivation. Consider the motivation for your stroll. Are you trying to minimize your carbon footprint? Maybe you haven’t made it to the gym in a while, and you need to get in a workout before indulging in happy hour bevs and bites. Or you might feel like you’re embarking on an adventure, discovering architecture or artwork that’s easily missed through a car window. Or perhaps you want to document the beauty of our urban oasis through a camera lens and share via social media. Find the inspiration that works for you.
Awareness. Keep your wits about you on your walks. While I rarely feel unsafe walking around town, it never hurts to be vigilant, knowing who else is walking nearby, paying attention to drivers who might be too distracted to notice you, or keeping an eye out for an uneven sidewalk that could trip you up.
Friendly Disposition. When you pass someone on your journey, don’t be afraid to make eye contact and smile. I often cross paths with out-of-towners visiting our city for conventions or sporting events, and a nod and a smile immediately turns me into an ambassador for KC. It reinforces our friendly Midwest reputation and gives tourists an opening to ask for directions or recommendations.
Playlist. I’ll admit that what I miss most about my regular car trips is rocking out to my favorite tunes. Fortunately this is easily remedied with a smart phone, headphones and a playlist that’s available offline. It’s like giving your life its own soundtrack. One caveat: consider turning down the volume or popping out one earbud so you aren’t completely oblivious to the world around you.
Snacks. The fat kid in me wholeheartedly believes that a trip of any sort (by plane, by car or by legs) is better with food. Grab a granola bar, an apple or a coconut water, and fuel up while you burn.
A Solid Back-Up Plan. The clouds opened up and it’s now pouring down rain…you twisted an ankle…you have to be somewhere unexpected in a hurry. Make sure you have a plan B. Carry a spare $1.50 for bus fare, download the Uber app or know which friend owes you a favor.