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How to Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Illustration for article titled How to Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Sometimes it’s easy to become so jaded by your own city that you forget all it has to offer. Even though I’ve lived in NYC for 15 years, there are places I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’ve never been: like the Statue of Liberty. And the Empire State Building. And every chain restaurant in Times Square.


But now that the Winter of Doom is over and spring is finally here, I’m making a new commitment to myself. I’m going to explore my city like a tourist, and get some much-needed exercise in the process.

Fortunately, I have an awesome exercise buddy to help me track all those stairs climbed, avenues traversed, and school groups from Peoria dodged: my brand-new Fitbit Surge™, the fitness super watch that tracks my heart rate, steps taken, distance traveled, flights climbed, calories burned, and even tracks how well I’ve slept after trekking all over town.

Whether you’re just recovering from this winter’s blizzards, stepping outside into perfect Chicago springtime, or living the California dream as usual (oh, shut up), you probably have corners of your city still to explore. So put on your sneakers, grab your guidebook, and make sure you have your Fitbit. (The choice to also strap on a fanny pack is, of course, a personal one.)

Tourist Tip #1: Walk the Waterfront

When I first moved to Brooklyn and paid an amount that now makes me weep for a rambling three-bedroom in Greenpoint, I used to jog along the waterfront clutching a tiny can of pepper spray. These days I’m more likely to run it with a bottle of artisanal seltzer: what was once a long stretch of boarded-up factories and crumbling industrial buildings is now a swank 14-mile greenway-in-progress that literally begs you to lace up your yuppiest jogging shoes.

Whether it’s the Atlantic, the Pacific, a river, or a Great Lake, it’s as likely that your city is built on an attractive body of water as it is that you never go there. But why should the tourists get all the scenery, tan lines, and taco trucks? Next time the sun comes peeking out from behind the clouds, wear your lightweight Fitbit Flex, grab a friend, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of your local waterfront.

Below are a few of the best waterfront walks in cities across the US. All of them can get you on your way to achieving your recommended 10,000 daily steps — or even well beyond — so challenge yourself to cover as much ground as you can, using the Fitbit of your choice (whether it’s the go-anywhere Zip or the sexy Charge) to keep track of your progress.


Tourist Tip #2: Climb to a View

Every time I take the F train into Manhattan, I try to position myself so I can see the Statue of Liberty during the brief above-ground stretch between 4th Avenue and Carroll Street. Her majestic silhouette (the same one my great-grandparents saw when they arrived on a boat at the turn of the 20th Century) reminds me of how hard my ancestors struggled to create the life of privilege and opportunity I have today – meaning I should probably spend less time posting cat pictures and more time doing my actual job.


With such a deep, personal connection to a world-famous landmark that’s less than two miles from my home, you’d think I’d have actually visited, right? Well, up until this spring, you’d think wrong (because Liberty Island is for tourists, and bleccch), but today I booked my ticket on that ferry and plan to climb all the way to the crown in honor of the Trachtenburgs, Rosenbergs, and Feigenbaums who came before me. In addition to tracking my heritage I’ll also be logging my steps taken, floors climbed, elevation gained, and heart rate with my Fitbit Surge (plus monitoring incoming phone calls and text notifications, because New Yorkers are nothing if not multi-taskers). For those who don’t need built-in GPS, the Fitbit Charge HR can also track your heart rate and steps during your climb in a slimmer form.

You, too, can experience your city from the top of a climbable tall thing with a great view: through the magic of crowd-sourcing, social media, and friends in scattered places, I’ve compiled a few of the best below.

  • If you’re in San Francisco, check out Twin Peaks. From Castro and Market, it’s four miles. That will get you about 8,000 steps and take you 700 feet off the ground.
  • If you’re in LA, climb the Hollywood Sign. A round trip from the trail head will get you a whopping 26,000 steps, with an elevation gain of 1,098 feet.
  • If you’re in Atlanta, hike the Stone Mountain Trail. It’s a mile to the top and back, or approximately 4,000 steps, with an elevation gain of 660 feet.
  • If you’re in New York, visit the Statue of Liberty. It’s 22 stories and 354 steps to the crown: maybe I’ll see you there!
  • If you’re in San Diego, climb the eight flights to the top of the California Tower. 164 steps may not sound like a lot, but your heart rate will say different when you check it at the top.

Tourist Tip #3: Walk a Museum Mile

New York’s Museum Mile cozies up to Central Park on our city’s tony Upper East Side. Lined with venerable institutions including the Met and the Guggenheim, it’s a must-see for any visitor to NYC. Naturally, I almost never go there because it’s A) far from Brooklyn and B) you probably know how I feel about tourists by now.


But this spring is different for me: I already got in my 10,000 steps at the Met, and the Cooper-Hewitt is next on my list. With urban renewal booming and many cities receiving grants to revitalize their arts districts, there are more opportunities to immerse yourself in art than ever before… all while getting in some fresh air.

This weekend, instead of your usual seven-hour boozy brunch, why not get the crew together to peruse your local arts district or walk your museum mile? Every step will count toward your daily goal. By the time sunset rolls around you’ll feel fit and cultured. And the more culture you decide to take in, the more steps you’ll get.


Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum, the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul


Dallas: Dragon Street Design District

Artizen Fine Arts, SMINK, Glasshouse, Muzeion

New York: The Museum Mile

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, The Cooper-Hewitt, El Museo del Barrio, the Jewish Museum


Washington, DC: The National Mall

The Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. monuments, Smithsonian museums


Baltimore: Station North

Charles Theatre, Single Carrot Theatre, Glass Mind Theatre, Copycat Building

Portland: Alberta Arts District

Antler, Guardino Gallery, Screaming Sky Gallery, Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books

Whether you’re looking to shape up for summer or simply need an excuse to get out of your living room, making like a tourist in your own city is a perfect way to feel like you’re getting the most for your (likely astronomical) rent money. Wearing a Fitbit won’t just give you a new perspective on your own town – it will also make your efforts to stay healthy more rewarding than ever.

Anna Schumacher is a freelance writer and the author of the YA doomsday series End Times, out now from Razorbill Books.


This post is a sponsored collaboration between Fitbit and Studio@Gawker.