Walking around a neighborhood is the best way to get to know it. Sadly, sidewalks are not as fashionable today as they were in the past so neighborhood walking can be something of a challenge, particularly when you through in gated or walled communities. Fortunately, there are still places where sidewalks exist and they lead to some wonderful discoveries.
Strolling down the sidewalk in an urban area is fascinating, especially early in the morning when the city is still waking up. Amazingly, in some places, like the French Quarter of New Orleans, time-honored traditions like sweeping and washing the sidewalk in front of your home or business persist. Once a commonplace practice, sweeping and washing sidewalks has become a thing of the past in many urban centers. Of course, people aren’t dumping chamber-pots out of windows much anymore either so the need for a daily scrubbing (except maybe along Bourbon St. where party excesses prevail) has probably declined too. What’s great about keeping the sidewalk washing tradition alive is that it lets neighbors (and early rising visitors) get to know one another. Smiles, nods and casual good mornings are the norm during the morning sweep making it one of the best times to explore this New Orleans neighborhood even though few places are open for business yet. Hint: it’s also a great time to discover where the locals go for coffee and breakfast!
The water theme continues in neighborhoods outside the urban core. In fact, it’s a little surprising how many man-made lakes there are in suburbia. There are lakes nestled in neighborhoods around the U.S. from the desert southwest to the midwestern plains and of course all along the coasts.
One of the great things about walking around neighborhood lakes is the friendly atmosphere. These are places where residents exercise, play and enjoy their pets. They are also great places to experience local wildlife from birds to fish. Not all neighborhood lakes allow fishing and some that do are “catch and release” (some lakes are reclaimed water so you probably wouldn’t want to eat anything you caught). Many birds are migratory so the species you see can vary by season. Small mammals from squirrels to rabbits also make their home near lakes but be careful, such easy pickings can also attract predators. Coyotes are not an uncommon sight along the lakes and canals of the southwest. The blend of city and nature offers walkers some surprising opportunities from spotting wild turkeys and javelina to experiencing a wide range of local trees and plants.
If you really want to get to know a place, get out and wander around the neighborhood. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your neighborhood or just one you’re visiting. Pull on some walking shoes and see where the sidewalk takes you. You might be surprised by what you discover.