What better typifies the Midwest than walking down Main Street in the summer to buy a cone at the local ice cream shop? Idyllic as it may sound, there are a lot of places where that scene is possible — and where you can pick up your dry cleaning and some groceries on the way home.
Which are the most walkable neighborhoods in the Midwest? As it turns out, most of them are in Chicago … but that’s no fun. Instead, we decided to look at mid-sized cities, ones that have a population under 300,000, but are large enough to have neighborhoods over 1,000 people. Neighborhoods that hit both marks made our rankings.
As for the age-old question of what qualifies as the Midwest, we went with this from Bill Rankin at Radical Cartography. (Sorry Kentucky, not quite!)
1. Downtown Ann Arbor, MI — Walk Score 94.1
Adjacent to the University of Michigan campus, and in one of America’s classic college towns, downtown Ann Arbor is Redfin’s most walkable mid-sized Midwest neighborhood. Long known as the place to be before and after Wolverine games at the Big House, the neighborhood also has cultural spots like Michigan Theater and the Hands-on Museum for kids. For suds and eats, try the Arbor Brewing Company or The Blue Tractor. Or, for the best deli food you’ll ever have, venture a few blocks north to Zingerman’s.
2. Heartside, Grand Rapids, MI — Walk Score 93.8
The Heartside district within downtown Grand Rapids has it all, from high-end dining at six.one.six to the too-cool-for-school dive-bar atmosphere at Stella’s Lounge. There’s culture at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, family fun at the children’s museum and Griffins hockey at Van Andel Arena. And did we mention that Grand Rapids is known as “Beer City”? Walk from Founder’s Brewery to HopCat to Grand Rapids Brewing Company to B.O.B.’s Brewery, no problem.
“The high rises just north of Fulton Street, overlooking the Grand River, offer the type of in-city amenities like a 24-hour doorman, and an in-building fitness center and pool that are hard to find in other areas of Grand Rapids,” said Redfin real estate agent Kent Selders. “For those looking for single-family homes, nearby Heritage Hill has some appealing, historically significant options.”
3. Downtown St. Paul, MN — Walk Score 92.1
Occasionally viewed as the lesser of the Twin Cities, St. Paul has put a lot of effort into reviving its downtown. Between the new CHS Field for the Saints, the Xcel Energy Center, the farmer’s market, the Fitzgerald Theater and classic dining spots like Mickey’s, downtown St. Paul is now far more than just office workers. “While condos are the only housing type in downtown St. Paul, you have a range of options, as far as size, amenities and style go,” said Redfin real estate agent Dan Caudill. “For someone who wants to walk to work and be in the heart of it all, living downtown has never been so appealing.”
4. Downtown Cincinnati, OH — Walk Score 92.0
“Downtown Cincinnati is very much a downtown,” said Redfin real estate agent Trina Walton. “However, like many downtowns across the country, it’s being revitalized and made into a pedestrian-friendly, hip place to be after working hours. You’ll find bars, restaurants, easy access to the Reds and Bengals, and Smale Riverfront Park just a short walk away. If you’re looking to buy in the neighborhood, you’ll find condos in gorgeous historic buildings.”
5. Downtown Madison, WI — Walk Score 91.5
“Madison is nestled between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, so it’s always had a walkable downtown that is fresh with bars, restaurants and boutique shops,” said Redfin real estate agent Brian Callahan. “People enjoy roaming around the weekend farmer’s market on the square, while State Street always provides tons of entertainment for people of all walks of life. The University of Wisconsin has a large presence in the city, and its facilities are easy to access via walking or biking. Some local favorite activities include walking around downtown, grabbing some ice cream from Babcock Hall and relaxing at the Union Terrace with an adult beverage.”
6. Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, OH — Walk Score 91.0
“One of the oldest, urban historic districts in the country, Over-the-Rhine still has many buildings from the 19th and early 20th century,” said Redfin real estate agent Trina Walton. “The neighborhood is big enough and old enough that different parts have distinct flavors, whether you’re in The Gateway Quarter, Brewery District or North of Liberty Street. The Cincinnati Streetcar will be opening in September – it will help residents easily get from one hub of activity to another, as well as downtown. As far as housing goes, there’s a nice mix of condos, single family homes and multi-unit buildings, at a variety of price points.”
7. East Hills, Grand Rapids, MI — Walk Score 86.0
The East Hills Council of Neighbors has advocated for better parks, promotion of its business district and redevelopment of derelict buildings – and it’s worked! Anchored by Brewery Vivant, the main shopping and business district is located in the Cherry Hill Neighborhood on Cherry Street. Despite its small size and residential character, the East Hills group of neighborhoods has approximately 200 businesses, making it easy to walk to what you need.
“You’ll find predominately single-family homes in the East Hills neighborhoods,” said Redfin real estate agent Kent Selders. “And the neighborhood is becoming popular, so among the few listings available, buyers need to act fast. That said, for buyers interested in fixer-uppers, there are still opportunities on that front. If you’re willing to be patient and put in some work after you buy, you can find a deal.”
8. Downtown Fargo, ND — Walk Score 85.5
Whether it’s enjoying the banks of the nearby Red River, taking in a flick at Fargo Theater or having a drink at Bismarck Tavern, there’s plenty to do in and around downtown Fargo. And it appears the city is becoming even more walkable, with mixed-used development going up on University Drive. And, talk about friendly: the neighborhood has ‘street corner ambassadors’ helping people find what’s hot.
9. Downtown Bloomington, IN — Walk Score 85.3
Adjacent to Indiana University, downtown Bloomington is always hopping. Anchored by Courthouse Square, and home to a surprisingly large farmer’s market, Bloomington has a lot to offer. Residents have an amazingly varied (and high-quality) set of restaurants, ranging from Turkuazcafe to The Irish Lion Pub to Laughing Planet burritos. You can also find Uplands Brewery, Indiana’s oldest micro-brewer. The plethora of art galleries and the monthly First Fridays are just icing on the cake.
10. Downtown Sheboygan, WI — Walk Score 85.2
By far the smallest town to have a neighborhood on the list, downtown Sheboygan sits along the Sheboygan River and is walkable to Harbor Centre marina on Lake Michigan. For those who love to sail or want to live near where they dock their boat, this is a great option. Downtown also has a variety of restaurants, the Kohler Arts Center and the Above and Beyond Children’s Museum, making it highly walkable.