Favorites on foot: Five great urban walks [Fitness & Health]

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This article appears in the March 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

By Nina Walfoort

Walking is the bargain basement of the fitness world. It’s easy, affordable and doesn’t require fancy equipment. “All you need is pair of good shoes, motivation and an interesting place to walk,” says Angela Hollingsworth, who led walking groups for years as a health educator for Metro Louisville.

Hollingsworth usually took groups to the scenic paths through Shawnee and Chickasaw parks. And virtually all of the Metro Parks offer great places to roam, with their curves, hills and terrain changes protected from street traffic and noise.

But it’s not necessary to drive to a park to find a fantastic walk. Many of us have paths right outside our door. In Crescent Hill, my route up Frankfort Avenue to the Louisville Water Co. reservoir and back is a well-beaten trail for local fitness fans, dog walkers and even a group of children who hike to school each morning with their parents. But for those who don’t have sidewalks out front of their houses or may be looking to spice up their regimens, we found some wonderful walks in fresh places.

Our criteria: Sidewalks or paths must be safely segregated from traffic; the route must form a loop that doesn’t require doubling back; visual interest and variety is essential; and bonus points are awarded for a place to stop for a snack or cup of coffee.

All of these walks are between one and three miles long.


4. Downtown:   The Water Features Walk

There is no shortage of charming diversions when walking downtown — the streetscape is a living lecture on the history, architecture and urban development of Louisville. But it can also be a hard and hot place when the weather warms up, so this tour offers a cool-down by taking you past notable water features in the downtown core. The sight and sound of water gives respite from the heat, and if the illusion is not enough, you can actually feel the spray at a few of these venues.

The tour is anchored by the downtown’s locally crafted water sculpture — the embossed glass fountain installed, fittingly, outside the Louisville Water Co. at Third and Chestnut streets. The subtly textured glass panels created by local artist Fred diFrenzi play with the light and create magical effects throughout the day. Start here, walk a block west and make your way up Fourth Street before zigzagging (see map) to the beautiful water garden behind the Muhammad Ali Center at 144 N. Sixth St.  Following this route you pass four fountains as well as the water wall that cascades outside the Humana Building entryway at Fifth and Market.

The steps to the Ali Center add a little workout to the walk and the fountain in back, with its pastel-lit columns, is best viewed near sunset. Be sure to take the steps to the second level for a gorgeous glimpse of the river and the Venetian-blind-style water feature at the top. My favorite is actually the step-down canal of flowing water connecting the two. Both of these were designed by Athena Tacha and built by Ken von Roenn of Glassworks.

Once back to the city streets, it is a short hop over to the city’s new fountain outside the KFC Yum! Center and back down Third Street to the starting point. The fountain tours come highly recommended by Patti Clare, deputy director of the Downtown Development Corp. When her daughters were little, the downtown “watering holes” were their favorite stops. “Kids just love fountains,” she says. “There’s nothing like the sound of water splashing on a hot summer day.”


Nina Walfoort served as project director of ACTIVE Louisville and chairman of the Active Living Committee of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement.

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