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Walking Tours Stretch Body and Mind


You've no doubt seen plenty of those big, lumbering tour buses careering down streets, often manned by folks trained to parrot the same spiel day after day. But tours do exist in which locals share their deep love of their city with you on walks that are thought-provoking. Here are some from around the country:

* Boston: Boston by Foot, telephone (617) 367-2345, presents a roster of engaging daily architectural and historical walks, including the popular Boston Underground Tour ($9). Free outings include once-a-weekend guided walks from the Boston Park Rangers, tel. (617) 635-7383, such as "Boston's Beginnings" and "Boston's Gardens." The National Park Service, tel. (617) 242-5642, showcases highlights of the Freedom Trail daily.

* Honolulu: Two $5 Chinatown tours are old standbys. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce Tours, tel. (808) 533-3181, are given on Tuesday mornings, while the Hawaii Heritage Center walk, tel. (808) 521-2749, heads out Friday mornings. The Hawaii Geographic Society, tel. (808) 538-3952, arranges individual treks for $6 a person.

* New Orleans: A tour of the city's remarkable cemeteries is offered each day for $15 by Historic New Orleans Walking Tours, tel. (504) 947-2120. The French Quarter is the focus of three daily "Original Gumbo Walking Tours," tel. (504) 558-0063, for $15, and one given by Friends of the Cabildo, tel. (504) 523-3939, for $10. Absolutely Fabulous tours, tel. (504) 482-2259, highlight voodoo, cemeteries, the supernatural and the Garden District for $13 to $15 a head.

* New York: Big Onion Walking Tours, tel. (212) 439-1090, is staffed by Ph.D. candidates who are knowledgeable and entertaining on demand every weekend for $10 to $13. Veteran historian Joyce Gold, tel. (212) 242-5762, also delivers in-depth walks ($12) each weekend, while Patricia Olstead of Urban Explorations, tel. (718) 721-5254, is known for garden tours as well as neighborhood excursions. And neighborhoods and architecture are the focus of $10 to $15 walks with the Municipal Art Society, tel. (212) 439-1049.

* San Francisco: Roam off the beaten path with Victorian Home Walks for $20 daily, tel. (415) 252-9485, or explore the heritage of the famous Castro district with Ms. Trevor Hailey's five-mornings-a-week Cruisin' the Castro for $40, including lunch, tel. (415) 550-8110. Then there's the Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour for $15, tel. (415) 863-1621, or sample the bohemian coffeehouse culture of North Beach on a $20 "Javawalk," tel. (415) 673-9255.

* Washington, D.C.: Locals such as historian Steven Hoglund, tel. (202) 387-8907, and fourth-generation Washingtonian Jeanne Fogle, tel. (703) 525-2948, do a wonderful job of making the buildings talk and the streetscapes come alive. And don't overlook nearby Alexandria, Va. where Doorways to Old Virginia, tel. (703) 548-0100, conducts weekend tours for $5.

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