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The Urban Hike

You don’t have to always go to the mountains to experience the outdoors! Sometimes you don’t have time to get out in nature or drive all the way to the mountains. There is lots of outdoor adventure to be had wherever you are. These suggestions are quick and easy and give you and your kids a needed dose of fresh air. You may have to use your creativity to adapt some of these ideas to the area where you live, but these might help get you started.

How to turn your walk into an adventure

This list was created thinking about my 5 and 8-year-old, but most of these things can easily be modified for different ages.

Make it a Game:

  • Scavenger Hunt – write a short list, or have your kids write the list of 10 items you want to find. You can also do a Google search and many options come up. You can download our free Winter Scavenger Hunt printable here.

  • Let’s Count – This is probably better for younger kiddos. How many dogs do we see, how many red cars did we go by?

  • Pick a Letter – Pick a letter at the beginning of your walk and find as many things as possible that begin with that letter. Example: S – stick, sidewalk, snow, sparrow…you get the idea.

Put them in charge:

  • Choose your Own AdventurePick a natural stopping point like a corner, every five houses, a street sign etc. and take turns with each kid picking which direction you go when you get to that stopping point.
    • Example: at the next corner you get to pick Left, Right or Straight. You may end up going in circles, but you may discover something in your area that you never saw before.
    • Once you want to return home, challenge your older children to find the way without your help. See if they can find the way to lead you home.
  • Bring a buddy – let them pick a favorite toy or stuffy or doll and bring them along to show them what they see. You can let the kids carry the toys or push them in a toy stroller, pull them in a wagon, carry them in a bag. Have them "own the process" and show their buddy all of the interesting things to see outside.
  • Pick a direction – this can be fun for older kids. Pick a direction (N, S, E, W) and only walk that direction and see what you find.
  • Pick a destinationThis can be anywhere, sometimes it helps to just have a goal.
    • Mail: Take a letter to the post office or neighborhood mailbox. If you don’t have one in your area, pick a friend or relative or neighbor that lives a few blocks away and write or draw a little note and walk to their house and sneak it in their mailbox or tuck it in their door.
    • If you don’t know anyone nearby you can always leave a kindness note i.e. “we love your holiday decorations this year” or “the flowers in your front garden are so pretty and we love looking at them” or for a business “thank you for the ice cream the other day, it was so yummy” etc. There are tons of easy and fun variations for this – use your imagination and get your kids to help come up with ideas. If you get out on an adventure walk and brighten someone’s day at the same time it is a double bonus.
    • Snack or a Treat: We all know kids love snacks, in some areas, walking to get a snack or a treat makes a great destination. Turn your small errands into walks instead of driving. It may take more time, but you have the added benefit of getting some fresh air along the way.

Other Fun ideas:

  • Treasure Hunt - This is a really fun and easy way to upgrade your daily walk. There are lots of variations and you can make it long or short or easy or hard depending on how much time you have available: 
    • Pick a destination that might have a "treasure" at the end. It could be a local bakery or ice cream shop or the library or friend's house.
    • Get some scrap paper and draw a simple map and write out a few instructions. I crumpled the paper to make it "look" old.
    • I sent my kids on a 10 block walk to a destination that was only 2 blocks away so that they would have to go through several directions before they got to the end point. 
        1. Walk 5 blocks west to a street that rhymes with Jolly
        2. Turn north and walk 2 blocks
        3. Turn back east 4 blocks until you get to a street that begins with K
        4. You are almost there! Take about 40 giant steps North and see if you can find your treasure. 
    For bigger kids label N, S, E and W to help them learn directions. For smaller kids you can just use L, R and Straight. For the littlest kids you can bring the scale down to just your yard and use directions like "go 10 steps towards the tree", "go 3 steps past the yellow flowers" etc.


    • Trash Walk – This is a great way to have a little adventure close to home and help out your neighborhood at the same time. Grab some plastic bags and maybe some gloves and head out looking for litter. I usually try to reuse the plastic newspaper bags instead of using new gloves and have my kids put them on their hands and then use grocery bags to collect any litter we find around the neighborhood. This teaches kids that some act of kindness are simple. Double bonus if you separate out the recyclable items and put them a recycle bin instead of the trash.
    • Urban Obstacle Course – Sometimes there is plenty to do outside and you don’t even notice it. Turn your neighborhood or area into an urban obstacle course. Can you walk on each retaining wall, balance on the curb, jump over the gutters, spin on each manhole? There are tons of modifications for this depending on what kind of area you live in and the age of your kids. I challenge you to be creative and let you kids lead the way. The other day my younger daughter decided she wanted to climb on every “wall” (yard retaining wall) that she could find on our walk. We were on our “regular” route and I knew of a few that she usually climbs, but once we started looking for ALL of them, I was truly surprised about how many she found. It took us over an hour for a walk that usually takes us about 20 min. I thought we were never going to get home. Choose wisely.