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Photo by Trevor Pritchard.

Welcome to Urban Retail Walks, a new urban walking series

By Bruce Burwell on January 10, 2022

On Christmas Day, I went for a walk. There had been freezing rain the night before and the sidewalks were ice-covered and slippery. The road itself was ice-free so I walked there for a block or two till I was passed by a sidewalk plow. It was dumping a lot of salt and I decided that getting back on the sidewalk and following its gritty path was my best option.

Last winter during the second (or was that the third?) wave, I would drive to a nearby outdoor retail area and do my 10k steps there. The biggest advantage was that the sidewalks were safe and clear there compared to those in my hood. A combination of salt and heavier foot traffic, I suppose. But I discovered other advantages. I found lots of fascinating retail and food places that I never would have known about otherwise. Weather wasn’t much of a factor—if I ever got really cold I could duck into an open store and pretend to be interested in whatever it was they were selling.

Photo by Sofie Sharom.

Now that we’re locked down again and there are few indoor options, why not try an urban retail walk (URW)? I can hear the outdoors enthusiasts screaming at me here: “What??? We have downhill and cross country skiing nearby! You could go snowshoeing! Hike a Greenbelt forest trail! Skate on the canal!”

And those are all absolutely true! If the conditions are right, then those could be much better options. But hey… lots of times the conditions aren’t right. Or you don’t have the equipment. Or you don’t have the time. Or you don’t have someone to go with that day. And global warming certainly isn’t doing the local winter sports conditions any favours.

And consider the other advantages of a URW. Open 24*7! No monthly or annual fees! Good transit options! No fancy equipment required! Snack stops along the way!

If you have any suggestions on routes or points of interest along the way let me know in the comments and I’ll check them out.

In this series, I’ll share with you some suggested walks that I’ve found worth doing. I’ll try and pick a route where you can get at least 10k steps in and that has interesting spots along the way. I’m not intending these as historical walking tours—you can find those elsewhere. It’s just a safe winter walk to get your steps in.

The areas that I’ll suggest walking include Westboro, Hintonburg, Preston St., Somerset, Bank, Elgin, Rideau St., and the market area.

If you have any suggestions on routes or points of interest along the way let me know in the comments and I’ll check them out. Know any great bakeries or donut shops? I don’t mind stopping in and sampling the wares in the interests of investigative journalism.