by Hunter R. Slaton | August 19, 2008
Put one foot in front of the other: Visitors stroll around Denver’s hip LoDo dining and nightlife district at sundown
Choosing destinations where there’s no need for motorized transportation -- shuttle buses, vans and taxis -- can save a bundle of money, not to mention valuable time. To that end, what follows are sketches of six of America’s most walkable convention cities, hand-picked by M&C for their centrally located convention centers surrounded by plenty of hotel, dining, shopping and nightlife options.

Map of DenverDenver
Though the white-topped Rockies loom jaggedly on the horizon, downtown Denver is flat and clean, perfect for attendees walking to hotels, restaurants and nightspots after a day at the Colorado Convention Center (584,000 square feet of exhibit space, 63 meeting rooms). Two blocks from the center, the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian thoroughfare designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, is the mile-high city’s showpiece. On 16th is the 1,200-room Sheraton Denver, while 15th Street has a 1,100-room Hyatt Regency. The 16th Street Mall (which is traversed by a free biodiesel-fueled shuttle) runs into the hip LoDo district, whose Victorian buildings house six large brewpubs.

Map of IndianapolisIndianapolis
A northern winter meeting doesn’t have to mean attendees must bundle into buses and forgo walking -- at least not in Indianapolis, where climate-controlled pedestrian skywalks link the expanding Indiana Convention Center (set for completion in 2010 with 566,300 square feet of exhibit space, 71 meeting rooms) to eight hotels with a total of 3,100 guest rooms, as well as the Circle Centre Mall. By 2011, the $425 million, four-hotel, 1,623-room JW Marriott complex will be added to that system. Back on solid ground, Indianapolis has more than 200 restaurants within a five-minute walk of the convention center.

Map of ProvidenceProvidence, R.I.
First settled in 1636, Providence is a well-preserved blend of Colonial architecture and modern buildings, with a downtown (or “downcity,” to locals) whose grid of streets is opened up by a landscaped plaza and river walkways. At the western edge of downcity is the Rhode Island Convention Center (100,000 square feet of exhibit space, 23 meeting rooms), close to smart hotels and attractions like Waterplace Park, which is home to the popular “floating bonfires” art installation called WaterFire. For dining, the quaint Federal Hill enclave, which chef Mario Batali counts among his favorite Little Italy neighborhoods, is 10 minutes away.