I'd like my Minecraft map to get fleshed out a bit around the region where I'm at to see if there are villiages or other structures worth checking out. However I'd like to keep from walking around in circles just to get the game to generate the map. Is there a way I can get the game to generate a chunk of my map without having to get "close" to the chunk?
Instead of doing it in-game, try using a outside source. AMIDST is a program that lets you put in a certain seed or load an existing map and it generates the minecraft map as a picture. You can use it to see if there are dungeons, pyramids, ruins, villages, even strongholds!
Edit: This way will also make you not download mods and keep you away from the want to spawn yourself items!
There is no other way to do it than in-game. One way you can optimize this is by getting Optifine, which will allow you to ramp up your render distance, making your client request chunks that are further away, speeding up the process.
Also consider using SinglePlayerCommands'
/fly command with a high speed, e.g.
/fly 10 to fly around quickly to generate chunks. With a high enough speed, you'll be requesting chunks faster than your computer can generate them.