Whether you're just visiting somewhere new for a couple of days or calling a new city home, I have learned some quick ways to become adjusted.
Having recently moved out east - I consider Richmond to be out East, I know that Richmond is in the "South," but it's pretty East for me, I've had to figure out how to be a local again. In addition, there are many cities I intend on visiting along the East that I don't want to get caught in a Tourist Trap.
What is a Tourist Trap you ask? - It is something I like to call a commercialized experience exploiting tourist that do not know any better. It is so easy to get sucked into those user generated rating sites to based your travels on, but you're getting reviews for Starbucks right next to a good local coffee shop. Preferences are solely based on the individual as well as the relative experience. To a Starbucks patron - they might have a good experience at the Starbucks, but there is nothing local about a Starbucks that makes your trip any different than if you would go to the Starbucks in your own city. Secondly, these user generated sites make money off advertising, so their content will always be a bit skewed.
Every city has a local coffee shop. A local coffee shop that is. If you can, try to find a coffee shop that roast their own beans. I'm mentioning this because anecdotally, local roasters are more dedicated to their community and their employees have a better pulse on what is going on in their city. And you're more likely to have a good cup of coffee.
Easier said than done, right? Well, what I do is aggregate five web sources, write down the top three to five on the source's list/ranking, compare some of the ratings and comments, then pick the over top three you think will be good.
I begin by Googling: Best coffee shop in "Insert city name." Right then, google will list their ranking, which can be your first source. Then just go down the google links it provides, click on it and start writing down the names of the top coffee shops they mention.
This is no exact science, but after awhile, you'll start finding some commonality. Pick three and go visit them.
While at the coffee shop, ask the barista what their favorite place to eat is while you're at the coffee shop. Not only are they a better source on where a good place is to eat, baristas usually know about all the hidden gems that do not populate so easily on a web based search.
This is an easy way to avoid the Tourist Trap I mentioned earlier.
This is a trick I have been using to find many great local restaurants while I've been touring the East. There are so many places that are not even mentioned online because they are new and some of the smaller establishments never had a web presence. I've even mentioned to them how some online exposure might increase foot traffic, but they seem to be happy with being a neighborhood spot.
While you're enjoying some good local flavor, ask your server two questions:
1. What are their favorite places in the city
2. Where would they take a friend visiting from out-of-town
Cities are popular for a reason and it is worth getting a good sense of the history and why the city is unique while checking out some of the more well known attractions the city has to offer.
If you follow these three steps, you will feel like a local, while getting a good sense of the character and culture of the city.
That is correct. Do not think about driving. If you really want to get a good sense of a city, experience it with your own two feet and maybe with the help of mass transit.
Not only will you not limit yourself on where to park and how long you'll have at a certain location, but while walking you'll stumble upon some great places to and from your destination and transit stops.
To sum it up, Walk and take mass transit, find a local coffee shop, and figure out where the locals eat.
You can't go wrong. I promise you.
I live a pretty interesting life in a even more interesting World and there are some random experiences that will have nothing to do with Vibrancy, Social Justice or Environmental Resilience that I will share in the About the Author section.