To get a full taste of a city’s true culture and vibe, you’ll need to find a few, less-obvious ways to explore it. Popular tourist recommendations alone won’t do it.
Whether a visit to a new city lies in your future, or you’re looking for new things to do in your own city, try out these 4 unique ways to explore any city.
Note: Since the goal is to see more of a city, a car or access to public transportation might be helpful (depending on the city).
All these recommendations can be adapted to fit COVID limitations, allowing you to still explore while keeping yourself and others safe.
1. Create your own food tour
This works particularly well for cities that specialize in bite-sized tastes of a local cuisine. For example, tacos.
Rather than pick one restaurant, find a few spots with great reviews (better yet, ask a local for their recommendation!). This might bring you to different areas of the city.
Ordering a single taco from each lets you sample around different places on your taco tour before you get full (bonus: if you’re walking from place to place, you’ll work off a little of what you just ate and still have an appetite)!
You can compare different restaurants to find your favorite, and in the process, explore more of the city than had you picked a single place. The trek from place to place is part of the adventure. And since you’re ordering small portions, you can still do this on a budget.
If the type of food you’re looking to eat isn’t sold in smaller portions, another alternative would be to sample from various markets across the city (outdoor and indoor).
COVID modification: This kind of food tour is conducive to “to go/takeaway” orders and you can eat wherever (at a park, in your car, etc.). You are not confined to eating inside a restaurant.
2. Explore the city through its vibrant murals and street art
I’m sure most people have an appreciation for murals if they happen to come across one (like any of the below) while adventuring.
But have you ever considered planning a tour of a city specifically to check out vibrant works of art scattered throughout?
My guess is no.
But whether you’re a tourist or a local, following the street art will undoubtedly push you to explore areas you might have otherwise missed.
With a quick google search, it’s not too complicated to come up with a list of a couple to visit while exploring just about any city.
And if you do live in a city, chance are, you had no idea the amount of street art that exists all around you in areas you don’t typically visit.
Personally, I’ve found mural hunting to be a great (and socially distant) option for exploring a city during the pandemic when travel options are limited.
And best of all, enjoying the artwork is free. Plus, you’ll likely snag some awesome pics to be able to share with friends & family (and they’re definitely Instagrammable 😉).
3. Take your own walking tour
Another free way to really get to know a city is to plan a route through various areas of a city on foot.
Whether you think a whole city is walk-able or not, various neighborhoods surely are. And in my experience, we are far more observant of our surroundings on foot than when riding public transportation or driving.
You’re more likely to stumble across unique architecture, communities, people, restaurants, art etc. on foot.
Note: Before you set off, make sure you do your research of an area first to make sure you’re taking any necessary safety precautions.
4. Find a place to sit and observe
Slow things down a little.
The word “explore” has the connotation that you must always be doing something. But rather than looking to go out and do a million things, simply sit on a park bench or a vibrant plaza and observe everyday life. Observe locals, nature, cars, conversations, interactions.
Observation is a form of exploration.
Often, we’re so set on filling our schedule with tourist attractions that we miss the power of simple observation of city’s culture and inhabitants.
These are just a few ways to explore a city that might not come up on your average list.
There is so much that can be missed by only looking at tourist attractions. And sometimes it’s overwhelming trying to complete that whole list in a short period of time.
But the biggest reason to look for unique ways to explore a city is that you miss a lot about a city’s true character (or personality, if you will) by solely sticking to the popular things you must see.
And even if it’s a city you’ve already been to or lived in, you’d be surprised — there are hidden (or easily missed) sides to all cities. Chances are you’ll see your own city through a brand new lens and gain a new appreciation for it!