Arriving to a new city can be disorienting. With most of our energy exerted on deciphering the public transportation system and finding a decent place to eat, we end up forfeiting the other, more rewarding aspects of urban travel: exploring lesser-known neighborhoods, learning local history, and zeroing in on key cultural happenings.
Local blogs can be of immense help when it comes to quickly finding out what's happening in a new city – and what's worth your time. Unlike travel guides, which limit themselves to hotel and restaurant reviews, maps, and at-a-glance neighborhood descriptions, blogs offer curated, useful information on a particular aspect of the city, updated on a regular basis by locals in the know.
Here are a few top-notch online sources that will turn you into an expert the next-time you find yourself in...
New York City
NYC Park Life is a brand new website featuring an interactive map of all free outdoor events – a film screening in Queens, a writers group in Bryant Park – happening in NYC on any given day. Covering parks in all five boroughs, the user-friendly site allows you to search by day (up to a month in advance) or by category.
With over 275,000 likes on Facebook, Hidden Los Angeles has built up quite a following over the years by uncovering a side to LA that has nothing to do with celebrities or the movie biz: things like secret parks, day-trip itineraries, free events, local news stories, and profiles on LA's best-loved establishments. In a playful series called "What Lies Beneath" the site drops a pin on a map of LA and asks readers to guess what historic event took place there.
In one of the most touristy places in the country, the unique charm of New Orleans' French Quarter can often get lost in a haze of beer-drinking, loud cover bands, and souvenir shops. Ongoing web project French Quarter bxb is aimed at uncovering the historic and cultural side of NOLA's storied 'hood through compelling articles, interviews, event listings and restaurant reviews.
Drawing on a team of writers and locals who actually (yes) live in Las Vegas, VegasChatter offers a humorous take on the Sin City experience, with an eye toward those exploring it for the first time. Whether you need gambling advice, or want to keep up with the latest casino news, or simply enjoy reading candid, unbiased hotel reviews, this addictive site's got you covered.
Dear Denver, an arts and culture blog with handy city itineraries and reviews, is written entirely by locals, and for locals. Though if you're in town visiting for the weekend, you'll get plenty out of the site's nifty "Dear Denver…" letters which – in traditional missive format – provide useful information on a range of topics, from farmers markets to microbreweries to the rapidly-modernizing LoDo district.
Ever tried to navigate Portland's dizzying food truck scene on your own? It's no easy task! Residents of the city, which is home to over 500 different mobile eateries, rely on Food Carts Portland's handy map to determine which food trucks are parked where, and, thanks to a comprehensive database of detailed reviews, photos and re-published menus, what to order once they get there.
Voted as CNN's #1 city travel app, the Nashville Live Music Guide helps music-loving travelers find what concerts are happening where – no small feat considering how extensive this city's live music scene actually is. Plan out your evenings with the handy concert calendar (including contact info for each club), or use the free app's augmented reality feature to figure out what concerts are happening near you at any given moment.
Citygram, a newly-launced digital magazine focused on highlighting "Austin's best fashion, food, and people," written by local designers, chefs, artists, bakers, fashionistas and restauranteurs. The free app, which is currently suited for iPhone or iPad, is like a window into Austin's creative scene, with full-length articles on local culture and lifestyle that give travelers inspiration on what to do and where to go while they're in town.
Itching to discover local history but don't want to hire a tour guide? Simply click around History Pin's interactive map of the world, where thousands of photos are 'pinned' to specific locations, marking the time and place where a significant historic event happened. For example, while strolling down Temple Street in Detroit, a user can pull up photos of citizens laying the cornerstone for the Masonic Temple back in 1922.