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5 Alternative Ways To Explore A New City

Exploring a new city takes time, dedication, patience and a whole lot of organizing and planning. But instead of going through the usual routes when you arrive at your destination, why not take a more unconventional one when roaming around town? Skip the tour buses and ditch organized travel groups once in awhile and take a look at these five alternative ways to explore a city the next time you’re somewhere new.

Book A Walking Tour.

Walking tours are a great way for every and any traveler exploring a new city. Being so accustomed to taking public transit in New York back home, I forget that while most cities outside my own are comparably smaller, some with great public transport systems of their own, cities can be completely walkable too. The journey of discovering the secret gems and top tourist attractions just takes a little bit longer to find and get to by walking. That being said, if you’re a fan of taking your time to take everything in, like I am, then take advantage of these types of tours. Most cities have companies, organizations, hotels or hostels that specialize in walking tours specifically for that city, adding lots of further information and history to the city that you may not have had a chance to know about or research had you done the tour on your own. It’s also a great way to meet new people and connect with the culture. Most times these tours take their time in explaining but don’t necessarily have people go inside museums or pay to get to the top of a tower, for example. The best part about these tours really is gaining knowledge and all for free!

Start Cycling, Boating, Skating and Beyond.

So if you’re not a huge fan of walking, no worries. Another cool way to explore a new place is through various modes of transportation that are outside the normal bus, train and tram systems all over the world. Cycling is HUGE in many cities in Europe, as well as in the countryside of smaller cities or vacation getaways. I once rented a bike and cycled all around the Hamptons in Long Island, New York and was able to take in the scenery, houses and, of course, the beach, all with a different perspective. Boating and ferry rides are also unique options (if you know you don’t get seasick) and so too is skating on the piers, bridges and walkways that connect the streets of these places together. Not only are these routes different, but they allow you to be active during your travels, too. It’s like you’re exercising abroad without even realizing it.

Use Mobile or Online Apps.

I know what you’re thinking: if I’m in a new city, why on Earth would I be using my phone to download apps? Trust me on this one. Forget Facebook and Instagram for a second and think of apps like Meetup (for the social butterflies), Runkeeper (for the athletes), CouchSurfing (for the spontaneous) or a very popular one I’ve since come across, but have yet to use, GeoCaching (for the inner geek in us all). There are tons of apps out there built for travelers looking for friends, dinner recommendations or even some scavenger hunt fun. What’s also cool about these apps is that you can find like-minded travelers like you and be able to engage with them in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Of course, there are limits and boundaries to using these apps, including safety, but use your travel intuition! You’d be surprised at who you can meet, what you can do and where you can stay the next time you’re back in said place.

Stay Up All Night.

Another alternative that may seem strange at first read — staying up all night means having to sacrifice some hours of exploration during the day, doesn’t it? Because who wants wake up at 8 o’clock in the morning to beat the lines, traffic and hoards of tourists to then stay up all night, too? While some people do in fact do this while traveling (especially those who like late night adventures and a good party or two) I recommend saving some energy during one day of your travels to experience a city at sundown, nightfall and perhaps into the early hours of the morning. Depending on where you are, these are the hours where the true nature of a place comes to life. You see local families taking taking their kids to school, businessmen suited up for work, the older generations having their morning stroll, youths exercising or maybe even coming back from a friends house after a huge celebration. The true essence of a place is in its people and what better way to find that normalcy during times when the tourists are still sleeping?

Get Lost!

Getting lost sounds terrifying to a lot of travelers. I’ve been there many times and have had a handful of anxiety attacks because of it. In theory, getting lost isn’t fun, but in practice, you’d be surprised what you can discover and experience by losing your footing and diverting from the main road. The kindness of strangers also never ceases to amaze me whenever I’m lost or unsure of the next route to take. Getting lost allows you to turn on certain “fight or flight” reactions too, making you more aware of your surroundings and the environments you’re in. A great thing for travelers abroad, but also a way to explore  a new place in an unconventional way and a guaranteed learning experience.

Have any other alternative routes we should be taking when exploring a new city? Let us know some you’ve considered on your travels and leave them in the comments below.

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Diana Figueroa

Diana Figueroa is a NYC native and graduate of Fordham University, where she graduated with a degree in Communications, concentrating in journalism and creative writing. She is currently pursuing freelance writing projects and recently launched her own website, nativevagabonds.co, dedicated to her passion for travel and her life in the Big Apple. She is off to pursue her Master's degree in Berlin, Germany at the end of this year. You can find her on route to the next music festival or curing her wanderlust as she plans her next adventure abroad. Feel the fernweh at @dianadoesntknow for photos.


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