Your Guide To: Exploring A New City

empire forest
hello all,

Like I mentioned in my “pseudo freshman year” post, I moved around this time last year. It was strange, since my last move was 8 years before that, and I waited a bit too long to start looking around.
That’s not what this post is about. This post is gonna tell you how to get out of the damn house, explore your new surroundings, and feel like the kind of cool babe who has cool babe places to go in the evenings.
First things first, you need to figure out what you’re looking for. This doesn’t mean that you’re not open to places outside of this criteria, it’s just supposed to give you a place to start.

what do you want???

Please take a moment and think about what matters to you. Do you like looking super glamorous? Do you want a queer-friendly space? Do you like small, intimate locations, where you can joke with the employees and celebrate Dan Radcliffe’s birthday with Harry Potter themed pizzas? Arts, sports, shopping? All of the above?Essentially, you’re trying to come up with some of the types of places you’re interested in, as well as the character of those establishments.

For example, I have a couple of favorite places in my city. There’s the independent theater, my fav pizza place, a cool (but usually overcrowded) coffeeshop. I’m strangely loyal to the hairdresser I went to when I first moved here, I’m at the thrift shop every other weekend, and I want to curl up in the glass exhibit of the art museum downtown. Simply put, I like the way these places make me feel.

You may not like places like these, but it’s just an example. I can tell pretty quickly when I walk into the building whether or not I’m going to be into a new place, because I know what I like, and getting a handle on what you want will help you know where to look.

The basic questions you need to ask yourself:

  • what places have you liked in past cities? (I found a breakfast restaurant that is disturbingly similar to my breakfast haunt from my hometown, for example. At the same time, I ditched the bowling habit when I moved.)
  • what do you want to do? (is there anything new you want to try? what do you want to keep doing?)
  • what type of atmosphere are you interested in?

There’s a lot to be said for supporting small, local businesses: it can feel more intimate, and they tend to be more community-driven than national franchises. You can check the flyers/bulletin boards/employee brains for other things to do, and branch off from there.

okay, now dive in!

Once you’ve got an inkling of what you’re interested in, it’s time to start getting into the nitty-gritty of exploration. Word of mouth is great, but in a new city, you may not know anybody you trust to recommend your next hangout, which leaves a couple of options:

  • drive around until you find something (or walk, etc.)– keep an open mind at this stage, and just poke your nose into places
  • use the hell outta google
  • spam-follow local businesses on twitter — this is especially useful for keeping an eye on events/discounts
  • be on the constant hunt for flyers, local newspapers, bulletin boards, etc. — for example, some places have sections in the paper for upcoming events, and flyers can let you know about things you didn’t even know you were looking for

I strongly believe that it’s important to keep an open mind about new places/interests, especially if you’re in some sort of I-don’t-know-what-to-do rut. If it seems even remotely interesting, show up for five minutes and check it out. At the very least, you’ll figure out what’s not worth your time.

For students, your school/college can be a great resource for finding things to do. You can get involved in some activities directly with your school. If that doesn’t interest you, universities especially tend to be overflowing with self-promotion for events, if you know where to look. If you have time, spend an extra hour or so on campus. (ie, don’t just go to class and go home, actually look around and get involved.)

Most importantly, try to stay optimistic. Boredom is a really quick way to destroy your enthusiasm for what could easily have been an exciting situation. Even if you live in a little midwestern blip, you need to get out of the house every once in a while. (Although you might have to be less picky.)

good luck,