• Top ways to spend a few hours in a new city

    Alisa Regnier
    charleston-trolley-285x277I was recently married, and my husband Dan and I chose to visit Charleston for our honeymoon. We’d never been there before, but we were drawn by stories of its darkly romantic history and amazing low country food.

    I immediately began looking at restaurants and sites I wanted to visit, intending to plan out our entire trip. But Dan didn’t like the idea of having everything laid out in advance. Instead, he wanted us to approach the trip as two adventurers and go where the city led us. We did just that, and it ended up being the most fun we’ve ever had on a trip together.

    Whether you’re tacking on a day or a few hours to a business trip or taking a completely separate journey, here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience as an explorer in a new city:

    Check with the locals. If you seek adventure but just don’t know where to start, all you need to do is ask the locals. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to approach strangers for dining advice (although I have been known to do just that); instead, you can start with your hotel’s front desk or concierge service and share the kinds of things you like to do with them so they can direct you.

    Do you love to shop?  Ask for the best streets or neighborhoods to find local vendors that you may not be able to find in your home city. Are you a foodie? Ask about restaurants that offer local specialties or feature great happy hour menus. Into historic architecture? Ask where the oldest buildings are in the city or check if there is a historic district.  On our recent trip, our hotel even offered us coupons for restaurants, tours and more. Also, don’t forget to ask for a map — it’ll come in handy later.

    washington-metro-map-2014Walk or use public transit. When driving, it’s easy to overlook hidden gems as you speed by them. That’s why walking around is often the best way to enjoy a new city. Additionally, many cities have excellent public transit options if your feet need a break but you still want to experience the city on a deeper level. In Charleston, we walked or took the free trolley everywhere and had a better time for it while getting the exercise we needed to justify all that amazing food.

    Track your journey. That map you asked for earlier will come in handy as you explore the city — and it provides an easy way to track where you’ve been or what you missed so you know where you might want to go next time you’re in town. You may even consider ranking the places you visit right on your map so you can easily remember what you liked.

    While I love a good app, I often find that, by the midpoint of a long day out and about, my phone is often pretty drained of battery power. Using a map can help you mitigate any extra power loss, and a map doesn’t die on you when your phone does. By noting stops as you go on the map, you also have a physical reminder of where you’ve been and where you want to go.

    Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or enjoying a quick afternoon of leisure after a business meeting, an adventure may be just what you need to discover what a new city truly has to offer.

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