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How To Explore A Tourist Destination Like A Local

To explore like a local, you have to think like a local.

By: Stephanie Yarbrough + Save to a List

When we visit new places, we are looking for adventure and experiences, not billboards and expensive souvenirs. And, like many of you, we also enjoy getting as far away from crowds as we possibly can. This can be difficult when you are visiting a tourist destination, but it is doable! Here are some tips to finding the lesser known adventures.

1. Get off the beaten path.

The first thing most people do when they come into a tourist destination is go straight to the main drag. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to get away from the crowds by going to the most crowded part of the town! Heading off onto side streets and less crowded areas takes you to more of the places the locals visit.

2. Sit at the bar.

Looking for your next adventure is as easy as having a beer and a chat with the bartender. Bartenders notoriously have all the good info of a town – and many of them enjoy the outdoors! Whether you are looking for an awesome hike, a bike track, or a climbing route, the bartender is sure to know of some local secrets! So sit down, enjoy a brew, and have a chat with the bartender!

A Park Ranger’s Pick: 5 Under The Radar Adventures In New Zealand | Photo: Crystal Brindle

3. Ask the locals.

Okay, please don’t just stop people in the streets and ask them to recommend a hike – locals hate that! But while you are having casual conversation with the store clerk or the hotel greeter, be sure to ask them where their favorite place to go is! My favorite question to ask a local is “if you could only go one place to do X Activity for the rest of your life, where would it be?” You’d be surprised at how long they think about their favorite spot in town before answering. That’s where you get the best info!

4. Visit the Visitor’s Center/Forest Field Office.

Oddly enough, many people don’t think about going to the Visitor’s Center to get info. BLM or Forestry Service Field Offices are a great place for info if there is one in town. Again, this is a great place to pull out that question! It gets them thinking about their favorite adventures, and not just the typical tourist recommendations. And you know that the rangers are adventurous folks, so they often have some great info. 

The Ultimate Weekend Adventure In Portland, Oregon | Photo: Alan Maxcy

5. Be social.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Oftentimes, it takes more than a quick question for a local to give you the good advice. Sure, they’ll tell you in a split second the most famous hike in the area. But you are looking to get away from the famous hikes and out away from crowds. So take your time and be nice. Engage others with conversation and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. You might even meet some other adventurers who are looking for (or have found) some of the same activities you are looking for.
All of these tips boil down to one thing: be nice and people will help! If you are nice and use these tips, you are sure to find a spectacular adventure that most other tourists have never even heard about. It’s a pretty spectacular way to experience a tourist town without the tourists!

Cover photo: Crystal Brindle

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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