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How to Find Local Amenities While on Vacation: From the Best Mechanic to the Choicest Haircut

Once upon a time, people were born, grew up, married, worked and raised children pretty much in the same area. But getting the best education, finding the best jobs and meeting people from far away over the Internet is driving us to relocate and reestablish ourselves in new places more than ever before. Enter the search for what your new town or city has to offer. Don’t fret – it can be fun!

Get Familiar With Local Publications
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Most every city has a number of local publications that can steer you toward the best restaurants, shopping venues, farmer’s markets, auto repair shops and everything in between. Don’t limit your research to the city newspaper. Look for the local business journal, advertisement circulars, cultural magazines and parenting magazines. All of these publications are gold mines in familiarizing yourself with what’s available nearby.
However, just because a business spends the most advertising dollars in your town doesn’t make them the best choice or the most economical choice. Google Reviews are a handy resource to find out what other customers have to say about their experiences, both good and bad. The restaurant reviews in the newspaper are another great resource.
Sometimes, this process is trial and error. What a reviewer loved about the nearest Italian restaurant you might not like at all. One of the most enjoyable aspects of getting to know a new area is experiencing everything the place has to offer – and finding those diamonds in the rough.

Sign Up for Online Deals
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Groupon, Restaurant.com, Livestrong and other online coupon or discount offerings are a great way to get deep savings while trying all the local shops, restaurants, entertainment and more. Sign up with a few websites that regularly email discounts and coupons specific to your new city. Then find the nearest local business to redeem the savings, and you’ll find a wealth of new shops, spas, markets, fitness centers and amenities to enjoy for years to come.
Websites dedicated to travel are also great resources for discounts and deals on local adventures as well as world travel. Find everything from area caverns to explore to mountain peaks to climb to discounts on a Celebrity Cruises vacation – all on travel websites.
Conduct random searches on your favorite search engines for “markets,” “mechanics,” “Mexican food” or whatever you are interested in. Read the websites. Does the business promote their cheap prices or their impeccable standards? This will give you a good idea whether the business caters to great deals or high quality. Then compare their claims to their Google Reviews.

Play With Your Apps
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Android and iPhone users can take advantage of Google Places and similar apps to browse local entertainment, eateries, transportation and much more. These apps are perfect for finding local theaters, your favorite cuisine and even getting the best price on gasoline. The trick to making this work effectively is not waiting until you’re headed out the door to browse what’s available. Pick a time when you’re not busy and nose around the app. Take notes of local business and places worth a try.
Play with your location on the app, too. For example, if you live in a tri-city area or a large municipality that is surrounded by smaller cities and towns, set your location to several of these places and see what different results you find. Sometimes this uncovers businesses and amenities that a search of the major metro area won’t pick out.
For example, most cities have a discount theater in addition to movie houses that show the latest blockbusters. These theaters are usually tucked out of the way, and a search of “movies”  and your city name will pull only the top-rated theaters in the area.
When searching for a haircut, chain salons might be your best bet until you familiarize yourself with the area, because chains often hold employees to higher standards than the mom-and-pop shops. But a search of outlying bergs in the area might uncover high-end salons and fabulous old-time barber shops that don’t rank highly in a search of the metro location.

Don’t Discount the Power of People

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When considering businesses like auto repair shops, hair dressers and air conditioning repair, trial and error isn’t really desirable. There’s more at stake than $40 on a meal you didn’t care for. Meet the neighbors, strike up a conversation in line at the grocery store, make a point to speak to the person sitting next to you at the park – all of these people are great resources for finding what’s nearby worth trying.
Do you see someone with fabulous hair? Ask who their hairstylist is. Is your neighbor headed in with a bag full of delicious-looking fresh vegetables? That person probably knows where the town’s best market is. Is your coworkers’ 1976 Ford still running like new? He’s likely a good resource for the best local mechanic. Look out for signs at the civic center, schools, parks and other public places and take advantage of gatherings where you can meet lots of new people and learn tons about the area and it’s offerings.

Image via Flickr by mpeterke

Sometimes you don’t find the true gems – they find you. Plan a day outing to drive around your new city and take a look. Pictures you find on the Internet aren’t always an accurate portrayal of the setting of the business. It may look completely different in person. Stop and browse a few possibilities, and take notes about places you want to investigate more later.
If possible, take a day trip to you state’s welcome center at the nearest state line. Here you’ll have free access to hundreds of brochures of things to do and see you might never have thought of – and many of these ventures might be right in your own backyard. When it comes to exploring the amenities your city has to offer, the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination.

Resources: (restaurant.com, telegraph)


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