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Finding Tourist Attractions
“How do I find tourist attractions” may seem a like an unlikely question. Shouldn’t a traveler know exactly where he is going during a vacation or a sightseeing trip? Why would anyone choose a particular destination without knowing where to go? However, while the question seems rather clueless and stupid, especially for veteran travelers, it is a question that demands to be answered—especially in the case for traveling greenhorns. Needless to say, being a tourist in a completely foreign city, state, or country can daunting and overwhelming. Where should one go, indeed, in a country where there is so much to see yet so little time to do everything?
This question also poses an interesting scenario for veteran travelers. Tourist attractions are almost always constant. For instance, go to New York and you know, for sure, that you need to see the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Broadway, and so forth. But these tourist attractions are already common; everyone goes to these attractions! So how can the more daring tourists know where else to go beyond the usual and the common tourist attractions?
Common travel tips
First, let’s consider the common travel tips: the use of the travel guide.
Surprisingly, many tourists forget that they can consult a travel guide in cases when they do not know where to go. Most of these travel guides are available at your local bookstore. If you did not prepare before the trip, don’t worry; travel guides for the country or state you are in are actually available locally, wherever you are. Still, it may be wise to buy a travel guide before you travel for two simple reasons: planning and availability.
Buying the travel guide early means you can plan ahead. This way, you can book accommodations near where most of the tourist attractions you want to see are located. Getting hotel rooms at the “center” of the city, for instance, may seem like a good idea. However, not all tourist attractions are at the center; most of them are actually located at the peripheries of the main cities or the capital. Know what you want to do and use this as your guide.
Also, while there are usually travel guidebooks available locally, you can’t be too sure if the city or country you are in has the one you want or need. Remember: particular tourist guidebooks have individual markets and pegs. Lonely Planet, for example, is considered as the general tourism guide, while Time Out City Guides often provide off-beat and unique lists of tourist destinations. While Lonely Planet travel guides are widely available, the same can’t be said for Time Out City Guides. Also, if you’re going to off-beat countries, such as Romania or Macedonia, for instance, you won’t be certain if English-travel guides are available. Romanians aren’t native English speakers, although the educated Romanians can speak the language. Therefore, local literature in the country may not be available in English. This is a consideration that applies when you’re traveling outside the county.
The official websites of the travel guides may have designated forums for the country or city you are going to visit. This is the best way to get free “travel guide” tips from people who have already been to your destination. Actually, these tips are great supplements to the one you will see on your tourist guidebook. Obviously, printed materials cannot be updated, so you never know if the information printed on the material still holds true. These forums and travel guide communities can provide valuable corrections, as well as tips and recommendations not included on your current travel guide.
Besides the forums, travel guides usually have websites with enough information for tourists. This may not be enough for thorough, hardcore travelers, but they could suffice if you simply want basic information on tourist attractions and other travel details.
The local tourism board can also provide ample information with regards to tourist attractions. Many countries have websites for their tourism board, although they usually also have physical stations at choice locations in your destination. Of course, preparation is important here, so you should get all the information you need before you travel.
Travel tips for the daring
If you’re daring enough, travel guides are probably not part of your travel plans. But how can you find tourist attractions without them? You probably won’t, but that’s the point anyway, since you want to explore destinations beyond the usual tourist attractions.
So how can this be done?
First, stay away from tourist centers. Of course, if you’re in New York, you’ll probably want to watch a Broadway production. But instead of following what the travel guide says you should watch (in this case, it’ll probably recommend the top productions such as The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked), why not go Off-Broadway to watch more edgy productions—where you can see solid productions such as Naked Men Singing, Blue Man Group, and Avenue Q (which was a Broadway show up until recently). There’s nothing wrong with the former shows, except these are the shows travel guidebooks expect you to see—precisely because they are tourist attractions. Going beyond them presents a different view of things, helping you see the real flavor of New York theater. Not every Broadway show is as extravagant as The Lion King; in fact, these shows are almost made for the tourists.
Apply this idea when traveling other destinations. When you go to common tourist destinations, you’re bound to see sanitized attractions and not what the city or country actually looks or feels like. This is not to say you should visit every corner of the city (and you shouldn’t, because it could be dangerous). However, tourism is more than just the usual, glossy tourist destinations.
Another way of finding these off-beat destinations is to go where the locals go. Take it from there and you’ll discover a world beyond the pages of your (nonetheless very helpful) travel guidebook.