Certain cities are natural hotspots for all things fun. You’ll never be more than a few minutes from something to do in Los Angeles or New York, for instance. Chicago, too, has a lot of enjoyable recreational activities if people who live there are to be believed. In places like these, you don’t have to stumble far to find a good time.
But if you’re stopping by an unfamiliar town and need something to fill your idle time, how do you go about unearthing interesting time-wasters when you don’t have any local acquaintances? Below are a few tips that can help you get out while you’re traveling about.
Your best friend: the Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce knows all. Or rather, it is omnipotent regarding the local deals and steals for most area businesses. Firstly, Chambers will be able to tell you all the things to do and see in the region. Secondly, many times a local Chamber of Commerce will have coupons available that can make your time there more affordable. Lastly, Chambers tend to be able to let you in on weekly or monthly special events at area bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, and more. Businesses benefit through cooperation with their COCs, and this is a partnership you can easily exploit.
Let’s say you had a bad experience with a Chamber of Commerce when you were a kid. A spider landed on your head in the lobby, something like that, and your fear or arachnids has paralyzed you to the thought of ever stepping foot inside a Chamber again. Hey, therapy is expensive, so instead of forking over thousands of dollars on counseling, try instead to find things to do by stepping off the beaten path. Tons of businesses set up shop outside the main drag and would be missed by any passerby who relied on Main Street for their kicks. Venture down side streets (the shadier, the better!) and see what lies therein. Quaint coffee shops, cute thrift stores, small ma-and-pa antiques or collectibles, small performance venues, and cheap ice cream shoppes await you.
Alleyways are a goldmine
Speaking of the unbeaten path, do your best to walk down as many alleys as possible. Preferably dimly-lit ones. There you will encounter doors on either side of you, many of which house an underground party or club (“speakeasy,” as the kids say these days). Knock on as many doors as you can. Oftentimes, a representative for the club will open the door and scream at you to stop knocking. They will also feign ignorance, pretending these underground hangouts don’t exist and that you’re knocking on the back door of a restaurant or other business. Don’t you believe them! Your only problem is that you haven’t cracked the code with the correct knock. Keep rap-a-tap-tapping until someone lets you in.
Most tourists or travelers do their business over the weekends, but if you happen to be lodging somewhere in the middle of the week, you might be able to take advantage of specials not available at other times. Midweek tends to be slowest for area restaurants, clubs, bars, and museums. To drum up business, owners will incentivize patronage, such as 50-cent wing nights, $2 margaritas, or free day passes for cultural exhibits. These deals not only tend to give a boost to midweek business, but they open up opportunities for tourists to meet new people. Bars and independent coffee shops will frequently feature local musicians on Wednesday and Thursday nights, too.
Mooch off college kids
Which is ironic, right? Because college kids are usually the moochers, but in this case, you can benefit from a campus’ advertising hubs. Student centers usually have bulletin boards full of local events, everything from small-venue concerts to upcoming protests (if you feel like raging at The Man while you’re in town). Obviously, you won’t get into the mixer at Delta House, but you may see a notice for the latest one-woman show on campus for a measly $3. Or a public lecture on inflation and its effects on emerging market economies. Unless you don’t vibe at all with youth culture, there is often an attractive opportunity or two to be had by culling the college’s public communiqué centers.