While travelling, nobody wants to be that guy. You know, the tourist accidentally bumping people with their selfie stick, walking around with their nose in a map. There’s nothing worse than the realisation that you’re stuck right in the middle of a huge crowd, all trying to take a picture of the same monument, or queuing to get the same lunch. Sometimes the best experiences in the big cities are found in the places you’ve never heard of – and who knows those spots best? Locals of course! So to get you started, here are some tips on how to experience these cities from the people who know best.
San Fran will have you spoilt for choice with its quirky and up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Dogpatch is an area with a history of factories and industrial warehouses, but today is full of art studios, and uber-cool cafes and restaurants. Head to Piccino on Minnesota Street for the lively atmosphere and delicious pizza! If you’re all about the hipster scene, make your way to Haight-Ashbury to explore the vintage clothing shops, record stores, and cafes set up for people-watching. The trendy Mission District is also worth a visit, with its deep Latino roots and eclectic mix of stores and restaurants – if you’re looking for one of the hottest bars around, grab a cocktail in Trick Dog, run by a trio of mixology masters.
The city of LA will have you star struck, but there’s plenty to see outside the typical Hollywood sights. Los Angeles is known to have some of the best Korean BBQ outside of Korea – something you have to sample! Head to Koreatown to sample the regional dishes at one of the local favourites like Hae Jang Chong. If you feel like burning off the calories, go for a hike in Runyon Canyon Park, which will give you epic views over Hollywood. For art lovers, check out the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, which happens every Thursday. This is a self-guided art tour where you can check out a tonne of local exhibits and galleries! When it’s time for a caffeine hit, grab a coffee from Bob Dylan’s 18th Street Coffee House in Santa Monica – keep an eye out for celebs.
With plenty of beaches to choose from in San Diego, everyone wants to know which is best. Well, it comes down to personal preference of course, but it’s hard to go wrong with Pacific Beach. For a nice walk with great views, take a stroll along The Strand – this runs from Mission Beach to North Pacific Beach. This three-mile stretch will take you past games of volleyball, surfer dudes, and lots of opportunities for people watching. For a great coffee, you can’t go past Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in Little Italy. If you’re wandering around Mission Beach, sample some of the best snack food in town at Bao Beach; think fluffy buns filled with fried chicken, braised pork, and even tofu. Wondering how to spend your evening? Head to funky North Park, where you can catch a show, and choose from a massive selection of restaurants and bars.
When you think ‘Vegas’, it’s hard to not let your mind be flooded with thoughts of casinos, neon lights and wild shows. But there’s so much more to Sin City! After you’ve had your fill of The Strip, make your way to Freemont East. This is an area that locals tend to escape to when they need a break from the tourist chaos. Have a drink in The Downtown Cocktail Room, with its craft cocktails and a secret bar at the back. If you want to spend some dough, Downtown Container Park is great for shopping. If you’re up for some live indie music, try out Bunkhouse Saloon. When you decide it’s time to get out in the fresh air, then Red Rock Canyon is only 20 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are heaps of options for hardcore hikers, and for those after a cruisey scenic trail.
Well known for its wine, great restaurants, sunny climate, and popularity with celebs, the atmosphere in Santa Barbara will make you feel as if you’re relaxing somewhere along the Mediterranean coastline. You’ll find an epic range of Mexican and Italian establishments in particular, many around Victoria Street. Brasil Arts Café has a very reasonable happy hour, and you’ll often find live music here too! If you’re a reader then be sure to wander the Book Den, one of California’s oldest book shops. Spend some time in the sun and take a walk (or hire a cruiser bike) to meander the waterfront and take in the beautiful scenery. If you want some retail therapy, then head to State Street and check out some of the unique boutiques like Plum goods and Lovebird.