January 8, 2015

5 Ways to Have a Truly Local Travel Experience

As a visitor, it can sometimes seem like locals keep the best attractions encrypted behind secret passwords and handshakes — and you don’t have a townie friend to get in the know. Yet many are opening up to outsiders through a emerging category of travel apps and online platforms. Here are some of our favorites:

EatWith

There’s no better way to truly feel like a local than sitting down to a dinner party.EatWith is like AirBnB for such occasions, scoring you a seat at the table inside the homes of local foodies. Users can browse dinners by hosts in dozens of cities, including Austin, Phoenix and San Francisco. For a fee, you can break bread with a whole new group of friends for the night.

SideTour

SideTour connects travelers with niche local guides interested in sharing something uniquely authentic about a place. Users can learn how to make a graffiti stencil from acclaimed Dallas artist Jerod DTOX Davies and try their hand at cooking paella with tips from Los Angeles chef Manuel Lopez.Tours last one to two hours and range in price depending on the activity and its requirements. Some are free.

Find Everything Historic

AirBnB is a good start, but if you’re looking to stay at a historic gem that’s full of homegrown character, you still might have to scroll through pages of apartments to find it. Instead, check out FindEverythingHistoric.com, a beautifully-curated website that makes it easy to find places such as Hotel Ella, a 47-room boutique hotel in downtown Austin that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel opened in 2013 after a full restoration — so visitors get ambiance without having to sacrifice Wi-Fi, big TVs and other modern amenities.

Napa Valley Wine Tour

You know that old saying about how sex is like pizza — even if it’s bad, it’s good? Wine tastings aren’t like that — and with more than 400 wineries and tasting rooms in Napa Valley, there’s no good reason to waste your time sampling ho-hum vintages. Get someone who can steer you toward the good stuff. Created by Napa residents and tour guides Ralph and Lahni de Amicis, the Napa Valley Wine Tour app offers reviews and info on hundreds of wineries in the region, plus suggested itineraries.

Spotted By Locals

Perhaps you’d like some insights without actually having to spend your whole day with a local tour guide. Enter Spotted By Locals. It offers city guides full of recommendations from handpicked, fully vetted spotters, many of whom write about travel. Pair this service with a Wi-Fi equipped Silvercar, and you’ll have no problem accessing the full desktop version of the site. In addition to iPhone and Android apps, there’s an offline version as well — handy when your itinerary takes you off the grid.