“Cool Hunting” – Stalking Where To Go And What To Do In A New City

I am a planner. (I know: shocking). A few years ago, I would have also said that I was a foodie, but I think that word is played out, so I will simply say that I am a selective diner and appreciate an artisanal meal. (Hmmm, not sure that sounds any better).

Anyway. When I touch down in a new city, I am on a serious quest. I want to find the coolest/most interesting/truly local spots. Iconic places that I wouldn’t see in my own hood. Since I’m a planner and I geek out on research, I’m big on cross-referencing…you know, the Yelp with the Chowhound with the local paper with the Facebook reccos.

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I found a few spots that felt totally right on. We grabbed brunch at Joan’s on Third, where I devoured a delicious lobster roll and voraciously peoplewatched.


Lobster Roll at Joan’s

Then we popped in to Pampered Hands on Melrose, which felt like a candy store for big girls. We read gossip mags and watched E! and sipped complimentary blended boba drinks and enjoyed free neck and shoulder massages. Oh, and we got gorgeous pedicures as well.

pampered nails

Pampered Hands on Melrose

After our pedis, we made a beeline for Wasteland, where I found a Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress for $49 and a Theory cardigan for $29. Gasp.


Source: hauteliving.com

All this is to say that my friend and I had a very LA Day. Quite a contrast to many other places in the world. I pulled out a journal I kept when Josh and I traveled through Africa and reread a list of what we did one day in Tamale, Ghana.

We rode bikes into the countryside where we stopped to check out giant anthills.

ant hill

Image source: abc news

We had ridden out about fifteen miles in the heat of the day, so we barely made it back to the city, where we were saved by Fan Ice, an incredible thing. Men on bikes with frozen treats, all over the city. During the time we were in Ghana, I think we must have eaten an entire bike container’s worth. Fan Ice Saves Lives, that was our motto.

fan ice

No sooner than we returned the bikes, we were caught in a downpour. Luckily we were at the market by the point, and we took shelter in a shop full of women. They gave us something to munch on – a strange ball of tangy seeds. Interesting and kind of good. As we chatted and munched, a rat came clambering sadly up the steps of the shop, trying to escape the rain like everyone else. There was a huge commotion as all the women leapt to their feet, grabbing anything close at hand to throw or jab at the poor creature. Finally, one of them struck it a deathblow with the heel of her shoe, and then it was unceremoniously swept out the door and into the alley, where it was swept along in the rushing water.

ghana market

We ended our day by buying bread and avocados in the market. We enjoyed our feast while sitting on a couple of wooden crates in an empty market stall, watching the action around us and talking to curious locals.

No way I could have found any of that action on Yelp…but for the trips I’ve been taking lately, I find that Yelp is my best friend. I just type in “Cool Things To Do.” It’s a great place to start – kind of like brainstorming. TripAdvisor can also reveal a few gems. And of course there’s the “Destinations” section of Flyertalk.

I’ve got a few trips on the horizon (Portland, NYC, DC) so I need to start planning for those.

How do you figure this out when you’re traveling?



  1. I’m surprised there aren’t more comments on this post! I’m definitely not as much of a planner as you are, but I love finding those little places where only the locals are. I’m particularly obsessive when it comes to food – my worst nightmare is missing a fabulous restaurant in a new city and ending up in some tourist trap.
    I do use Yelp and tripadvisor quite a bit. With restaurants I’ve had lots of success by using local food (or foodie) blogs. A quick google gives me 5-10 blogs to check out. I’ve found some really great places off the beaten path thanks to the bloggers. Oh, and if I’m in a city, Time Out usually has some great recommendations. I miss their travel guides…


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