One of the best ways to "go local" when you're traveling is to actually become part of the fabric of the city or town - and the ticket for ensuring that is to "live" there rather than vacation there. I'm talking about renting a home.
House rentals can seem a bit like you are invading another’s private space at first. The houses are fully furnished, and usually stocked with dishes, cookware, linens, and other home gadgets that you would find in your own place, and awaiting you is an empty (or nearly-empty) fridge and pantry. Opportunity #1 to go local! Eat the food!
Does the town you’re staying in have a claim to fame? Is it the garlic capital of the world? Does it have infamous apples? Are you in award-winning wine country? Learn where the best places are from a local! When I arrive in a new town where I’m staying in a vacation rental, after I get my bearings and unpack, the first thing I do is head for whatever coffee shop or café catches my eye (I have an affinity for coffee shops and cafés). Because the wait staff is generally local, I pump them for information instead of mining the internet. Internet sites are great when you want to find a tourist’s opinion of a town – but to find the best places to go, you have to have conversations. Opportunity #2 to go local! Meet the natives!
The best part about relying on the locals at the coffee shops and cafés is that you generally find the best local haunts – which gives you an opportunity to learn the community from a local perspective rather than that of a tourist. If you want the tourist experience, stick with the hotels and the guided tours. If you want the local experience, stay in the neighborhoods, and live in the city like a new transplant. You will be amazed at how both experiences can give you totally different views of a vacation spot.
And at the end of the day, you can spend your evening your way – At a home, in a neighborhood, sitting on the front porch or in the back yard, watching the stars peek out from a different time zone.
And when the neighbors ask if you’re on vacation or why you’re there, you can honestly say, “I’m renting the house here for a while, just to check the town out.”