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How to find nifty, non-touristy spots on the road

When you are headed to a new area, it is usually pretty easy to find out where the expensive, tourist traps are located. But, finding the hidden gems that the locals enjoy takes a little more work.

Google usually gives you the overview of an area, but be prepared to apply a little more effort to see past the commercialized attractions.  I’d love to share with you some of the tips I use to find non touristy spots while on the road.

Instagram — The photo sharing, hashtaging website can be a gold mine when it comes to finding things to do in an area.  Just use the search bar to type in the name of the city, park or location you are going to visit and find the highlights that other travelers have documented. If you see a picture you love, but the poster didn’t say exactly where it is, then just send the person a message on Instagram and you’ll have the insider’s info on that location.  Instagram is available via the web or mobile app.

Atlas Obscura — If you are looking for ancient ruins or spooky ghost towns, then this is your place.  Search for types of things or locations and you will find the most obscure and unique things to do in the area you are visiting.  Explore the database, read the articles, go on your adventure and then add a place to your itinerary.  These websites work best when everyone participates by leaving feedback and suggestions on the site.

Roadside America — Roadside America is full of 10,000-plus landmarks that will leave you full of wonder and feeling perplexed.  Why exactly did they build a 12-ton, 80-foot tire on the side of I-94 near Detroit, Mich?  One of the best features is the Roadside America rating system letting you know if the attraction is “mildly interesting or major fun.”  Don’t forget to head to your mobile device app store and get this app.  The map feature is great and will show you what unique landmarks are near and if they are worth stopping for a visit during a break from traveling.

Map websites — Whether you prefer Google Maps, Mapquest or something else, using a mapping website is a great way to see what is around a location you are visiting.  Just search words like attractions or parks to see what is near you.  Zooming in and looking for places near your coordinates is another way to find less popular things to do.

Trip Advisor — Check out Trip Advisor on the web or by using their mobile app.  Right at the top of the website you can type in a location and then what type of thing you are looking for, be it a restaurant, museum, historical place or fun activity.  Read the reviews to quickly decide what is worth spending money on and what you should skip.

Word of mouth — Sometimes there is just nothing better than good old word of mouth.  Call ahead to the local library or city building to ask the locals what the highlights of their area are.  If you’d rather wait until you get to your designation, then make sure to pick the brain of the park rangers at the campground or ask the employees of any of the local business you visit.

Standing in enormous lines for overpriced attractions is a sure way to ruin your vacation and leave a sour taste in your mouth. Taking the time to find things that are off the beaten path always pays off.  We have yet to be disappointed by heading to the less popular, but usually highly entertaining sites.  Have fun using these tips while enjoying your next trip.

About Jen Holt

Jen Holt and her husband Drew are parents to two young kids and travel the country in their fifth wheel nicknamed Big Moosey. The Holts have a passion for the outdoors and love visiting National Parks. You can follow more about the Holts adventures at

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