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Connect With Your Neighborhood: Find Local Spots and Meet the Neighbors

Congratulations and welcome to your new home! Now’s the time to explore. A new neighborhood can be extremely exciting, but also a wee bit daunting. A mix of technology and old-school exploration can be just the ticket to graduating from the status of “neighborhood newbie” that much more quickly.

Take a Tour

Nothing tops discovery than a little exploration. The city of Chicago was my first destination beyond the cornfields near my parent’s house. As skyscrapers were a somewhat different form of greenery and this was the pre-smartphone era, the Not for Tourists Guide to Chicago never left my purse.

Post-its adorned the categorized pages highlighting restaurants I needed to try and museums I needed to visit. It also described the neighborhoods so I had an idea which ones were safe for me to venture to on my own.

Not For Tourists App

Luckily for today’s mover, the NFT has an app for that. My guide is about a decade old, so it’s nice to have an updated version on hand and accessible via my iPhone (makes the decision of which handbag to wear that day much more versatile).

But for those who want to carry something around but have it not be as bulky as a book, check out the City Walks cards. My friend gave them to me as a gift when I made my second big move to New York. And boy did I need them! Each “city” features an open-topped box with a stack of cards inside. Each card in the deck outlines a self-guided walking adventure, with a detailed map on the front and information on the back filled with insider tips. Take one or several cards with you and you and you can find the best spots in your new neighborhood!

Map My Run

Are you a runner or just someone who likes to find walking paths nearby? Check out Map My Run. It’s an online community where you can find walking, running, biking or even dog walking routes based on location. You can search for walks or create your own walk. I highly recommend it if you want to find your unbeaten neighborhood paths.

Do Your Research

In the land of Google, we can pretty much find out anything with just a few clicks on a keyboard or swipes on a smart phone. One of my favorite tasks when exploring a new area is going to Google Maps on my computer, typing in my address and clicking on “Search Nearby” to find local coffee shops, restaurants, shops and grocery stores.

Google bought famous rating guide company, Zagat, in 2011. Users quickly noticed how business listings on Google Maps had the Zagat logo conveniently located next to the business name. Very convenient for the user to find nearby spots and check out the Zagat ratings all in one place!

I also have Foursquare and Yelp downloaded on my iPhone for when I’m on the move. Both have features allowing you to search venues near your location along with user ratings from both friends and strangers.

Know Your Neighbors

Speaking of friends and strangers, you can walk the city streets or small-town sidewalks all you want, but that doesn’t necessarily help you meet people. The days of neighbors walking to your door with a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” gift basket aren’t necessarily the norm anymore. And you may not feel comfortable asking for a cup of sugar either.

Nextdoor App

Nextdoor is a highly-rated app that you can download to get to know and keep in touch with people in your neighborhood! Their website lists the following uses for this private network:

  • Quickly get the word out about a break-in
  • Organize a Neighborhood Watch Group
  • Track down a trustworthy babysitter
  • Find out who does the best paint job in town
  • Ask for help keeping an eye out for a lost dog
  • Find a new home for an outgrown bike
  • Finally call that nice man down the street by his first name

Sometimes, however, the best way to meet people is to not rely on technology but rather think more old school. My favorite neighborhood that I lived in during my stint in New York was Harlem; and one of the reasons was because it was my first apartment that had a stoop.

I would read the newspaper, a book or just people watch on that stoop on such a regular basis that I met everyone who lived in my building along with a few neighbors! You’d be surprised how many people ask to read sections of your newspaper when they see you reading one. (And people say print is dead. I call poppycock!)

Don’t have a stoop to sit upon? Find a local coffee shop, restaurant or bar you like and make a point to become a regular. You’ll start recognizing other frequent visitors and that gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself. As you both have already seen one another there regularly, it can be almost awkward continuing to ignore them. A great opportunity to break the ice!

Be Patient

It’s commonly told that it takes about a year to fully move into your new home. I moved back to Chicago just a year ago, and can second that statement. As much as you want to be a neighborhood expert and develop a full-fledged routine within three months, be patient and take your time. It’ll take you some time to explore and develop your own routine.

Hopefully these tips and tools will help ease you along the way. So enjoy and see you on the sidewalks!

For the past nine years, Rachel has been strategizing and implementing concepts to keep up with the shifting media landscape, and at times keep ahead of it. She currently works as Senior Marketing Manager for the social sponsorship platform Pear. Her previous experience touts work with corporations such as McGraw-Hill Publishing and Sears Holdings Corp. Rachel also publishes the work fashion magazine suite and Forbes-recommended blog, TheWorkingWardrobe and hosts the weekly podcast series, Speaking Of Fashion. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/RachelYeomans.

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