How to discover weird and cool places near you


You might think there’s nothing interesting where you live. You’re probably wrong. Every place on Earth has an interesting story to tell—the hard part is finding them. 

There are all kinds of apps and websites that recommend activities to tourists, and there’s a good chance that your town hosts at least some tourists. Why not, then, use some of these tools to discover stuff to do right where you live? Here are a few such tools you can try out right now to find interesting and/or fun things to do where you live. 

Whats-near.me

The website whats-near.me shows you places nearby that have their own Wikipedia article. To get started head to whats-near.me in your browser on a computer or mobile device. Click or tap the “Share location” button. Just like that you will see the area around you complete with every nearby place with its own Wikipedia article. This is a great way to discover nearby parks, schools, and even notable businesses. It also highlights any historic events, including battles, that happened nearby, along with historically significant buildings or ruins.

Screenshot: Whats-near.me

I explored the rural areas north of where I live using this site and found a castle until recently owned by a adult film star, a cool looking wooden rail trestle from the early 1900’s, and a fur trading outpost built in 1834. I had no idea any of this existed. There are almost certainly things close to you that are just as, if not more, interesting near you. There’s also a link to the Wikipedia article, allowing you to read more about whatever it is that you just discovered. Like I said: I found a few pretty interesting things near my house. I also check out. And Wikipedia’s community-oriented structure, which is relatively resistant to marketing pressure, means the results aren’t full of spam.

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is one of the best blogs still standing. The site publishes articles every day about odd places you can find in every corner of the planet. It also offers a map pointing the location of every single subject they’ve ever covered, complete with a “near me” button. Click that and you’ll see various odd structures near where you are.

screenshot of Atlas Obscura website showing list of places in Oregon and a map with their locations
Screenshot: Atlas Obscura

Click anything on the maps to see more photos and read well-written articles outlining what makes a given place so interesting. I personally discovered The Witch’s Castle this way after moving to the Portland area. It’s basically just a ruined 1900’s park ranger station, in the middle of a large park. It’s full of graffiti and I love it. There’s got to be something this interesting near you.

TripAdvisor

Here’s another site regularly used by tourists that you can use too. Head to the home page, click the search bar, and click the “Near me” button to share your location. You will see all the things TripAdvisor recommends to people visiting your city. 

screenshot of TripAdvisor website with list of top attractions in HIllsboro, Oregon
Screenshot: TripAdvisor

The list of restaurants, which pops up first, will probably be familiar (but be sure to check out anything that isn’t!) The interesting thing for me is the “Things to Do” button at the top of the screen. You’ll see the kinds of activities that tourists enjoy in your town. I discovered a farm owned by former reality TV stars and a massive pinball museum this way.

Google Maps

This might seem a bit obvious, granted—everyone knows you can find things on Google Maps. But I tend to only use the “Things to do” button when I’m traveling. Turns out it also works at home! Just head to Google Maps, tap the button. As with TripAdvisor it’s a great way to find out about things that are recommended to tourists that locals might not notice.

Screenshot of Google Maps in seaside Oregon with notable places marked in red
Screenshot: Google Maps

I tried this out on the coast to the west of where I live and I found an aquarium I didn’t realize existed and a weird tree I want to check out next time I’m out that way. I bet the rural areas near your town have something just as good.





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