Getting A Sense for A Sense of Place

Getting A Sense for A Sense of Place

A Journey into Hidden America (Canada)

It's Summer - time to hit the road and explore.

When heading on a journey of exploration in places previously unknown, I especially enjoy the opportunity to try get acquainted with my new surroundings and get a feeling for what makes a place distinctive.

For me it all starts with a morning run. After 40 years, the run these days is more like a slow limp, but the enjoyment derived from a morning jog in a new place still acts as a restorative potion.

When in a big city, one of my favorite endeavors is to hop on the Metro/subway, select a random stop, and use a station as a point of departure for a jog of exploration of a new neighborhood. Being housed in the midst of suburban sprawl (along a highway surrounded by strip malls) poses some additional hurdles, but more times than not we are able to turn our jog into a positive exploration of more pristine surroundings beyond the congestion and impersonal surroundings.

Once the run is done, there are other rites of discovery I like to engage in to try to get a sense of a place - visiting a moderately price eateries that highlight local/regional foods; bookstores; libraries; historical societies; walks on Main Street or nearby residential Maple, Elm or Oak Streets; civic gardens, parks and arboretums. Only after this will I stop in to the touristy gift shops, which I usually end up enjoying as well.

Deborah and James Fallows in Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America engage in a similar exercise to get a local feel in a new place. Among their stops during the course of their 3 years worth of visits to some 49 communities:



YMCA (to swim)

Economic Development Office

Bike Path


Minor League Sports

Art Zones/Galleries

Do you engage in such a process in a new place - is there life beyond Starbucks and Panera Breads for you ? If so, we invite you to share your favorite ways get a feel for a new place.

How do you journey into the heart of America (Canada) ?