Online Tools for Getting to Know a New Neighborhood

Moving is exhausting and when it's over, the urge to collapse and hibernate is strong. But, eventually you'll have to emerge from your cave of boxes and get out of the house. Here are a few ways to know your new neighborhood before you step out of the door.

1. Know how to get around. Though wandering around your new 'hood is a great way to discover hidden gems and get a feel for your surroundings, getting hopelessly lost is not ideal. So orient yourself by memorizing main roads around you on Google Maps. Also, look up your city's public transit site and check to see if they have any supported mobile apps (for Boston, Catch the T and Catch the Bus are good options). Then you're free to wander to your heart's content, knowing you can find your way home.

2. Know where to eat and shop. Though it's good advice to take reviews with a grain of salt, user-rated websites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and Citysearch can give you an indication of what shops and restaurants you might want to check out in your neighborhood. See if your neighborhood has a local business association, and use that as a reference to support area commerce. Your city's magazines and newspapers often have a "Best of" feature and finding that list online is a web search away. Although I've been a resident for 10 years now, I still make it a point to check out as many of Boston's Best Of winners each year.

3. Know where to have fun and meet people. There are many choices for websites that post local events. You can start with your local newspaper's event calendar. Then check area Meetups for people with similar interests. If volunteering is your thing, Idealist is a great place to find worthy causes in your neighborhood. If you're into social media, find your city's influential tweeters and follow them on Twitter. For example, BostonTweet is the guy to follow for news, giveaways and things to do in Boston.

4. Know where to relax. It's important to take some time to enjoy nature, especially in the city. Find out about the local green spaces from your city's Parks & Recreation department. In addition to showing you the nearest coffee shop and salon, Walkscore also has a parks category.

What are your tips for exploring a neighborhood online?

Image: Tara Bellucci.

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Tara is a Boston-based marketing maven-turned-lifestyle writer, who spends her time thrift shopping, canning, and doing DIY projects.