Guest Post // How to Explore a Little City

Welcome, friends! While I am off in Japan, I have collected a lovely team of bloggers to share a variety of guest posts about travel, fashion, and everything in between! I will be back from my adventuring soon, but in the mean time please enjoy these wonderful ladies :)

I am happy to introduce you to Abby of Little City Adventures today! This mama-to-be has become one of the sweetest friends I have, even though we live on the opposite coasts :)
How To Explore a Little City
By the title that I chose for my blog you may have guessed that not only do I live in a little city but I love living in a little city. My little city is Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a city that you probably have never heard of but we are pretty historical and over the last few years we have become a pretty nifty city as well. Growing up my family really never came into the city, Im racking my brain and I cant remember a specific instance at all, I think because when my parents were growing up Lancaster was an all around rough city. But as I said earlier, it has cleaned up a lot and there are so many awesome things to see. I know you have one burning question, How did you, someone who never went into the city growing up, become familiar with Lancaster city AND learn to love what it has to offer?!When I was in high school one of my friends suggested going downtown to visit the vintage shops on Queen Street. Immediately, I felt a pull to visit the city more often. When Seth and I started dating we would spend hours on Sunday afternoons/evenings just wandering around the city holding hands and just chatting. I mean hours people. Those are some of my fondest memories of our dating times. Soon after we started dating I got a job working at a cafe right downtown and I really got to know the city. Ive loved the hours that Ive spent exploring my little city, the history and cultures represented are so interesting. Do you live near a little city that youve never explored or are you taking a day trip? Have no fear, I will give you a few tips on exploring a little city.
1. Take a gander at a map of the city
Many cities, large and small, have maps like this one scattered throughout the sidewalks. Dont be embarrassed to read the map, they are there for a reason. When I was learning my way around the city, I seriously relied on those maps. Be sure to take note of the layout of the city as well as the main streets in and out of the city. Many older cities, like Lancaster, are laid out in an easy to follow grid system with alternating one way streets. Those one way streets can be tricky to catch on to at first but most places have them in an alternating pattern. Also make sure that you know the main streets in and out of the city just in case you do get lost while walking or driving. In Lancaster the most well known in and outstreets are Chestnut and Walnut, In Walnut, Out Chestnut.
2. Read those signs
Whatever city you are visiting probably spent a gross amount of money on signage. So use them. The signs pointing you towards the sites and stops are especially helpful when driving. When I first started driving in the city I literally knew like two ways out of the city and the one way I could only find by following the sign pointing out a landmarkthat was in that direction. Dont be ashamed to read those signs, Im not!

In third grade my class went on a walking tour of Historical Lancaster City and I remember having to read a lot of the historical signs. I also remember that my teacher was really tall and she had long legs and would walk so quickly and our little third grade size legs could not keep up (ha). You can learn a lot about your little city by reading those signs. For example, in the photo above you can learn that not only was Lancaster City was founded in 1729 but for awhile it was the state capitol.
3. Follow the crowds and ask questions
I used to be so afraid to ask people questions about where to go in the city, I guess it seemed uncoolto ask questions, I thought I should just know without ever having been to those places.  Thats just silly. Store owners and employees really dont mind answering questions and recommending shops and restaurants. When I worked at the cafe downtown, tourists asked questions all of the time, whether it was just directions to the Amish or what store could they find a specific item in, and I never really minded answering those quick questions. Alternatively, when driving around take note of which blocks seem to be the most crowded, it probably means that those blocks have the best shops and eats.
4. Simply enjoy the sites and the mix of old and new
If you rush around, you are going to miss things. One of my favorite things about my little city is the wonderful mix of old and new. We have churches and homes that were built in the 1700s and right beside them are modernstructures. Each city has a unique feel and look so take some time and just enjoy what is going on around you. Go in and out of shops, especially the locally-owned ones that youve probably never heard of, and take your time learning what your little city is all about.

Bonus Tips
-  Research parking before going. The other day I was trying to get to Central Market to do my grocery shopping but tourists (I confirmed that they were indeed tourists by their license plates) had literally blocked an entire city block waiting to get into a full parking lot when they could have just just gone around the block and found two other parking locations. Also, many of the heavy residential streets have free parking, you may have to walk a bit farther, but it could be worth it.

-  Worried about running into the bad parts of the city? Do some research. One way to altogether avoid accidentally walking into thosewellscarier parts of the city do some research. Look up homes for sale in the city and you can sort of judge by the photos (most of the time) what those streets look like. Or utilize street view on Google Maps.

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