So, you have moved to a new community that is unfamiliar to you, and you want to learn about your new neighborhood. Why not start your search by going online, right from your apartment? Take a look at these suggestions for learning more about your new community through the Web.
Search for what interests you - The Internet has a wealth of resources waiting to connect you with the world right outside your apartment community. Think about the things that interest you: maybe you enjoy eating out in restaurants and going to movies? Sites that focus on specific activities are great for expanding your awareness of destinations in your neighborhood. You can look to the Web to help you find, say, a Southwestern restaurant in your neighborhood, or find a theater and check the times on the new movie you want to see. For information about restaurants, for instance, check out Urbanspoon.com. You can even make online reservations at many eateries via sites such as Opentable.com. You can find local theaters and movie times on sites such as Fandango.com or Moviefone.com. Once you get used to it, looking for local attractions and events via the Web becomes as easy as clicking your mouse.
Google it - Don’t forget about one of the most versatile tools on the Internet: Google! Google is a first-class ticket to seeing the world online. You can find maps to destinations, in many cases with pictures of the actual places you want to visit. You can easily search by key words and categories, and get suggestions from Google about searches that others have made using similar phrases. One search to try is to enter your city, region, or neighborhood by name and see what comes up for you. You may discover a regional publication that serves your area with a blog about your favorite pastime and where to pursue that activity near your apartment home.
Find friends in your neighborhood - Some Web sites are designed to bring people together. You customize these sites for your city or area simply by entering the city’s name in the search field. Meetup.com, for instance, can be used to set up group events between like-minded people who live near each other and are interested in similar activities. On that site, just click “find a group,” then enter the activity that interests you, along with your location. You can then browse through a multitude of groups that have formed because of a love for music or flower arranging. Diving into the diverse opportunities found on pages like these may lead you to discover resources and opportunities in your community that you had no idea were available.
It’s not all fun and games - Your neighborhood may very well have a presence on the Web. Search by name for state and city government sites to learn how to conduct official business or where to find important services. Community-based sites are great online places to learn about your neighborhood and stay abreast of community news. Of course, it is especially important in new surroundings to familiarize yourself with services you may need some day, like the location of the hospital nearest to your apartment. Of more daily assistance, you can find online services that will suggest different routes for getting to places, or you can check the current traffic on your favorite commute path. Maps and travel schedules for rapid transit can typically be found online, as well.
The people have spoken - One of the most useful and exciting features of the Web is its ability to bring people (and their opinions) together. Sites such as Yelp.com give people community forums where they can share their experiences of visiting stores, restaurants, nightclubs, and other services. You can benefit from all this information, but, as with everything you read on the Web, use your own judgment: a few negative comments, no matter how strong the objections, do not necessarily mean that an establishment should be avoided. Look for a general agreement over a series of postings, and notice if you tend to agree with certain commentators who post frequently.
You may even decide to join the fray and offer your own online feedback. The power of the Internet to help familiarize us with our world is one of its great achievements. It has rapidly become quite common that any place we might want to visit now has two locations: one on a street somewhere, and one on the Web. Bookmark your favorite destinations on the information highway and check in with them regularly — it’s the easiest way to stay informed about what’s going on and to explore the world where you live.