No matter how similar they may look, no two urban neighborhoods are the same–and choosing a neighborhood that’s right for you requires a vast knowledge of the area, its residents and its amenities. If you’re moving to a new city, you likely don’t know the intricacies of the town’s various neighborhoods. In this case, try camping out in prospective neighborhoods to learn about the area’s vibe. It only takes two hours to scout out your would-be ‘hood, learn tons of neighborhood information and get a handle on your surroundings.
Pre-Tour: Browse Online Forums
Okay, so we’re not including this task in your two-hour timeframe. That’s because you should be doing this as often as possible! The internet is ripe with information on various neighborhoods. Websites like City-Data and Front Porch Forums even have active online communities where you can ask residents about the neighborhoods’ safety, amenities and overall vibes.
First 30 Minutes: Get There
The first 30 minutes of your neighborhood tour will likely be occupied by logistics. Whether you’re trying to find free parking, taking public transit into the neighborhood’s core or hailing a cab, simply getting to your community will give you lots of information on how easy (or difficult) transportation will be in your area.
Second 30 Minutes: Grab Lunch
Find an informal establishment–think bar, cafe or coffee shop–and grab a bite to eat. Throwing back a cold one wouldn’t be amiss, either. Talk to the waiter/bartender/barista about the neighborhood, and see if you can engage any fellow patrons in conversation. This will give you a local’s perspective on the area, and you’ll uncover lots of useful neighborhood information. Plus, restaurants and bars are great for people-watching, and you may just find your new favorite hang out!
Final Hour: Go for a Walk
This goes without saying, but it’s super important to go for a walk in your prospective neighborhood. You’ll want to lay out a strategy before setting out, as it’s important to hit all the amenities that you’ll be frequenting if and when you chose to move here. Plan a route that allows you to walk past necessities like a grocery store, a post office, your school or office building, a laundromat, a gas station and nightlife options. If you find that you can’t walk between these amenities, you might need to consider whether or not walkability is important to you.
Don’t kid yourself: If you didn’t like the neighborhood during your two-hour tour, it’s probably not the neighborhood for you. By contrast, if you loved the neighborhood, but discover that it’s a bit out of your price range, don’t fret. Go back to those online forums and ask for locals’ advice on similar neighborhoods that are more up-and-coming, and therefore less pricey!
It’s also a good idea to repeat this tour as many times as is necessary while you’re choosing a neighborhood, especially if you’re torn between two. Often, one area you’ll love will be pricey and trendy, while another, more low-key area will offer similar amenities in a less-glorified way for a lower price tag. After touring all your options, you’ll be able to decide which neighborhood best suits your needs.