Life in the city has its advantages. Gone are the days of your suburban adolescence spent in a 1-square-mile “downtown” or crammed into your friend’s basement den. But when you find yourself grumbling at the long line in the café and start to see the sidewalks as “crowded” rather than “bustling,” it’s time to look at the city from a new perspective. Unlock these benefits of metropolitan living and consider the magic renewed.
Skip the crowds of arena concerts and find an up-close-and-personal performance at a local record store.
Follow record stores for free shows and release parties. Going to a big concert venue has its perks, but record stores often have album signings, unplugged performances, and other more intimate events that don’t require gigantic parking lots and $15 refreshments. Live in California? Amoeba Records has an impressive calendar of new and more well-known acts in its San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles locations. Even if you’re not in the Golden State, venues like Waterloo Records in Austin and even the 150-square-foot Weirdo Records in Boston have live shows coming up. Who knows, you just might get an actual photo of your favorite singer, instead of the usual tiny speck in a blur of flashing lights from 100 rows back.
Check out events through local universities. Colleges often invite leading academics for speaking events or host visiting artists at their galleries and theaters. Universities like NYU and University of Oregon have calendars that can be filtered for events open to the public, and the University of Washington Botanic Gardens host classes on unique topics like beekeeping and botanical drawing. Looking for nightlife? Schools with an observatory are likely to have public astronomy showcases — Boston University hosts every Wednesday. If you live by a music or art school, there are sure to be concerts and gallery nights nearby, by talent you can claim to have known way back when.
Queue up a running playlist and let the endorphins flow for a pumped-up tour of the city.
Run a new route. Yes, this one takes a bit of effort, but it’s worth it. The city starts to blur during your daily commute and you might feel like it’s all the same ol’ hunk of concrete. See the streets from a different perspective by lacing up your sneaks and heading outside. Cross through parks, breathe the fresh air by the waterfront, and explore the areas beyond your typical stomping grounds. If you need some guidance in leaving your comfort zone, use RunKeeper to find other people’s routes and check out new neighborhoods. You’ll get great people-watching, realize that Little Italy really isn’t that far away, and find spots along the way to revisit after you’re back in street clothes. Okay, you can walk if you want.
See the city as a tourist. Let me guess — you’ve lived within a block of the contemporary art museum for three years and never stepped inside. Invite friends or family from out-of-town and finally visit all those spots that are just way too touristy to go on your own. Sure, the lines to get to the top of the Space Needle or the Sears Tower Skydeck aren’t exactly appealing, but there’s a reason these places are popular. And spending the day crossing the city reminds you that it is pretty awesome that you have entertainment, shopping, nature, and public transit within arm’s reach, and you can go out to dinner without dealing with traffic or parking snafus that hold up your restaurant reservation.
House swap within the city. You’ve always been jealous that your friend lives by the water, and she’s been curious to explore the bike path by your place. Why not trade spaces for a weekend? Discover a new breakfast spot, take a different subway line, and spend time in a park on that side of town. If no one’s game, try a website like HomeExchange.com and find a trade with someone on the opposite side of the city. If all else fails, find a deal on a hotel room for a couple nights. The urban jungle is simply more inviting after continental breakfast.
Your city is a playground, but sometimes it takes a jungle gym expert to show you how.
Babysit. This one gets you bonus karma points (or cash). See the city through the eyes of a kid by spending the day with a little one. Hit the playground, visit the zoo, buy a balloon animal from a street vendor. Your zip code looks a lot different when you’re three feet tall, so let them lead the way.
Eat. (Need we say more?) You’re a 10-minute walk away from five burger joints and three Ethiopian places. Go out and sample your way through the local cuisine your city has to offer. Compare every ice cream place in town and settle the Best Cone debate, once and for all. Need a java fix? The MIT Media Lab mapped out the independent coffee shops in major U.S. cities, and holy mocha, we have a championship bracket to make. Alternatively, you could draw up a three-course meal and go to specialty stores for each ingredient: a local bakery for bread, the farmers market for in-season produce, and that little artisanal shop for regional honey. You’ll uncover everything your neck of the woods has to offer, with some delicious results.
Of course, sometimes what you really need to recharge your love for the city is to, well, get out of there. Clear your schedule for one of these weekendroad tripsor plan a special date night at one of thesefood-critic-worthy restaurantsthat require a bit of a drive away from your metropolis.