Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Top 10 Favorite Ways to Explore a New City - Watch out, Missoula, here I come!

I left the Mountain Valley Inn at 10 a.m. today with my room key card in one pocket and a small notepad and pen in the other. No laptop, cell phone, or even camera (photos later for better light). I set out on a self-guided Missoula Orientation Day. When I am visiting a city for the first time, here are 10 of my favorite ways to get situated:
At the hotel:
1. Go to the breakfast room and meet other guests. This morning , I met Cindy of Ohio, who was in town to visit her daughter. She had been to Missoula before and told me Miss Zula's is one of her favorite shops here. Her daughter, Erica, works at the Cedar Creek Spa, which might be a nice stop after my bike tour ends next week.
2. Tune into a local radio station. I learned my hotel is at capacity due to the popularity of the professional minor league baseball team. Tonight, the Missoula Osprey play the Billings Hernias. Go, Osprey!
3. Read the daily paper. Headlines on The Missoulian were about the upcoming state Republican convention and the prevalence of transients in downtown Missoula.
4. Read the free weekly. The Missoula Independent printed irate letters from readers about one writer's coverage of the city's proposals to manage space for dogs and their owners (hot topic in Santa Cruz, too). "The young imbecile portrays Missoula as a town that allows scofflaw to flout leash laws.. What a moron."
5. Hang out in a local coffee shop. There was a Starbucks on the corner, of course, but I chose the shop that had the most bicycles parked out front... I made a note to come back later for fresh muffins - and to bring my laptop since everyone else had theirs.
6. Visit City Hall.
7. Explore the path and parks. The Clark Fork River runs through town and a paved, multi-use path looks ideal for an afternoon bike ride.
8. Poke around pawn shops and art stores. I gravitated to the Missoula Artists Shop and spoke to Kiki Renander, a stained glass artist, who told me the store is run as a coop.
9. Check out public transportation options.
10. Get up super early and stay out late. I like to observe the earlybirds and to see the nightlife. As a solo female traveler, I also note the first day (and ask my hotel clerk) where I don't want to be after nightfall.

Other To Do's on my list for Missoula:
Visit the University Campus
Drop into a few bike shops
Return to Adventure Cycling Association (my tour organizer!)
Go to a yoga class
EAT - that's in a class by itself.