WHERE THE LOCALS GO. Book cover image courtesy of National Geographic.

WHERE THE LOCALS GO. Book cover image courtesy of National Geographic.

Many of us crave authentic experiences, not content to hitting up the local tourist spots or where the travel guide directs travelers. For those of us who want to venture off the beaten path, National Geographic offers adventures in its recently released book “WHERE THE LOCALS GO: More than 300 Places Around the World to Eat, Play, Shop, Celebrate, and Relax.” Unlike traditional travel guides, this book goes beyond overcrowded tourist destinations to share local cultures and customs from around the world for travelers seeking a rewarding and memorable experience.

As a lifelong Chicagoan who has had her share of domestic and international travel experiences, I was dubious. And curious. I wondered where the writer of the Chicago section would recommend one visit in my hometown. Turns out, the Polish Triangle.

Copyright Photo by Sandi Mako/ Shutterstock.com.  Seville, Spain Sevillians turn out in traditional dress for the city’s weeklong party. Page p. 140 in WHERE THE LOCALS GO.

Copyright Photo by Sandi Mako/ Shutterstock.com.
Seville, Spain
Sevillians turn out in traditional dress for the city’s weeklong party. Page p. 140 in WHERE THE LOCALS GO.

I’ll admit, the Polish Triangle is really off the beaten path if you’re visiting Chicago. Then again, Chicago is home to the largest Polish community outside of Poland with anywhere between 1.1 and 1.5 million (depending on which stats you use) people who claim it as their ethnicity within the Chicago metropolitan area. The writer offers recommendations on where to enjoy Polish comfort food and how to order it if you’re not familiar with the cuisine.

The book is conveniently arranged by continent and its writers suggest restaurants, markets, festivals and events beloved by residents of the featured towns and cities. Those looking for the best local specialty — the finest cowboy boots in San Antonio or the most authentic dim sum in Hong Kong — will find the go-to spots from those in the know.

Copyright Photo by sabirmallick/iStock Pushkar, India Business proceeds at a leisurely pace at the Pushkar camel market. Photo courtesy of National Geographic. Page p. 222 in WHERE THE LOCALS GO.

Copyright Photo by sabirmallick/iStock
Pushkar, India
Business proceeds at a leisurely pace at the Pushkar camel market. Photo courtesy of National Geographic. Page p. 222 in WHERE THE LOCALS GO.

Our team of TravelingMoms is pretty well-versed when it comes to finding those sweet spots off the beaten path. Elizabeth Rodgers recently wrote about her family’s experience touring a gold mine in North Idaho.

Elena Sonnino featured several off the beaten path adventures complete with a full day’s itinerary based on her recent trip to Charlottesville, Virginia.

Author and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Travel Media writes in his introduction, “This book is a sparkling, surprising collection of off-the-beaten-track finds, ahas, neighborhood secrets, and the pleasures of those who live in a place 24/7. So before you ask the concierge where to go or what to do, dive in and enjoy “WHERE THE LOCALS GO.”

The Netherlands Youngsters in Amsterdam practice their skating skills. (Copyright Photo by ranidevi/Shutterstock.com, courtesy of National Geographic.) Page p. 129 in WHERE THE LOCALS GO.

The Netherlands
Youngsters in Amsterdam practice their skating skills.
(Copyright Photo by ranidevi/Shutterstock.com, courtesy of National Geographic.) Page p. 129 in WHERE THE LOCALS GO.

Among some of the off the beaten path, unusual and authentic experience nuggets shared in the book:

  • On the last Friday of every month, cycle through San Francisco with Critical Mass, a good-natured, two-wheeled takeover of the streets with no official leader but with gorgeous views.
  • In the heart of Arizona’s Navajo Nation, stay over with a local family in their hogan — a traditional one-room home made of juniper logs and used for sacred ceremonies.
  • Discover the Mewang, a fire-blessing ceremony, at the Thangbi Mani festival celebrating the new year in Bhutan’s Chokhor Valley each autumn.
  • Watch a reindeer parade during the winter market in Jokkmokk, Sweden, while browsing 500 stalls manned by the Sámi, Lapland’s indigenous reindeer herders.
  • Mingle with the local crowds at sunset on Juhu Beach in Mumbai.

For those traveling to New York, Washington, D.C., Jerusalem, Cape Town, Tokyo, Sydney or Paris, there is a bonus chapter featuring in-depth travel suggestions.

“WHERE THE LOCALS GO” is a different type of travel guidebook. If you’re sincere about wanting to experience a city like the locals and get off the tourist grid, it’s a great book to check out before you head out.