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Do you FourSquare? The location-based mobile platform (available as an app for smartphones, as well as a webpage) allows travelers to explore a city through its own users’ eyes, finding the hottest hot spots, places to avoid and places they might never have heard of – and share their location with others.

Some businesses and retailers even offer specials and other bonuses to attract new and return customers.

While many people might dismiss it as a silly game, FourSquare is turning into a legitimate resource for out-of-town travelers, as well as locals looking for an inside scoop.

Home Town Hangouts

I recently downloaded the app and instantly found several businesses right near my house that I had no idea existed. Not all of them were worthy of a visit – one is a local employer’s lunch room, another some sort of obscure club I don’t think I want to visit – but a few were worthy of a little exploration.

The app actually houses over 250,000 businesses – and is growing daily. Locals can access the app and use the GPS tool on their smartphone to find a new lunch spot, find out what others have said about a particular restaurant, and even report back their own good (or bad) experience.

Travelers’ Treasures

Travelers visiting a new city can launch the app as soon as they step off the plane, and quickly find out what restaurants are nearby in the concourse (and how many feet away they are), the best spot to hail a cab, and even where the quietest place is in the airport to get work done.

Once they arrive at their hotel, they can find out what restaurants, bars, book shops or other venues are within walking distance without having to consult the concierge or others who might have a different agenda. What’s more, out-of-towners will appreciate the app’s user-provided tips, which can tell you what restaurants or dishes to avoid, whether something lives up to the hype, or if you’re better off avoiding a store.

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All users of the app can unlock specials, which can range anywhere from a free appetizer or ice cream cone to a discount on tickets, hotel stays, dinner, or other offers. After several check-ins, users can become eligible for mayorships, which sometimes offer even better deals, such as freebies and upgrades.

With more than 8 million users worldwide and growing, FourSquare could become a travel resource in itself. I know I’ll be using it the next time I travel.