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Get Local when you Travel

After roaming around the Ocean Beach Street Fair a week or so ago, I kept thinking about a recent blog post by a savvy New Yorker. "Gotham Gal" vehemently decried Manhattan's street fairs charging that the pesky gatherings block traffic, are indistinguishable from one to the other, and generally do nothing more than add to the city's congestion and noise.

I've been to a number of New York street fairs and while I do agree that each offers a similar array of eats, crafts and other knick knacks, there is one thing that's always unique: the people. Different neighborhoods draw a different crowd and have their own vibe. So while the fairs may be similar, the people, most often, are not.

At San Diego's Ocean Beach fair, the vibe is surfer/hippie. You can count on lots of skin, tattoos, body piercings and other eye candy. However, when we hit the fair in our hood, it's quite a bit different. Living in this city's gay neighborhood we see buff, shirtless men, creative fashion ensembles and something unexpected-I don't know what, but trust me it's unexpected. Chaps anyone?

I could go on about other neighborhoods (Coronado is all about families and tourists) and the resulting contrast of local culture. I love it. So when we travel one of my favorite things to do is check out the local Farmers' Market; which is why we list markets in every city we cover; it's a great way to soak up a city or neighborhood vibe, especially if you like people watching.

And while farmers markets are not the same as street fairs, the concept is similar. They both bring locals together and offer food, crafts and other random stuff that is often locally made or sourced. A perfect example is the Yale Town Market in Vancouver, BC (which has since moved). At this quaint and cozy market I purchased the coolest shirt from a local designer and lucked out on a very hip ring made by a local craftsman-I mingled with the natives and absorbed the neighborhood vibe.

Many cities have farmers' markets that are open year-round, so next time you have some extra time, give it a go!

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