Being a tourist in your town

I was talking to SSW15 on the phone the other day and I was commenting on tourist guide books. Try this: go to your nearest book emporium (Barnes & Noble recently triumphed in my neighborhood, forcing the long-standing Waldenbooks into retreat), go to the travel section, and pick up guidebooks for your hometown and other places that you know well. See if you agree with their treatment of sights, places to stay, and restaurants. I sampled guidebooks for New York (hometown), Honolulu, Walt Disneyland, Las Vegas and Hong Kong. I gave bonus points for any guide that mentioned, let alone described fully, the following: Brooklyn, the Hakka Chinese dialect, food or location of settlements, locations in Orange County outside of Anaheim, Ali’iolani Hale (the judiciary building behind the statue of King Kamehameha I), and Red Rock Canyon.

I found that Frommers were generally the best overall in terms of accuracy and usefulness. Fodors tended to be not as good. Unofficial Guides were best for planning strategy in limited environment areas, such as theme parks areas and Hawaii, where time management was important. Rough Guides were better in non US areas. Insight Guides had the best pictures and great history, but were next to useless for actually planning a trip. For those places that had it, Lonely Planet Food Guides were really good for understanding cultures. Unfortunately, I find that no one guide can completely cover any particular area, but I guess that’s what reading the books in the coffee cafe is for.

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