Sometimes we get so used to our daily routines of work, home or school that we overlook all of the interesting things, places and experiences right in our own backyard. Luckily, there are new technologies that can make it easier than ever to explore our communities in new ways.
These five free apps can get you out of your tired commute and help you start seeing your city with fresh eyes.
Strol can be used for both exercise and exploration. Fire up the app anywhere in the city and decide either a destination or an amount of time you want to walk. The app will scan the area for interesting landmarks and then automatically plan a route to take you past as many of them as possible. The more you use it, the more you rank up in the app by getting points. Plus, you can help make the experience better for others by adding landmarks yourself.
Geocaching is a kind of treasure hunt. Groups will hide small “caches” of trinkets, notes or other items throughout the city and then leave them for people to find. When you download a geocaching app (there are several), you can use it to track, search for and find caches. Uptown Columbus even has an official Chattahoochee RiverWalk “geotour.” If you complete it, you receive a special commemorative coin from the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Otocast provides audio tours of cities and attractions. Artbeat of Columbus created a walking audio tour of all the public art in downtown Columbus. Download Otocast, scroll through the cities (there are also tours for Auburn, Roswell, Decatur and more), stroll and listen.
Piper is a unique Columbus enterprise. Debuting to major praise from city leaders in 2015, the app connects to more than 1,000 low-power “beacons” throughout Columbus. The beacons communicate with a user’s smartphone using Bluetooth. When you walk by a beacon, you’ll see deals, videos, and information or interesting facts about the area. The beacons also serve as a public safety reference — if you get into trouble and need to call 911, you can pull up the app, find your nearest beacon number and tell it to police. It will help them find you more quickly.
5. Pokemon Go
Its heyday may be over, but Niantic’s monster-collecting game is still a surprisingly effective way to discover new things in your city (or even your neighborhood) that you’ve never heard of before. Choose a starting creature, and then take your phone with you as you walk, capturing Pokemon and resupplying at “PokeStops” and gyms in the real world.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE