If you’ve ever gone on a tour of the different states of the union, you will have probably seen visitors’ centers at each state’s border. At most visitors’ centers, there are gift shops with mugs and shirts emblazoned with the state’s name and logo. There are often free food samples of the best products that represent the state’s culinary tradition.
Most visitors’ centers are a good resource for tourists. They are a good source of up-to-date maps of cities and towns that are popular tourist destinations. They also have information on off-the-beaten- track destinations for tourists who are looking for particular events and activities of interest. Some maps show not only how to get to your desired destinations but also the entrance fees, parking areas, picnic grounds, campsites and rest rooms surrounding your desired destination. GPS can show you streets but most GPS services cannot show you which streets are closed for repair or those which have been cordoned off for various local activities.
If you need information on hostels or low-priced bed and breakfasts the visitors’ center would have information on these. They can also tell you which is the oldest restaurant, the Michelin listed restaurants, and local favorites and watering holes which can give you a glimpse of how the locals really live and have fun. If there are convents, abbeys or monasteries which take in transient visitors for free or for a minimal price, the visitors’ center can give you recommendations.
They have information about organized activities like fairs, festivals, museum exhibits, plays, historical re-enactments, parades and even farmers’ markets in their area. They can often accommodate your request for booking for walking tours through historical sites or for booking a local tour guide. If you are a hobbyist or an art enthusiast, the visitors’ center is the one place where you can learn schedules of lectures, expositions, exhibits, symposia, conferences, artisans’ workshops, or art ateliers where you can learn new techniques and art forms.
If you want to visit the homes of famous people before they were famous; or the childhood homes of former presidents and ancestral homes of famous people which have been turned into libraries, museums or restaurants, they can give you this kind of information, too. Best of all, the visitors’ centers can tell you which local stores are your best bet to get great and one-of-a-kind souvenirs and antique stores where you can buy a piece of local history to bring with you. Some visitors centers even offer discount cards on public transportation and other attractions.
If you happen to pass by a sign pointing to a visitors’ center, don’t drive on by, stop and get information – this might make a difference between a good road trip and a memorable one.