It frustrates me when people travel somewhere but then never leave their hotel room or the confines of the 'tourist' district. How can you say you have been to a place if you haven't actually walked a street, dined at a local restaurant and made and attempt to get to know the place? It can be a very daunting task to get to know a city you are in for only a few days, especially if you don't know anyone there. But that is not an excuse anymore!
I just discovered a service that is offered in some cities: Greeters. Greeters are residents of a place that volunteer their time to show a visitor around. They introduce the visitor to their favorite local haunts, explain public transportation and, most importantly, personalize an otherwise overwhelming place. And it's FREE! (at least in NYC).
With this type of service available, it would be much easier to explore a new place that you are not familiar with. This is also a great PR tactic for cities with tarnished reputations. If you have friendly people showing you why they live in a place, it's hard to form a bad opinion.
There are Greeter programs in New York City, Chicago, Fairbanks, Houston, Toronto, Melbourne and Adelaide, Australia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Thanet district in Kent, England; Paris and Nantes, France; the City of The Hague, Netherlands; and ShenZhen, China. I think I will try to utilize this service if I ever find myself in a place that offers it.