Whether you're moving to a new place or you just want to be more familiar with your surroundings, there are a variety of sites on the Web that fill you in on everything from restaurants to businesses to apartments in your area.
Find some businesses
BooRah If you're only looking for restaurants, BooRah is for you. The site features information on how to get to a restaurant, but really shines when you read through the informative reviews from users and consider the "similar restaurant" tab, which features a listing of local eateries that are similar to your search. Also good: The site's "explore" tool, which lets you look through the city your restaurant is in to find other eateries. It is not as full-featured as Yelp, but BooRah is a fine alternative if you want to find a place to eat tonight.
CitySearch With a revamped site that includes new features and Facebook Connect support, CitySearch is a solid alternative for those who want to get to know their surroundings. The site gives you the option to find bars, restaurants, shopping locations, and more. Each page includes a description by an editor, supplemented by user reviews. In most cases, those user reviews provide valid insight into different locales.
InsiderPages If you're looking for specific type of businesses in your area, InsiderPages is a great resource. You start in a city of your choosing and input keywords like "dentist" or "plumber" to find all the companies providing those services in the area. Once you find a company, InsiderPages displays reviews it takes from CitySearch and other sites, and it includes a description of the business that was written by users who have been there.
FindnTell FindnTell is a useful site, although it's only got New York City info right now. It allows you to search for local businesses anywhere in the U.S. and uses Google Maps to make it easier to find places. It's designed well and its listings are informative.
NearbyNow If you're looking for specific products, try this site. It features categories ranging from appliances to cell phones to luggage. Once you input your location and choose a category, you'll be brought to a page detailing products that are available and where you can get them in your area. Looking for a Stilettoi t satellite radio? It's available at the Best Buy 20 miles from your home and it costs $250. That's the kind of information NearbyNow will provide and it comes in especially handy when you know you need something and you have no idea if it's available. It's a unique service.
TripAdvisor It might not be designed specifically for those who want information about their neighborhood, but TripAdvisor is still a great place to go if you want to find out about hotels or other tourist locations in your area. Whenever I want to get out of the house for a night or simply want to check out something notable in my area, TripAdvisor is my first stop.
Yahoo Local Yahoo Local reminds me of Yelp in quite a few ways. It includes a huge listing of businesses, the option to create reviews, and its page design makes it easy to search around the site. And thanks to the massive Yahoo community, it's also one of the more active sites in this roundup, featuring numerous reviews on restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and other frequented locales in your area. That said, it doesn't have the same social flavor as Yelp, and its listings pages are a bit cluttered. Regardless, it's worth using for a second opinion.
YellowBot If you're looking to find places and you don't want to deal with all the extras that sites like CitySearch offer, use YellowBot. The site makes it simple, with two search boxes entitled, "What" and "Where." As you might expect, you're only required to input what you're looking for and where you want to find it and within seconds, you'll have a page displaying the company's user rating, reviews by those who have been patrons of the firm, and contact information. The site also finds reviews from across the Web to supplement its pages.
Yelp If you're looking for the best local search service on the Web, go to Yelp. The site has it all. According to the company it now has over 5 million user reviews and based on my searches, I believe it--nothing was left out. But where Yelp really shines is in its coverage. Regardless of whether you sign up for the site or not, you'll find more cities in Yelp than in any other service in this roundup and I found that since the community is much larger, there are more reviews, giving Yelp an advantage over competitors. (On the other hand, there are questions about the credibility of Yelp business pages.)
Apartments, events, and more
ApartmentRatings Looking for a new apartment and don't know where to begin? Check out ApartmentRatings. Once you input a zip code into the site's search box, you'll find a listing of apartments in the area. Once you click on a property you're interested in, tenant reviews tell you if it's worth living there. I've used the site in the past and the reviews are spot on. If you're moving into an apartment, don't do anything before you consult ApartmentRatings.
Craigslist What good would a local site roundup be without Craigslist? As if you need to be told, Craigslist is the single destination to find anything you want in your area. Whether it's a used couch or open slots on a softball team, you can find it all on Craigslist. And since it's such a popular destination, there's no shortage of local information. It's one of the best destinations in this roundup.
Upcoming Upcoming includes information about upcoming events in your area, such as conferences, concerts, and other social events. But what sets the site apart is its geotagging, which allows you to search for events by neighborhood or general area. And if you meet someone at a show and you want do something with them next weekend, you can friend them on the site and see where they're going next.
Zvents If you're looking for something to do this weekend, Zvents is worth visiting. It automatically determines your location and lets you search through all the events that are happening in your area. Whether you want to check out the free concert at your neighborhood hangout or the big event at the local arena, Zvents has it all. It's my go-to destination when I want to go out.