Peter Greenberg wants you to travel like a local, not a tourist, and he has written a new series of guidebooks to help.
The Like a Local series is debuting with books on Miami and the Keys, New Orleans, the Caribbean, Buenos Aires and Cuba. E-book versions are out in July, with the next five titles in the series, New York, London, Peru, Washington, D.C., and the "Great Cities of Europe," due in April 2013.
What makes the Like a Local books different from traditional guidebooks, says Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, is that they rely on recommendations from people who live in those cities about where to go and what to do.
"How many of my fellow Americans go to an American-branded hotel when they travel and order a cheeseburger from room service?" said Greenberg. "What I want to do is hang out with the locals - the maid, the bellman, not the general manager. I want to go to the local fire department for recommendations because those guys have been in everybody's house and every restaurant. They know where the values are, where the best prices are."
Among his favorite spots, all found by talking to locals, are authentic chicken jerk places in Jamaica, like Scotchie's in Montego Bay; the tango clubs and venues in Buenos Aires called milongas that often start with a lesson and public dance, with more accomplished dancers taking the floor later; and Captain Charlie's Reef Grill in Juno Beach, a local Florida seafood place in a strip mall a good 80 miles from Miami "but totally worth the drive," said Greenberg. "They usually have a line of 40 people and there's a reason for that."
In addition to lodging, food, nightlife, shopping and other activities, the books offer basics like trip-planning advice, a calendar of events and background on the destinations' history, arts and architecture. Fun features include recommendations for movies and literature, such as books by V.S. Naipaul, Jamaica Kincaid and Junot Diaz for the Caribbean, and films ranging from A Streetcar Named Desire to When the Levees Broke for New Orleans. Other highlights in each book are lists of "Peter's Top Picks," such as Mulate's for music in New Orleans, and quick travel tips, like where to find after-midnight drinks in Boca Raton (Funky Buddha Lounge and Blue Martini).
Greenberg acknowledged that the Cuba guide is different from the others because Americans are only legally allowed to travel there on one of the "People to People" tours recently approved by the U.S. government. These tours usually have detailed itineraries that keep participants on a restricted schedule of meetings and sightseeing. But Greenberg claims it's not unusual for individuals to deviate from the schedules, and his book is designed for those adventurous travelers: "I don't know anybody who goes on these trips who doesn't go off on their own for a day. I'm not saying you should, but I'm telling you that people do." He added that while he doesn't want to encourage anyone to "violate the rules," the fact is that some Americans also visit Cuba illegally by traveling to a third country like Mexico and flying to Havana from there.
The series is published by Michelin, which also publishes a series of Red Guides for hotels and restaurants and Green Guides for general tourism. The company is known for its discriminating star ratings for restaurants.