These Maps Put a New Spin on Travel

Maps company Urbane wants to show the vibe of where you are, not just the address.

Everyone travels differently, and we all have our own way to sightsee. Some people want a map of the stars' homes, others want to hit all the museums. Still more want to just nosh their way through local fare. Some want to see the truly unique places—like the Statue of Liberty or the Fremont Street Experience—but to also experience a city like a local, wandering downtown streets and generally keeping just a bit off the tourist path.

But on a first visit to a city with no local connections, how can travelers find those local favorites? How do they know which streets residents avoid and which malls locals love?

With luck, there's now a map for that, thanks to the creative team at Urbane.

Their mapping project takes a new approach to the old art. Rather than using location names, Urbane fills in maps with local crowd-sourced information about places around a city. For the area around Bally's hotel on the Vegas map, readers will find comments like "not ritzy, but classic Vegas." Street names are replaced with traffic tips like "if you need a fast way below the Strip, this is it." Browse a Miami map for less sarcasm and more honesty, with labels like "Dominican artsy hipster living" splashed across Wynwood arts district, or "People watching" marked as the label for Miami's Lincoln Road area. Direct your mouse to Seoul’s transit maps—one with the site’s typical crowd-sourced labels and another that features real station names—and find everything from movie stars to karaoke, local food and yes, "Oppan Gangnam Style!"

Granted, Urbane's maps are, as travel industry news site Skift says, "better as wall art than as a travel tool," but Skift seems confident that the brand can continue to grow, which it says is especially thanks to "travelers' recent adoration of local lifestyles."

And yes, the maps are available for purchase as wall art from Urbane's website. Of course, New York and Vegas sprinkled with snappy comments from locals aren't the only ones in the map chest. Including those cities, the site currently has maps of 16 cities around the globe, and the formatting varies almost as widely. Some maps describe a city's neighborhoods, transit or vacation possibilities; others have been filled in by local sports fans; and there's now a new and growing section filled in by Google's auto-complete search option.

Feel like the list is missing a little something? Urbane's creators are always open to feedback, so browse the site to find ways to submit ideas for mapping other cities. When everyone has an up-to-the-minute GPS in their pocket, it's nice to find a change in the scenery.