Dig Into Food Markets
Whether you’re in Japan or New Orleans, the food markets in any city will have unique flavors to spice up your travels and kitchen back home. The famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo opens around 6 a.m., when you can start filling up on fresh sushi and ramen. For something that’ll last a bit longer, stockpile nori, ocha, and other local seasonings. In the Big Easy, stroll through the Crescent City Farmers Market where you’ll come across alligator sausage, andouille, wild catfish, and collard greens, as well as kettle corn, pralines, and other Louisiana sweets.
Hit Up Breweries & Wineries
Local liquors, wines, and beers are great to take home – and work nicely as gifts. Wine aficionados and novices alike can appreciate the offerings throughout Mendoza, Argentina, for example. The Vines of Mendoza has a tasting room in the city center that houses more than 100 Argentine wines. Save yourself the extra luggage and have a bottle or box of your favorite shipped directly to your house. If you find yourself in Boston and microbreweries are your bag, go on a tour at Harpoon or Blue Hills, where you’ll get a chance to taste before you buy. And if you’re in Beantown at the end of May, you might want to get tickets to the American Craft Beer Fest, which features more than 600 domestic micros.
Jam at Music Stops
Patronizing small, passionate local businesses is a must on your travels, and that goes double for music stores – an endangered species if there ever was one. If you’re in Amsterdam, swing by Back Beat Records to stock up on vinyl in all soul, funk, jazz, and blues forms. If you find yourself in Austin, stop in at Waterloo Records for everything from vintage (Johnny Cash) to psychedelic (The Black Angels). Be sure to chat up in-the-know clerks; it can be a good way to discover lesser-known musicians and bands from the region.
Discover Craft & Home Havens
For a peek at how locals accessorize their lives, check out funky hardware stores and flea markets or high-end home décor boutiques where you might spy unique artwork, fabrics or textiles native to the region, and other handcrafted goods. If London is calling, make a trip to Of Cabbages and Kings for British books, stationery, bags, jewelry, fine art prints, and other house trimmings. If you’re stateside, try The Golden State Store in Venice, California, for housewares and home goods that look and feel so very SoCal.
Note: Don’t forget to check out local garage sales, thrift stores, pop-up markets, holiday shows, and independent bookstores for more great finds.