Urbandig Gets You Lost So You Can Explore Hidden Locales Wherever You Are

UrbandigNearly four years ago, I moved to San Francisco to find a job. During the first two years, it was then that I decided to get out and explore the new city that I now lived in. For me, and perhaps lots of people who visit new places, looking for things that are off the beaten track is so much more rewarding than visiting the place where all the other tourists are going to be. In my time here, I’ve done mostly everything…Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, AT&T Park, and countless more. But after a while, it seems like the only good things in this great city have already been done. There’s got to be another way for people find out what locals like to do in order to further enjoy their town.

Well, there is…and it’s called Urbandig. Started up by former MySpace’er Mike Macadaan (@macadaan) and several other individuals, it’s one of the most recent startups that have emerged to disrupt the way tourism is being done online. And why is this so surprising? It shouldn’t be because if you look at the normal trend, when people are visiting other destinations, whether they be domestic or international, the one thing that they will typically have on them that can access the Internet is their mobile device. It doesn’t have to be a telephone, but it’s portable and can quickly access the Internet and serve information to help guide them on their travels.

Mobile devices and tourism

Mobile device usage in tourism

According to recent research done by Google, out of all the travel-related activities done using mobile devices, for those that travel for personal reasons, 38% have downloaded a travel-related application onto their phone. But what’s more remarkable is that 61% of the respondents said that they use their mobile device to research an upcoming trip. What these two statistics tell me is that there is an incredible opportunity to help people find where they want to go on their next adventure. And for those people who visit the same place over and over again, having this tool on hand to allow you to find and share new experiences is a breakthrough. In fact, just think of it…your device that you use to send emails, post tweets, make status updates, text and even make phone calls with, has an incredible tie-in with tourism. I think it goes without saying that the fact that we can post photos in real-time of our vacations, share videos, update our blogs with news of our trip, and even find information on exciting places to go, can all be done from a small device that fits in our pocket.

Want some other interesting statistics on the power of mobile device in tourism? Earlier this summer, TripAdvisor published a new survey that they did of more than 1,000 US respondents with mobile devices. Like Google, the trend reported shows similar usage of mobile devices in travel, but also offered a bit more specific information:

  • 52% researched restaurants
  • 46% read about destinations
  • 45% read traveler reviews
  • 42% booked or researched accommodations
  • 34% booked or researched flights

As you can see, from the above research, mobile devices are important and they serve a useful purpose in travel planning as well.

Urbandig lets you be a tourist, but act like a local

UrbandigSo what’s the big deal about Urbandig? To put it simply, it’s a mobile application that helps people navigate around their locale to discover hidden getaways and new adventures and excursions that they might not know about or familiar with. Each city has their own set of themes curated by experts who are local residents of that city. What makes Urbandig that special compared to a regular tour guide or simply looking on a travel map? Well definitely because it will reveal things that you won’t easily find in a regular tour map. And how often do you find someone right next to you or accessible to you who will tell you the best places to go for specific themed adventure or excursion. This information is decentralized. But Urbandig brings it all back into one application and separates it by themes and useful curated bits and pieces of information.

And while there are many (and I mean many) applications out there, Urbandig has a bit of a leg up on it because instead of asking your friends for recommendations, the content is already there for you along with a map of its location, places to check out, and more. Oh, and did you know that they’ve also added a gamification process to it as well where you can share your location with others? Yes, it’s tied into your favorite social networks: Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare.

Put simply:

“Urbandig takes you off the beaten path so you can experience a city like a true local,” said Mike Macadaan, Co-Founder of Urbandig. “Because our guides are crafted by subject matter experts, who live and breathe adventure, Urbandig is able to serve up trusted yet unconventional (or one-of-a-kind) experiences that you just won’t find in any guide book or on a double decker tour bus.”

I’ve downloaded this free application from the Apple app store and here in San Francisco, some of the featured tours include:

  • Salty Old Dog Bars: a tour of the best old school watering holes in the city
  • Truckspotting: a tour of some of the best food trucks in San Francisco
  • Getladium: city guide of the best places to find potential mates
  • Burger Battle: a burger guide
  • Secret City: Unique and hidden places in the city that has the best in style, food, fashion, and fun

As you can see, there are some fascinating tours on here that you might not know about…and quite frankly, I doubt that a local tour guide would focus on that. After all, if you’re here for a food vacation (and some people actually do that), then you might want to go on the Truckspotting or Burger Battle guide that Urbandig has. You’ll probably find something truly unique that you haven’t had or experienced before. And their content is still growing – it’s not a fixed amount of tours that they have there.

And there’s even an added bonus to tourism organizations as well. How? Well imagine going to a place like Washington, DC (disclosure: I used to work for the Washington, DC tourism organization) – what’s the main sights that you’ll probably want to do? Check out the monuments, White House, and some museums. But you might want to look at something different on your next trip…maybe something like what a local person would do? Well if the tourism organization of a particular destination finds a way to partner with Urbandig, they’ll be able to suggest more “like a local” type trips that will get people to be more adventurous. In fact, in looking at their tourism website, they already have experiential marketing listed. But what if they took that and applied it to Urbandig and curated that information there? People would be able to check-in and share their finds with their friends and more local and possibly mostly unattended areas would get a boost in foot traffic and subsequently, business. And all because one little app decided to take you on to the road less traveled.

In the end, what Urbandig reminds me is of the immortal Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken. Why? Because of its meaning…Urbandig is the road not taken. It’s the unconventional tourism and adventure application. You’re taking a fun-filled chance on following these guides and it will only lead to enjoyment and awesome memories. Let’s just say that after using Urbandig, the last paragraph of Frost’s poem basically sums it up:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."