Not For Tourists

Perhaps you’ve seen a hip New Yorker step off the the 1 train down on Canal Street as they slip an inconspicuous black book out of their tote – then hustle off to some unknown destination. What was in it, you’ve wondered, and what the hell does “NFT” stand for?

I found myself wondering the same thing when I took a trip to the city last August, and my friend put me in the know. NFT stands for “Not For Tourists,” and though the title might sound a bit haughty, even pretentious, it’s actually more of a statement of fact – this guidebook is not necessarily for tourists.

A description from the official NFT site explains it like this:

Not For Tourists is a growing series of guides to major cities. Our philosophy is simple: people need to use the cities they live in, commute into, or travel to effectively. They need to use their city’s transportation systems; its governmental infrastructure; its shops, restaurants, and nightspots—and they need all of this information while they’re on the move in a format that’s more accessible than the Yellow Pages, more informative than Zagat’s, and more useful than any tourist’s guide.”

But that doesn’t mean this guidebook isn’t for travelers to America’s major cities. What sets NFT apart from a book like Lonely Planet or Let’s Go is type of information and the way it’s presented: simply put, NFT has all the options there – every full color map is dotted with locations of restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as locations the resident may be more interested in, such as copy shops, gas stations and even community gardens.

Where most guidebooks would focus on a few locations per neighborhood, NFT lays it all out: the ambient corner cafe with the Starbucks, the farmers’ markets with the supermarkets, the sprawling bookstore chains with the small socialist bookshop – every nook and cranny in the city. The back section of these guides offer very short descriptions of bars, restaurants and shops, lists of hotels, information about transportation, landmarks and an extremely helpful street index.

But indeed, all of the information is brief. Perhaps this is meant to inspire a wandering spirit – a go and see attitude – or perhaps it’s more for the sake of keeping this little black book, well, little.

I’ve yet to travel test the NFT guide, but I’m happy to have a chance to in my upcoming trip to San Francisco (expect a thorough usefulness review next week) – but I can attest that it’s definitely worth checking out. So hit up your local bookstore, or check out NFT’s “On our radar” blogs and PDF maps online.

Updated: 03/26/2007

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