Hey, the grafitti on the rooftop of 111 S. Anderson, is the most creative in town!
December 15, 2008 12:10 PM   Subscribe

What are some places "off the beaten path", I can explore in urban environments? For photography, and my own amusement.

I know the term "off the beaten path" is usually associated rural or more remote places. That's not really my interest right now, especially that it is 20 degrees outside.

I am interested in finding places in a city that are hard to access and/or places that few people know about. If it helps, I am in southern Illinois, so the two largest cities I am near are St. Louis and Chicago. But, suggestions from any city would be fine, because I can probably find something similar here or I can keep those suggestions in mind when I travel to other parts of the country.

It can be buildings, special rooms/areas in buildings, alleys, tunnels, whatever. Occupied or vacant. A general place (I heard that NYC has several secret bars) or something specific (the St. Louis City Library has an area where the floor is made of glass).

Urban exploration, in the form of exploring tunnels and abandoned warehouses are out. I did those things in college, and now I'm looking for something new.
posted by sixcolors to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
University buildings are usually open during class hours, and often offer interesting nooks and crannies. Government buildings, too--there are all sorts of little displays scattered around outside of the normally-visited areas, interesting office names, ancient bathroom signs, stuff like that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:18 PM on December 15, 2008

SIU -Carbondale is supposed to have a system of underground tunnels, maybe you could somehow get access to that?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:21 PM on December 15, 2008

I would do a Flickr search. Here in NYC, there are tons of off the beaten path places beyond tunnels or secret bars (which are hardly secret since everyone posts about them on the internet as soon as they open). There are many flickr groups that explore these places and post their photos, which is how I found out about them.
posted by micawber at 12:24 PM on December 15, 2008

For St. Louis, check out Built St. Louis and Ecology of Absence and their associated blogs. Both have a focus on old and interesting architecture, and have introduced me to interesting areas and neighborhoods I knew nothing about before.
posted by zsazsa at 12:38 PM on December 15, 2008

Canal networks can be excellent for this, especially in winter.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:44 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

if you're looking for good graffiti, check the walls along train tracks.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2008

roadsideamerica.com may give you some ideas.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2008

Forgotten NY and Forgotten Boston might give you some ideas (or inspire you to take a trip!)
posted by tractorfeed at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2008

The Cincinnati Subway.
posted by mmascolino at 1:16 PM on December 15, 2008

Museums sometimes host members-only events, where you can explore back hallways and offices and storage areas that are normally off-limits to visitors. The Field Museum has one in March. The catch is you have to be a member, or know someone who is a member. I went to the Field's event last year, and it was absolutely wonderful.

If you call your state senator or representative's office, maybe you can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:44 PM on December 15, 2008

Another thought - universities are full of these kinds of abandoned or forgotten kinds of places. Get someone to show you around the basement areas of the Illini Union the next time you pass through Urbana, for one example. And there used to be an old museum-esque display are for weird old stuff on one of the upper floors of Altgeld Hall (also at UIUC in Urbana). Not sure if it's still there, but it sure was a creepy place to spend an hour when I was in school.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:48 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

A wise man once said to me "walk along all the railroad tracks, and go under bridges."

Highway bridges are the very best, and highway bridges that go over railroad tracks are even better. You could also try doing a Google Maps search in sattelite mode. Follow railroad tracks, and they will often lead you to the industrial areas of town...gritty abandonment awaits.
posted by ekstasis23 at 1:04 PM on December 16, 2008

It sounds like you're interested in Urban Exploration- way cool.
Just be sure to keep your head down- and be discreet.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:03 PM on December 23, 2008

I forgot to add- and careful.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:04 PM on December 23, 2008

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