When I moved to New York City about 10 months ago, I immediately started keeping two lists in my phone: Places to go, and places I had gone to and enjoyed.
Some of those places were outdoor spots like the Highline (saw it!) or cultural spaces (still haven’t been to the Brooklyn Museum…), but most of them are places to eat and drink.
As the list of places I’ve enjoyed has grown, I’ve started to share it with friends who need a good spot to eat, or refer back to it when I was stumped for weekend plans. The list lived inside the Notes app on my phone (complete with short descriptions of each place and the neighbourhood it’s in), but I soon needed a better way to organise and share it.
In February, Google rolled out an update to both iOS and Android devices that lets people build and share curated lists of recommended places within Google Maps — a.k.a. the exact tool I needed. Users can now follow their friends’ lists, as well as view and edit them on the desktop version of Maps. Lists are also available to view and edit offline.
I decided to build my own recommendations list in Maps, eliminating what now seems like my very archaic Notes version. Here’s how it worked for me — and why everyone should do it, too.
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The lists feature is somewhat hidden inside the Google Maps app, but it's not hard to find if you know where to look. Start by clicking the hamburger menu button on the upper left-hand side of the app.
That will take you to a page showing three categories: 'Labelled,' 'Saved,' and 'Maps.' Toggle over to the 'Saved' tab.
There, you'll find a few lists Google automatically created for you, like Favourites, plus the lists you've made on your own. That's where my 'NYC Recommendations' list lives.
When you click on your list, you'll see this screen. It shows both a map view of your saved places plus the list view. Maps has so many features my rudimentary Notes list lacked, like the ability to easily include an exact location, photos, a rating from other people who had visited, and relevant links about the place from around the web.
Scrolling down lets you see your entire list. Mine only has 24 spots on it currently, but to add more, all I have to do is click the blue plus-sign symbol in the bottom right-hand corner.
Clicking on an individual entry pulls up a lot more information about the place. You can see bigger photos of it, its hours of operation, contact information, and the amount of time it would take to get there from your current location.
You can also view all your saved spots in map form. This is particularly helpful for planning your evening. If you're going to dinner in the West Village, for example, you can see any nearby saved bars for a post-dinner drink.
Clicking on a point in the map will also show you the name and a bit more information about the place. This feature acts a lot like the map view in Yelp or Foursquare, since it doesn't force you to click into the bar or restaurant's page. Instead, you can easily search around an entire neighbourhood or area.
Once you've started building your list, you can share it with friends by sending a link by text or Facebook message, Airdrop, and more. You can also make it totally public and searchable on Google.
While there are other apps on the market for curated recommendations, Google Maps is the easiest to use, and utilises an app most people already have on their phones. And once you build your initial list, it's easy to continue updating and sharing with friends.
Plus, sending out a personalised list of things to see and places to eat will make you feel like an certified travel guide (even if your list is almost entirely made up of places to get tacos and pizza, like mine is).
Google's recommendations feature is free to use through the Maps app.