A new type of explorer just arrived in town, born from a free smartphone app called Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that, unlike most games, can’t be played sitting on the couch or in front of the office computer. Part of the appeal is to go outside to real-world locations, hunt for hidden Pokémon—cartoon characters made popular in the 1990s—and, as the game's tagline says, "catch 'em all."
Millions downloaded Pokémon Go since its release this month, skyrocketing into a global, cultural phenomenon. Technically the app is officially available only in a number of countries, but fans around the world find ways to download it before it reaches their shores. Countries like England, Germany, and Costa Rica quickly became hot spots for Pokémon exploration. Meanwhile the Japanese, creators of the beloved fictional creatures, are forced to wait anxiously for access.
More than just a game, Pokémon Go is a city guide and exploration tool ripe for local, authentic experiences. It may sound counterintuitive to see a place through the screen of a phone when travel is often the best excuse to detach from technology. In the countries where Pokémon Go is most popular, aficionados organize city meet-ups and embark on a community quest to catch these roving critters. Not only do players catch Pokémon, but they also catch a unique perspective on the familiar.
These five destinations are most popular for the travel-loving Pokémon trainer to collect passport stamps:
New Zealand: Two apps are better than one in New Zealand. Kiwis are so keen for Pokémon Go that they set up a national, live Snapchat account at PokémonGoNZ. Players can send snaps of themselves to PokémonGoNZ for a chance to be featured on the country’s story.
Australia: In the land down under, catching Pokémon doesn't involve being on land at all. Fun ways to play this game include kayaking around some of Sydney's sparkling harbors and chasing after the game's water characters.
United States: In cities like Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., Pokémon Go meet-ups are a new way to socialize. Here you'll find it all, like Pokémon pub crawls, hunts at university stadiums, or lures for voter registration.
Netherlands: In Europe, Pokémon Go has been released in Germany and England, but the Dutch figured out a loophole to get in the game. Zuiderpark in The Hague is one of the best places to play in Holland. Normally the sweetest summer spot for live music, this park picked up a new nickname: Pikachu Park.
Canada: Like the Dutch, Canadians found ways to play before Pokémon Go's official release. Toronto is currently the game’s test kitchen, and trainers build up their appetites by playing in Kensington Market, Nathan Phillips Square, and Toronto Island.
Can't Travel Far? Play at home. Pokémon Go can make one's hometown, neighborhood, or even street seem like a new world thanks to Pokestops. Located at landmarks, statues, or heritage sites, Pokestops are real-world spots users must stop at to pick up some items necessary to keep playing. This game offers the chance to get off the beaten path, whether at home or abroad, and learn something new along the way.