Go there. In my opinion, nothing comes close to actual sensory experience—the sights, smells, and tastes of an area. Talking to people in the area is a huge plus. And take plenty of pics.
Visit websites. There are different kinds:
- Tourism sites. They’ll promote the shiny views and usually have stunning photos or videos to watch.
- Blogs of people who visit the area and provide their own spin.
- Individual towns (for example) usually have their own website that’s aimed toward residents. You’ll find information on local news and agencies available to them as well as library hours and what month to get their fishing license renewed.
Newspapers. I’m currently subscribed to a newspaper for the town in which my next novel will be (at least partly) based. I travel there, but it’s been a real eye-opener to see what the locals do and say. The newspaper is both online and paper, and I opted for both: Paper can be clipped into a scrapbook that highlights the points I want to look at while I’m writing.
Books/magazines. Again, magazines often offer the shiny, pretty views of an area but some also offer in-depth issues that may or may not affect your story. Books can be anything—historical, memoir, tourist-based, and more, and your library can help with that.
This is what I’m using. What do you do?