When you are new in a city, town or a small village, the best way to explore the place is to take a walk.
In a village, you can just take the host down for a walk and have tender coconuts, and peanuts on way and when you leave the place, get a nice gift for the host! You have had lots of fun!
In cities it is different route.
Thanks to the transferable job I was in and my husband is still in, we could get to stay in different types of places in India - rural, semi-urban, urban and metropolitan. And we never missed to visit the neighbouring towns and cities on many weekends.
But ten years ago, all that we depended on to go around the new place was the govt.tourism dept. Like the Mumbai Darshan and the Delhi Darshan. One day conducted tours by the dept was just enough to come back after the tour to say that we saw the Gateway of India and the Marine Drive sitting inside the bus.
If you want to get a flavour of the place into yourself and soak in the lifestyle of the city, the best way is to join the passionate groups that conduct 'walks' across the city
On one such visit to Mumbai, my friend and I were part of a group that explored the Fort area of the city. Two young women architects take the effort to show the visitors to their city, a different ' Bombay'. Check their website here - http://www.bombayheritagewalks.com/
And if you go to Bangalore, do try out the Bangalore Walks which is different from the city tours that show you the Vidhana Soudha and the Lalbagh always. Take a look at - http://bangalorewalks.com/
However the oldest is the London walks - They have a weekly timetable . There are private walks, special walks for special occasion and exclusive walks for kids. Here is where they host their detailed website - http://www.walks.com/
For a few years now, a set of passionate people in Chennai are hosting walks at different places. A walk inside the Fort St. George, George Town walk, north Madras walk, Tree walk, turtle walk and a few more being explored. You can mail a query to email@example.com
A group of photo enthusiasts in Chennai is on regular photo walks every month! Check the project on Flickr here.
I personally have a plan for a Map Walk for kids. They will map their neighbourhood, mark the landmarks and have fun on the lanes and by-lanes of their own area!
Your ideas and suggestions are welcome!