Google Maps for Roadtripping, Fast Food, Art and More

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-03-03

Google Maps for Roadtripping, Fast Food, Art and More

The Google Maps API is always being used in new ways by clever developers, and a sampling of recent examples offers visitors everything from mapping out their next road trip to finding fast food and public art on the run.

Plan Your Next Road Trip Online

When you find it's time to hit the road and see some new scenery, aim your Web browser at the Roadtrippers Website, where visitors can create their own personalized road trip planner. It features things to do, places to see and cool spots to visit.

"Roadtrippers bills itself as a 'simple and intuitive road trip planner that helps you discover, plan and book the best places and experiences along your way, curated by local experts and travel writers' and their approach sure works," Mano Marks, of the Google Maps developer relations team, wrote in a Feb. 28 post on the Google Geo Developers Blog. "Roadtrippers lets you build itineraries within the U.S. through a simple map interface, and store them on their site."

Roadtrippers does this by taking advantage of many features included in the Google Maps API, such as the autocomplete feature of the Places Library and the Directions Service that allows users to create trips with multiple destinations. Visitors can also calculate gas mileage and driving time on the site.

Finding Fast Food Made Easier

Now you can find fast food restaurants wherever you are using the Google maps-enabled fast food finder from Combo7.

Visitors can enter the name of a city or town, or a zip code, and the guide will bring up a Google Maps displaying many of the major fast food chains in the area. The map brings up the logos for the chain restaurants, which can then be clicked to get their addresses and sometimes their phone numbers.

One shortcoming with the site is that it just shows large, well-known chain restaurants, such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Panera Bread, Subway, KFC and Burger King. What's not shown are the local, independent fast food joints, such as pizza and sub shops that might also be in the neighborhood you are searching.

But what if you can't decide exactly what you are hungry for?

Then just click the "pick for me" button on the map and the site will "choose" a fast food chain for you.

Fast food without thinking for yourself. What will they think of next?

Find Yourself Some Free WiFi

Certainly, you have found yourself wandering a city with your mobile device and wondering where you could find free WiFi to get some work done or catch up on some emails.

That's where the free WiFi finder from can be helpful. With this service, visitors can type in a location and go to a large-scale map to see all the free WiFi options that might be nearby. Users can then zoom in to find specific locations that then have to be sorted to determine if they are public or private WiFi networks.

Not all of what shows up appears to be public WiFi, but it is a good place to start. One other drawback is that the site isn't very intuitive, but it's relatively easy to figure out once you spend a few minutes with it.

Google Maps for Roadtripping, Fast Food, Art and More

Leave Your Heart on the Bay Bridge

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland, an intricate 25,000-light LED "light sculpture" was installed on the span beginning September 2012. The two cities and the bridge are hosting a party for the occasion March 5, when the lights will be turned on for its "grand lighting."

And through the magic of Google Maps, visitors don't even have to be there to see it, thanks to the site, which will show the event and keep the lights shining online.

The bridge lighting is being called the world's largest LED light sculpture by its organizers, at 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high, according to the site. "Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, its 25,000 white LED lights are individually programmed by artist Leo Villareal to create a never-repeating, dazzling display across the Bay Bridge West Span through 2015," the site reports.

The lights will be lit from dusk until 2 a.m. for two years, and will "impact over 50 million people in the Bay Area, with billions more seeing it in the media and online," according to organizers.

Finding Art Around Washington, D.C.

Travelers to Washington, D.C., can plan their visits to see art, architecture and other cultural destinations before they ever leave their homes, thanks to the Website

On this Google Maps-inspired site, visitors can select what they want to see, from museums to art galleries to architecture and historic memorials, by clicking on the virtual pins on the map. If you click the info tab, the site takes you to a Web page for the site that includes details such as addresses and other information.

"ArtAround is an attempt at creating a comprehensive, living map of all public art in D.C.," according to its organizers. "Sort of like an 'inside-out museum.' We want to make it easier for you to connect with the wide range of rich, crazy, beautiful historically and personally significant works of art that lives just outside your front door—and to help you learn more about them."

Visitors can even leave their own comments on the site as they visit the locations on the map.

In addition, though the project is starting out with Washington, visitors are encouraged to get involved to create similar maps for their own communities by contacting the organizers.

"ArtAround is based in D.C. because that's where the site's founders are located," according to the group. "We decided to map our community to show you what you could do with yours. If you want to make the public art in your community accessible to everyone, get in touch with us. We'd love to help you get started."

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