Buy a guide book.
There are many good ones out there from well established sources like Frommers, Rough Guides, Fodors, and Lonely Planet. I particularly like the Rick Steves European books and videos. Many of them will also allow you to download an electronic version of the book, or just the chapters you want.
Watch some videos. My favorite travel show is Globetrekker. You can find many others by going to YouTube or Vimeo and searching on your destination. Rick Steves videos of European destinations are some of my favorites. You can also check out New York Times travel videos, National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, and the BBC.
Government sources. Although I find the US State Department travel warnings to be a little too strict, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at them. Canada also issues advisories, as do most other governments.
Read travel reviews. Sites like Trip Advisor and CitySearch can be a big help. Remember to look for the latest reviews of a hotel or restaurant and look at the negative reviews as well. I have learned a lot about hotels by reading the less than favorable comments. As always, take these sites with a grain of salt.
Find a local blogger and pick their brains. Bloggers are almost always happy to get questions and positive responses.
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