Because so many people use their smart phones to find restaurants, stores, attractions, events, and other places nearby, Windows Phone includes an incredible Bing feature called Local Scout, which Microsoft bills as your location-aware guide to the neighborhood. With Local Scout, you have instant access to the best restaurants, stores, and other places within 25 miles of your phone, right at your fingertips.

Note: This tip is from my new (and free!) Windows Phone 8 book, which is currently in progress. You can follow along at WindowsPhoneBook.com.

Available from Bing Search, Bing Maps, or its own Start screen-based tile, Local Scout is a panoramic experience, with Eat + Drink, See + Do, Shop, and For You content sections that bleed off of the right side of the screen. But as with other panoramas, you start off on the initial view and can swipe over to see the rest. So in the default view, you only see the Eat + Drink section, which provides access to restaurants, bars, and other eateries.

The following views are available.

Eat + Drink. By default, this view is sorted by distance, with the closest places at the top of the list. But you can sort it by other criteria, including by cuisine choices, by tapping the Sort by link. You’ll be presented with a new Set Filters experience, which lets you sort by distance or rating, and choose between and choose the cuisine(s) you’re looking for. You can also specify only those places that are open and those that are offering deals.

See + Do. This is a front-end to a staggering array of sites and attractions. To really appreciate how many different types of places can appear in this view, tap the Show categories link, which lets you filter things down to only those place types you want. You’ll see amusement parks, casinos, historical sites, movie theaters, museums, parks, and much, much more. Scroll down further and you’ll see events as well—comedy, dance, fairs and festivals, music, and much more—so you can really find exactly what you’re looking for.

Shop. The Shop view will help you find stores all kinds—book stores, department stores, grocery stores, pet supply stores, and a lot more—with exactly the same kind of filtering described above. And as with Eat + Drink, you can specify only those places that are open and those that are offering deals.

For You. New to Windows Phone 8, the For You view is tied to the new Windows Phone personal recommendation service. When enabled, this feature will recommend places to eat, drink, shop or visit in Local Scout, and will recommend other items, like apps, music, and deals, throughout Windows Phone. Its recommendation are based on your search and activity history as well as the places that your friends and family “like” through social networking services such as Facebook.

Regardless of the kind of place you’re looking for, eventually something will look interesting. Each place listed in one of the Local Scout views includes a lot of useful information, including the place name, type, distance, relative expensiveness, address, and rating. But if you tap the item in the list, you’ll be shown a Quick card for the place.

There’s a lot going on in these Quick cards, and they provide interactive links for you to get more done. For example, you can tap an address to see the place on a map or get directions using Maps, tap Drive/Use an app to find a different navigation app, or tap the phone number to call the place. You can pin a tile for the place to your Start screen or share it in various ways, or add this place to your favorites. In other Quick card views, you can see what the buzz is around the place by reading reviews and discover related apps. It’s all very full-featured.

Note: By default, Local Scout does as its name suggests: It finds places nearby. But sometimes you want to research a location before you visit it, and as it turns out, Local Search will let you do this if you know the trick: Tap in the Map view at the top of Local Scout to show Maps full-screen, and then tap the Search button to enter the name of the location you’re visiting soon (like Boston, MA). Then, when Maps changes to the location for which you searched, just tap the Local Scout app bar button to see listings for that place. Cool, eh?

Don’t forget: You can find out more about Local Scout, the Bing experience in Windows Phone 8, and Windows Phone 8 in general in my in-progress book, Windows Phone Book.