Not only will the "Explore" button on Google Maps show you what is nearby, it allows you to change the definition of nearby from a 20 minute car ride, to a 5 minute walk. And the results you get when clicking "Explore" weigh in factors like the time of day, and the weather. For example, you probably won't be told to take a jog through Central Park in the middle of the night. And in the midst of a thunderstorm, you won't be told to visit an outdoor activity like the Zoo.
Once you arrive at a destination, Google Maps can give you more information about it. Simply click the "My Location" button on the bottom right of the screen, or the blue dot on the map, and you can read reviews of the restaurant you are at, and save the location for future visits. For the best experience, Google suggests that you have location reporting and history turned on.
This is just another way that Google Maps has improved the experience of using the app.
Update to iOS and Android versions of Google Maps adds contextually aware Explore button
source: GoogleMaps via AndroidAuthority