Update from Darren Shaw of Whitespark: You can still access Places through a URL parameter: “tbm=plcs”. Not sure how long that will last though. For example:
This came to me from Andy Kuiper of Calgary and Vancouver: the Places search menu option has been removed from Google.
Google has been cleaning up and removing links from Google search and attempting to rebrand Places as a part of Google Plus. Last week they removed the related search option from the search menu. While Places has been retained as a brand on the business listing side, the branding of the consumer side is still not clear and Places has not really been replaced with any clear forward facing consumer branding.
Google has been discouraging the use of Google+ Local (coined by Marissa Mayer) and is attempting to shift the name of the business pages to simply G+ Pages (although there still is a dizzying array of page types). But the net result is that for the first time in many years there is no local search option available from the front page of Google other than the main search box. Users can only make it to Google’s local search options if they are in Plus. Equally significant is that there is no unique locally focused brand.
Places Link Removed From Google More Menu by Mike Blumenthal