6 Ways to Tourist Your Home Town
Do you dream of vacationing on a tropical beach, but the closest you can get on your budget is the town pool? Do you yearn for fine dining and high culture in a distant city, but you’ve barely got the vacation time for Christmas with the in-laws? Does your regular schedule of out-of-town visitors turn all your vacations into stay-cations? If so, you’re in the right place. Read on for 6 ways to tourist your home town, and actually enjoy it.
A Dizzying Month
It’s no secret that Brian and I love the autumn. During a typical year, we take every opportunity to appreciate the slow descent of summer into winter—hiking, leaf peeping, pumpkin beers with cinnamon-sugar rims, stuffed acorn squash for dinner. . . the list goes on. But this year?
This year has been crazy. Between the launch of my book, a 70th birthday party for Brian’s mother, and the difficult loss of his grandmother, it’s been hard to take a moment and appreciate the season in our normal way.
The last couple weeks in particular have been dizzying. We went to Pennsylvania late last week on the news that Brian’s grandmother passed, and made it back to Massachusetts—after the funeral—an hour before my sister and her fiancé landed on a flight from California for a long-scheduled visit. Suddenly I’m realizing it’s late October, and I’m not sure how we got this far into the season already.
When I finally went back to work yesterday, I wasn’t sure anyone would recognize me—it’s been so long since I was there.
Still, despite the circumstances surrounding the first half of my leave this month, as I reflect on my absence, I’m thinking how lucky I am to live where I do. Even though my sister and her fiancé have been here about a million times already, we thought outside the box and found plenty to do.
Believe me, it was a challenge at times. You can only take a couple trips along Boston’s Freedom Trail before it starts to lose its luster, after all. So as we navigated the last few days, here’s what we came up with.
I think if you apply these principles to your next staycation, family visitors or not, you’ll find there’s more to your backyard than you thought.
Take the Scenic Route
Change up the way you get from Points A to B, and you’ve got yourself an adventure. Being October in Massachusetts, a trip to Salem was mandatory. As the crow (or witch) flies, Salem is only about a twenty mile drive from our house, but the internet is full of useful memes warning against taking the car.
Salem is so jammed with tourists this close to Halloween that driving into the cute (but compact) downtown is a recipe for disaster. So we took the scenic route: a bus, to a train, to the commuter rail. Rather than swearing at bad drivers and pedestrians—white knuckled—we sat back, relaxed, and watched the beautiful autumnal scenery roll by out the windows. Also, I’ve lived here for twelve years, and saw some parts of the state I’ve never seen before. Sure, it took longer to get there, but the adventure was worth it.
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Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . .
What’s that you say? You don’t have a commuter rail? Try taking some backroads—rather than the interstate—en route to your next staycation destination. You never know what you’ll see.
Taste the Local Flavor
No matter where you are, there are local eccentricities to the cuisine. Find out what they are in your area (if you don’t know already) and embrace them! In our case, we made a couple delicious dinners using seasonal, local ingredients from the farm where I work. We also planned to pick up Apple Cider Donuts, but ran out of time on that one. . .
The point is, what might seem mundane to you could be exotic to your guests. Every time we travel back to Pennsylvania, my mouth waters at the thought of all the Pennsylvania Dutch food I’ll be able to taste that we just don’t have in Massachusetts. I’m talking pierogies, halupki and halushki, shoo-fly pie. . . When we’re in Colorado I eat my fill of chile verde, and no trip to see my extended family in Wisconsin is complete without my fill of the area’s trademark cheddar cheese curds.
And if you don’t have guests? It doesn’t matter. I guarantee wherever you live there is some local specialty you haven’t had in a while. Seek it out, take a taste, and put yourself in the mindset to see why other people rave about it!
Embrace the History
In Massachusetts, we’re lucky to have history all around us. Hell, Paul Revere road down my street on his midnight ride, and that’s one of the least interesting things around. So, of course we took some time to visit some colonial buildings at the Minuteman National Historical Park. It was nice to feel for a minute that we were back in the 1770s, on the brink of revolution. It was also an awesome way to spend the day, and something we’d never done with my sister.
But maybe you don’t live in a place so aware of its past.
I doubt it. Check out your local historical society and I bet you’ll find a million cool things about where you live that you never knew. Take a walk through your town or city’s historic section. Visit old factories. Pop into that obscure museum you’ve always said you were going to go into.
Every place has a story. What is yours? Use a little staycation time to find out.
One of my sister’s only requests was to do a little antiquing. She explained that she likes to see what kinds of things people try to sell in different parts of the country.
It’s a brilliant idea, really! What better way to see what a society values than to see what it’s willing to hold onto for generations. As we popped into and out of antique shops, I looked at the goods with fresh eyes. I’ve been to a lot of antique shops in my native Colorado, and its true; the stuff people are selling in Massachusetts has its own unique flavor by comparison.
Find the Exotic in the Native
We did a lot of hiking, and one of the things that really struck me was how interested my sister and her fiancé were in the local flora. Brian and I are out on the trails almost every weekend, but the native plants have become like old friends to us. It was invigorating to see someone experiencing them for the first time.
Take a look at what is growing in your environment. Are there plants or animals that are unique to your location? Figure out what they are, and seek them out.
My sister was particularly enchanted by Celandine, also known as Wood Poppy. It’s fairly prolific here in the northeast, but I didn’t know much about it. To indulge her curiosity, I identified it and was astounded. When the leaves are broken, they excrete a deep mustard yellow sap. This particular plant has been used to treat stomach ailments, and even cure warts. I’d never have known. . .
Do the Things you Normally Do
Hopefully you live where you do because you want to. What is it that attracts you to your area? What types of indoor or outdoor recreation are available to you that might not be in other parts of the country (or world)? Take some time to enjoy them—more time than you might otherwise.
If you have guests, use the things you normally do to sell your geography. If you’re staycationing solo, use the time to remind yourself why you’re already living in the best place.
For us, it was miles of hiking, looking at the autumn colors, and eating amazing food. For you it could be anything.
When you take the time to view where you live with fresh eyes, a staycation turns from being a drag to being an invaluable use of your time. Just identify what makes your locale unique, and you’ve got all the ingredients for an exciting use of vacation time.
My sister and her fiancé are gone now, and it’s back to normal life. But as I move forward I’m going to try to keep my eyes—my perspective—fresh. After all, one man’s back yard is another’s vacation destination, and there’s a reason for that.
Let me know your thoughts. Do you prefer to vacation or staycation? How would you characterize your local flavor? What is the one thing you always do with out of town guests? Let me know in the comments below. ALSO, YOU CAN NOW LEAVE COMMENTS USING FACEBOOK! JUST SCROLL ALL THE WAY DOWN!
Thanks as always for reading!