Having lived in several places in the United States, I have become aware at how often we do not visit those sites in our own backyards. We have lived in our current location for about eight months, and I have visited only two or three historic or landmark sites. It is not because I am not interested in visiting any other sites. I have simply found that because they are there everyday, I do not consider them exciting.
You probably have this attitude, too, but you can change it. You can begin to visit your own local area as a tourist. It is best, of course, to pretend that you are a tourist. Do not speak to the other tourists as if you have lived here for 20 years. Remember that you are visiting places for the first time. Forget about what your friends and neighbors have said about their visit. See for yourself.
You can begin your local travel plans by checking out your local chamber of commerce. Most of them have websites, but you have the added benefit of being nearby. Stop in and pick up brochures of the local attractions you think may be interesting. Read the brochures, visit the places online, and then map out your plans. Do it as if you are planning an actual trip. You will be in the spirit of travel and will approach the weekend (or day) with more fervor.
Note the times and cost of everything you want to do. Then you will be able to plan where you want to go and when. Although you can start early, come home for lunch, and head back out, consider making a day of it. Leave your home early. If nothing opens before 10 (which is likely), then start with a walking tour. Most even moderately-sized towns have walking tours of historic districts. Go back and read the placards. Enjoy the morning air.
Once you start your visits, you should be curious. Ask as many questions as you want or need. Spend time checking everything out. Do not tell yourself that you can come back later for the special movie presentation at the museum. See it today! Have a good time being a tourist in your own town.
For lunch, you should go to a local restaurant. Although you certainly know the local flavor, you should think about a place that represents your town. If there is a diner that has been around for 75 years, then you may want to stop by. You could try the restaurant that serves only local cuisine. Avoid fast food or chain restaurants. Remember that you are trying to keep yourself in the spirit of being a tourist in your own town.
Spend the rest of the afternoon visiting another location or two. Walk downtown to visit local shops, perhaps get a head-start on gift shopping. If there is something you have always wanted to know about, now is the time to check it out. Once you are done for the day, you have the luxury of going home to your very own bed instead of checking into a hotel. You will be able to sit back and relax after a wonderful day of visiting your own local tourist attractions.
Do not forget to buy souvenirs and take photos. While you probably do not want to buy expensive souvenirs, at least pick up a few postcards. Your children will enjoy using them to make a scrapbook of the day or to send to Grandma. You can take pictures and create a little album so that you will have a record of the visits.
These little hometown tourism trips should be part of your family ritual. Instead of just vegging out every Saturday, take a few to visit local places. It will keep everyone entertained, and it will be inexpensive. For less than $50, you can take the whole family to a couple of museums and to see some outdoor (FREE!) exhibits and monuments. Take advantage of what is around you. Learning about your local area is a wonderful way to feel more a part of the community. Plus, your children will get a kick out of doing something fun, and you will know that it also was educational.
By Julia Mercer