This post was first published on August 10, 2011—itching for some spice to your summer? Perhaps this will help.
It’s the middle of the summer already—can you believe it? It feels like summer just started to me. Guess that’s what happens when you’re go go go for several months.
School might be starting in just a few weeks where you live, and you might be itching to get back to a routine. Understandable. But don’t wish away summer vacation just yet—take advantage of your open-ended schedule to be a tourist in your own hometown, especially if you haven’t taken a break.
Often called “staycations,” visiting your own stomping grounds has its definite advantages. And if you haven’t yet taken a vacation this year, now’s a great time to sneak one in—without having to pack.
This is easy for my family, since we just moved to a new town; everything’s interesting. This is why staycations have been on my mind, actually—the thought of packing and driving again makes me twitch.
I’d much rather tour our own town. Here are a few ways we’ve gotten good ideas on what to do around town.
1. Ask around
For us, this has been the best way to find things to do. Ask your friends about their favorite family-friendly restaurant. Chit-chat with the person next to you at church or in line at the movies, and ask if they’ve done anything fun this summer. Ideas will come in unexpected places.
We asked our new neighbors for a rundown of their favorite restaurants, and we found a great hole-in-the-wall Mexican dive that we’d otherwise drive right by. (Okay, so it’s hard to top Tex Mex from Austin, but it wasn’t bad for the Pacific Northwest.)
2. Tap social media
Ask Twitter or Facebook for ideas and tips. These circles are far-reaching, and you’ll discover all sorts of locales from new people. I can’t begin to count the number of readers from Bend that have gone out of their way to say hi (hi, everyone!). It’s here where I learned about the nearby High Desert Museum, so we plan to visit it soon.
3. Use Yelp and Urban Spoon
Both of these sites (apps on my iPhone, actually) have been super helpful for giving us restaurant ideas, and Yelp has also helped me find thrift stores, grocery stores, and parks.
It’s also fun to shake your phone and let Urban Spoon randomly pick the place for dinner.
4. Discover your local state parks
It’s pretty hot in several places right now, but if you’ve still got good weather, enjoy outside time. Search for local state parks and bring a picnic lunch. It might be too late to book overnight camping, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking day trips to swim in natural watering holes or hike forests.
5. Take advantage of the library, Netflix, or Redbox
After a day at the museum or touring your state capital, top it off with books or a movie about your area. Check out books about your natural surroundings or the history of your city.
End your day with a family movie night. If you toured a local farm, watch Babe; if you visited an aquarium, turn down the lights for Finding Nemo (avoid Shark Week on Discovery for the shorter crowd).
6. Explore the staycation blog roundup
Earlier this summer, The Happy Housewife hosted a wonderful U.S. city tour roundup, featuring over 85 cities. See if your city is there—this blog series is chock full of good staycation ideas. She also did a round-up last year.
7. Camp in the backyard
End your staycation (or each evening) by camping in the backyard. Kids love the thrill of sleeping outside, and you won’t have to pack a thing. Bathrooms are a few steps away, and if it gets too hot, wet, or cranky, all you have to do is pack up and move back inside.
Have you taken a staycation this summer? What did you do? If you’re so inclined, leave a comment naming your city and your favorite family-friendly stomping ground.