Summer may be the time of year when many people plan a vacation far from home. Not us. Nope. My husband’s busiest time of the year is summer. Trying to fit in any time away from home, whether for a quick weekend getaway or full- blown vacation often requires more stress on my part than it’s worth. This summer, other than our mission trip to Honduras, we’ll stick close to home, which is why I’ve decided to share some tips on how you can join my family and become a Hometown Traveler or Hometown Tourist, whichever you prefer.
Staying close to home may not seem as exciting as a vacation hundreds of miles away, but there are benefits to staying local. Not only does my husband not have to take off work, but we also save on travel expenses like gas and lodging, while we learn about the community in the process. Since we homeschool, we’re also able to count many of our outings towards our state history requirements.
Allow me to share some ideas of where to get started as you begin to explore your local community.
Getting Started as a Hometown Traveler
As you set out to become a Hometown Traveler, begin by looking at your community with fresh eyes.
Pretend that you are visiting your area for the very first time. If you lived anywhere else, what would you want to visit in your community? Think about any interesting architectural structures, art displays, botanical gardens, parks, hiking trails, bridges, farms, ice cream stands, museums, homes, or roadside attractions and make a list of those that sound appealing to your family.
Next, plan a visit to your nearby Visitor’s Center or Chamber of Commerce for additional ideas. Collect brochures and while you are there, ask for recommendations, available discounts, and free or low cost outing ideas. I was surprised to find several attractions that offer tours that I didn’t even know about and I consider myself pretty knowledgable when it comes to my hometown.
Search for Historical Markers
Have you ever noticed the brown Historical Markers that you see in front of buildings or alongside the road? Did you know that the markers are placed there to commemorate the people, places and events that have contributed to local, state, or the nation’s history? There are even some markers that are of global significance.
I love to read the markers and glean tidbits of historical information. And since I have a really hard time remembering what I learn these days, little tidbits are about all I’m interested in learning at the time. Sometimes, my family may find something they would like to know more about and we’ll make a note to research it further. If you need help locating historical markers in your area, check out this website that offers a complete list of markers by state and by category. You’ll be amazed to uncover the history that happened near you!
Explore your City, State and National Parks
Several years ago, I decided that the kids and I would begin to explore each of our city parks. Surprisingly, there were 33 parks for our city of under 50,000 residents! We were pleased to find an historic blockhouse, butterfly garden, protected wetlands and monuments of historical significance to the community. I had no idea that all these treasures lay within our city limits! Not only did we have many city parks, there were also many county parks that included a bird sanctuary and haven for injured wild animals. You’ll be surprised by the diverse habitats you’ll find nearby. You may begin to locate your city parks by looking in your phone book (if you still have one of those) or checking out your city website under parks and recreation.
If you’re fortunate enough to live close to a national park, I probably don’t need to remind you to check it out regularly. I always search out national parks when we’re traveling because they are often free or charge a very nominal admission fee. Though each site is different and some are more elaborate than others, most do have some type of interpretive/museum type display, a quick video and possibly some type of tour or Ranger led program to participate in. If you homeschool, or enjoy the educational aspect of travel, be sure to look for lesson plans on their website. You can choose to complete the lessons or skim over them prior to your arrival to familiarize yourself with the attraction before your arrival.
Enjoy an Historical House Tour
Do you have any nearby homes or buildings listed as a National Historic Landmark? This is typically sites, buildings and structures of particular significance to American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. You’ll be surprised to find that your area probably has a number of properties on this directory.
My family really enjoys touring historical homes and though I couldn’t find a nationwide listing, if you do a search of historical homes in your area, I’m sure you’ll come up with plenty of ideas to get you started.
Don’t Overlook your City or County Museum
We’ve visited some fabulous large museums while traveling, but what about local museums? Do you have a city or county museum? Our town has several and I’m surprised to find that many of my friends have never been there. You can find a list of museums across the country by state, city or type here. I’ve found that visiting our small city and county museums have given my family an appreciation for the people that worked to build our community, embedding a sense of pride in our hometown.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but this will certainly give you a place to start as you set out to become a Hometown Traveler.
What tips do you have when it comes to exploring your hometown?
This post was originally published here on The Traveling Praters and has been updated and republished.