Create a (non-boring) staycation

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.

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Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Also, check out coupon deal sites. They give great prices for places right around your neighborhood.

    I am personally having an AMAZING summer because of this.

    Scuba diving.

    See you in the Fall!

  2. Staycations are the best! I also just love hitting the local museums and art galleries. Thanks for all the great tips.

  3. We’ve had a great staycation all summer-camping in the backyard, s’mores on our firepit, the local beach, museums. Bollywood dance classes (for me), time in my studio . . . .
    We’re keeping it up until we have to give it up! Thanks for the wonderful hints too!

  4. Thank you, wonderful hints! Most people live where they live because they love something about it, but I think we forget why we loved it in the hectic day to day circus. To take a week “staycation” and rediscover all the things you love about your hometown is just a wonderful concept!

  5. School started this week for us….Ugh! But we made good with lots of trips this summer to our local city pool, Smoky Mountain National Park where we love to picnic, hike and wade in the river. We’re still enjoying summer with more trips to the mountains, farmer’s market, historical sites and back yard fun.

  6. We live in So. California, a place lots of people visit- so this year we decided to to touristy things- like visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame- which the kids totally loved. Next up is the Santa Monica pier. It is so easy to forget to do the things close to home!

  7. you can geo-cache pretty much anywhere now 🙂

  8. This is a great reminder! There are a couple of famous sites in the town where we live that we have been planning to visit since we moved there thirteen years ago, but we still haven’t seen them. I’m just going to have to take the initiative to plan to do it!

  9. Loved seeing this post this morning. We just planned out our “staycation” yesterday. Still have a bit of tweaking to do and add a few things but have it almost all planned out. Still wanting to work in the local kids museum but due to admittance fees hubby says we can only do one. Either the hands on kids museum or the Cattales Zooilogical Park. Hubby and I have been to the Cattales but the kids( 3-1/2 and 1) have not and none of us has been to the children’s museum. If we cannot make it to the museum I definately think I’m going to have to suggest to the in-laws that a year pass for the museum would be a great family gift for Christmas. Everyone has told me that is the best way to go financially.

  10. This summer we have been using Local Hikes (www.localhikes.com) to find day hikes for our family. You put in your zip code and it gives you a list of hiking trails in your area. We’re from Oregon and hiking is pretty much everywhere. Many of the trails have reviews, comments, and whether or not they are kid friendly or pet friendly. It’s been super helpful in exploring our beautiful state!

  11. My family and I live in the Willamette Valley and just spent last week in central Oregon. Welcome! One of the things we did when we were over there is hike at Smith Rock State Park in Terrabone (spelling?) (N of Redmond). It is amazingly beautiful! My 4 year old hiked 4 mi. of it! If you haven’t checked it out yet you must. Enjoy your summer! And of course winter in the gorgeous NW!

  12. we’ve been enjoying a lot of outdoors staycation ideas – so i must check out localhikes, thanks for the great tips!

  13. We live near a beach and near the mountains…so we’ve gone back and forth playing on the surf and in the river. Kids loved jumping from the rocks and riding down the natural slides; and building sand-castles at the beach was fun, too. Also, we’ve just enjoyed our local park and swimming pool. Since we don’t have yard (we live in an apt) I’m thinking of getting out the tent and “camping” in the living room for a night or so. We’ve done that other years and the kids love that, too! We have one more week before school starts up..thanks for the post. I want this last week to be fun, not running around getting ready for school. =)

  14. I just took last week off work for a week home (in Bend) with my kids. We did our normal weekly things – library, Juniper Pool, farm visit to get veggies, farmers market, soccer in the park, etc, but we made it more fun by getting together with some friends a few mornings for “mom camp” where we did activities and experiments on a topic.

    This week we’re having a bit of a staycation up in Seattle – “staying” in my hometown with grandparents. There are spool many things to do in the bigger cities, and yet my kids have probably had the most fun playing in the wading pool on Nana’s deck. Sometimes the best part of a staycation is just having NO AGENDA. =)

  15. Since summer is always a nightmare in the tourist areas we always have a staycation close to home. We love finding places off the beaten track, swimming holes, woods, new playgrounds, and spending a lot of time doing indoor activities outside are all great fun for a toddler. We’ll save the more expensive museum trips and tourist outings when kids are back at school and everything is quieter and cheaper.

  16. I had never heard of Yelp before. I’ll have to check it out!

  17. As kids we loved sleeping in a tent in the garden, packing picnics to take with us and reading by torchlight. I think sometimes we overlook the simple ideas and think everyone needs a holiday abroad to feel like they’ve had a break.

  18. You need not go far to experience great things. This summer, my kids and I have found exciting back yard adventures. I usually take them to parks and children’s museums. We love every second of our visits. Continue to enjoy your vacation!

  19. My hometown, Roanoke, VA, hosts many free library events, movies, fairs, concerts, and children’s activities.

  20. I actually go to tourist spots and pick up brochures. Far too often I don’t go see the attractions and historical sites in my own area unless I have guests!

  21. I’ve heard of Yelp, but never really used it. I’ll have to check it out. Our staycations always involve eating ice cream on a patio.

  22. Great ideas! I need to do some inside stuff right now because it is SO hot. However, earlier this week we enjoyed several hours at the creek. The kids loved wading in the water!

  23. My son and I are planning a stay-cation of sorts. We are going to bike ride the full 70 mile span of a local bike path that starts in our town and ends up…..70 miles away! We plan to take it slow, and get a hotel with a pool and hot tub .

  24. Good reminders and some new tips, too! Thanks!

  25. Tsh, I love that you promoted the library. Not only can you get books/movies out, but they often have special summer programming for kids. And better yet, your children’s room might have free passes for local museums. We used our library’s pass to go to an science museum, children’s museum, and a local planetarium – FREE!
    Another thing we do all the time is hop on our bikes. Familiar spots look different when you approach by bike and stopping at a favorite swimming spot or eatery takes on a whole new sense of special when you worked to get there.

  26. We love touring our own city. We visit http://mommypoppins.com/ and I believe they have about five major cities listing events going on.

    I also love the library events as well as free outdoor park events. Just next month they’re going to start performing Shakespeare plays free at one of our local parks. So awesome!

  27. We live in an extremely rural area with the nearest community being a village 38 miles away. Official vacations haven’t been in the picture for years. I have found the simplest things do indeed become the sweetest memories. Therefore, our family celebrates and anticipates each season along with all of the individual blessings each contains, the scent of freshly mown grass in the summer, the sound of the sprinkler, laundry snapping on the line, wild roses in the spring, sighting the first blackbird each spring, the first singing of the locusts in summer, first lightning bug, making a scarecrow in the fall, ice skating in winter, the first fire of the season in the woodstove, etc. It’s like being on vacation all year round, even when in the middle of hard work!

  28. We have been sticking local and having a blast all summer. No need to go too far!

  29. Savings money is all about getting creative these days. Many families might have the time but not the cash flow for a vacation so you have to look around your home for fun places to take the family.

  30. Danielle says:

    We try to work in a few excursions during the summer months – try local museums or explore a nearby town that you haven’t been to before. If your community has a website, check there for attractions, or sometimes events are printed in the local newspaper. For more great staycation ideas, check out: http://blog.clearpointcreditcounselingsolutions.org/blog/bid/166748/Summer-Staycation-Ideas-on-a-Budget

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