Saturday, February 12, 2011

5 WAYS: To Experience Your Own City

When most people refer to traveling they usually mean going to a place that isn't home.  With no big trip planned in the very near future, I started to think about the city I live in and how much of it I haven't experienced in my 3 years here.  I haven't been to the art museum.  I haven't spent an afternoon people watching on the Ohio State Oval.  I haven't hiked Hocking Hills.  So why haven't I 'traveled' my city?

When I travel I love to eat, wander and watch.  Sounds kind of boring.  But with all of that eating, wandering and watching I'm actually taking a place in, pretending like I'm a local.  So here's the hitch. I don't experience my own city because I'm too busy.  I'm running errands, I'm thinking about work.  I've got places to go, people to see.  Blah, blah, blah.  Plus it's all too familiar.

What I came to realize is that in order to experience my home city, I need to break from my normal routine.  Thinking about what makes a culture interesting (its people, history, food, music and events), I came up with this short list.  Now I realize my ideas  for getting to know your own city better are pretty much no-brainers.  But for some reason, when Saturday morning rolls around and I think about what I'm going to do, I always seem to overlook them.  Maybe you do too.

5 WAYS: To experience your own city

  1. People watch.  One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to sit in a cafe and people watch.  But when I'm home I never seem to make time to do it.  Pick a part of town you don't normally visit (if you live in small town visit one nearby), find a bar or cafe and take an afternoon to watch life pass by.
  2. Local landmarks.  Take a drive or go for a walk and pick a landmark, building, park or monument that you're drawn to and get to know its history.  Taking a tour is a start (make sure to ask lots of questions), but also read books on local history, research it online or talk with local historians.  
  3. Local eating.  Skip the grocery store and go shopping at a farmers market.  Instead of eating at a chain restaurant pick a locally-owned one (look for ones that use local foods in their menus).  Eating local foods keeps you connected to your community and will open your eyes to how rich it is.
  4. Local music.  Big music acts don't become big overnight.  They start in local music scenes.  Check out local radio station websites for upcoming events.  Pop in to a music shop (yes they still exist) and ask the staff about up and coming local bands.  Try something different.  If alternative music is your thing, look for concerts for local choirs or acapella groups.
  5. Community events.  Pumpkin festivals, chili cook-offs, pancake breakfasts, bingo.  These are all great ways to experience and support your community.  Search for local events online and add them to your personal calendar as a reminder.  Your newspaper, city magazine or community website will have event ads and listings.  Libraries and coffee shops often have community boards with event postings too.   
BONUS WAY (5 +1):  More local eating.  If you're new to a city, I can't think of a better way to get to know it than trying the local favorite dish.  Philly Cheese steaks, cheese curds, hot dish.... gooey duck.  Try it.  You might like it.

If you're looking to challenge yourself to get to know your home city better, is hosting a weekly Travel Your Own City contest.  Every Thursday they will post a new idea to explore your city and encourage you to add photos and comments.  And of course feel free to share your ideas here.  The more the merrier.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! We've been trying a lot of food trucks and eating at farmer's markets in order to eat more locally grown foods too.

    So happy you joined the challenge- I can't wait to see what everyone discovers about their cities!