I wish I could quit my job and travel the world full-time. I really do. I know it would be difficult and I’d have to learn to deal with the constant moving and not feeling like I could really settle and put down roots. But that’s not my reality right now. I have too many responsibilities that keep me sitting tight right now, but that desire to travel is ever-present. How do I satisfy that itch? The answer is simple: I learned how to be a tourist in my current hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Being a tourist in your hometown is a little weird, if I’m totally honest. You have to adopt a different type of mind-set, which allows you to look at your hometown with fresh eyes, as if you’re stepping foot into it for the very first time. You have to make yourself a little vulnerable and ask questions that might seem weird at first, because hey, you’ve been living here for 8 years already. Shouldn’t you know when that building was first erected? Or know more about the local food scene?
Once you finally decide that you’re going to (re)discover your hometown, what’s the first step? Exactly HOW do you go about it? To be honest, there’s no real one way to do this…just like there’s no one true way to travel. We all have our own styles, tricks, and favorites. Here are my tried and true tips on how to be a tourist in your own hometown!
Lookup your hometown on TripAdvisor and Pinterest
As ambivalent as I am about the website, TripAdvisor seems to be a place that a lot of people refer to when planning a trip. When I first started to look around Salt Lake City for ideas, I turned to TripAdvisor to see what people are asking about. What kinds of recommendations are people looking for? When visitors only have 1 day to visit Salt Lake City, what are their priorities? Historical sites? Museums? Sports? Visitors will also rate some of the local highlights, and it’s also fun to see what everyone has to say about places that you consider your own…and take their comments with a grain of salt.
Are you an avid Pinner? Do you have boards for certain favorite or bucket-list destinations? Well, why not create a Pinterest board of things to do in your own hometown? It’s so much fun to read about out-of-towners’ experiences in your hometown. What did they love? How did they spend their 10-hour layover? Where were their must-do destinations? What makes it on their “Top 10 Things to Do in…”? Have you heard of all of them, or are you adding them to your to-do list? Having a true visitor’s perspective is magnificent.
Consider what your hometown is known for
What is your hometown’s claim to fame, so to speak? What are the stereotypes that visitors want to experience? Think about it. Los Angeles means the beach, Rodeo Drive, and movie stars. London means Big Ben. Paris? The Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and bread. Salt Lake City is widely known for being the “home base” for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (colloquially known as Mormons) and Temple Square. While a lot of Utahs might roll their eyes at the idea of visiting a place that they might be able to see from their house, millions of people from around the world flock to the grounds at Temple Square to see the architecture, learn the history of the Mormon Pioneers, and discover their roots at the Family History Center. Bottom line: take the time to visit the places that make your hometown famous and try to figure out why.
Catch a bird’s-eye view of the town
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to scale a mountain or climb to the top of the tallest building around. Forcing yourself to have a different perspective of a city is a great way to kick off your hometown touristy adventure. Climb a mountain. Are there any observation decks or ferris wheels? Take a minute to enjoy the view and pretend it’s a maze you’re about to run around, with hidden gems around every corner.
Buy a public transit day or multi-day pass
When I’m trying to navigate a new city, I always take care to purchase a transit pass. Nothing is worse than purchasing a one-way ticket, only to get off at the wrong stop, find another kiosk or window, and fork over some more money. With the luxury of having a day pass, I was always willing to take new routes and check out distant corners of a city. If your hometown has a public transportation system, buy a pass and get on the bus, train, or streetcar. Take it to the end of the line and see what you can discover. Is your town a little smaller and lacking public transit? Pack a bag, throw on your walking shoes and wander!
Take a free walking tour
If the office of tourism in your hometown offers free walking tours, chances are that most residents have no idea about them and haven’t taken advantage of them: I know I sure haven’t. One of the benefits of taking a walking tour is that the guide usually takes you down streets that you pass on the daily. How many times have you passed a particular building without knowing anything about it’s history and construction? Well, good thing that walking tour took you there! Now, you have another fact in your arsenal for when you’re hosting out-of-town relatives. Or playing Jeopardy!
Actually plan a staycation
We’ve all heard the advice and read the articles on why we shouldn’t take a staycation, like this one and this one. And I get it. Traveling to different places is exhilarating and rejuvenating. Getting away for even a night or 2 can do wonders for the soul. But I’m also a realist and fully understand the time, money, and physical limitations that most people share. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to get away for a weekend, or you’re uncomfortable doing so alone. If you fit any of the above description, a staycation is totally up your alley! If you want to (re)discover your hometown, why not plan it out the way you would a weekend away? Make a list of places you’d like to visit. Maybe schedule a tour or book a show. Make a dinner reservation. Actually planning it out will help enhance your experience!
Take all the selfies!
How many of us can scroll through our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed and pick out tons of selfies we’ve taken in cool places? Or in front of signs/billboards/markers? I have tons from all over the world and love every single one of them. Some of my favorites, however, were taken pretty close to my current hometown. When you’re driving around your hometown, where do you see people taking pictures? Is there a “Welcome to…” sign around? Do you live next to a state/country border? Are there any funny billboards around? Take a selfie with them!
Of course, there are tons of other tips and tricks you can use to elevate your experience of (re)discovering your hometown. And if not, that’s okay too! Here are a few adventures I’ve been on to learn more about my current hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah!