(Editor’s note: While this might not come across as productive in the traditional sense, it’s more interesting and informative than, say, watching TV. Still skeptical? Read on…)
I grew up in a tiny residential suburb. So tiny, in fact, and so overlook-able, that some people living in nearby towns had never heard of it. Probably because there wasn’t anything to do. And my friends and I were just far enough away from the city that spontaneous trips into town were few and far between. There were no places to hangout and nowhere to go. Well, except for the McDonald’s that stayed open until 11pm on the weekends…
Needless to say, we were bored with our town. There was just nothing interesting to engage us. I thought we had seen everything the town had to offer.
At some point in high school I began to realize that I didn’t know my town as well as I thought. During my driving hours in preparation for my license, the instructor would sometimes take me to quiet neighborhoods to practice the basics. I remember one time we drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood, so I asked him where we were. When he said we were still in town, I gave an embarrassed, Oh. I honestly had no idea where I was, even though I was still in the tiny town I grew up in. That got me thinking: What else hadn’t I seen?
The summer is the perfect time to explore your hometown. Beats lying around the house all day. Grab a few buddies and challenge yourselves to cover every square inch of your town before the summer ends. Either walking or driving works fine. Explore the neighborhoods and roads you’ve never been down. Eat at restaurants and visit businesses you’ve never been to. Discover new places for you and your friends to chill. You just might surprise yourself with what you find.
If wandering isn’t your thing and you’d prefer a more organized investigation, here are a few places to start:
Resources to start rediscovering your hometown
Your town’s historical society. Your little ol’ town might actually have a group dedicated to preserving its past. Back during the Great Depression, federal work programs like the WPA were formed to create jobs, and one of these efforts was the formation of historical societies. Even my tiny town had one. Its HQ, a worn down house with parts of its structure dating back to the 1700s, turned out to be a museum with artifacts and paintings dating back centuries. I probably passed by it hundreds of times, and never knew it was there. It was a surprisingly interesting and engaging tour.
Your local library. When was the last time you visited your town library? Daycare or preschool, maybe? Like historical societies, libraries were renovated and expanded in order to create jobs during the Great Depression. If your town still uses the same building, you might find some interesting bits of history inside. Ask a librarian if they have books or documents specifically related to the town. They might have some cool stuff, like old maps or books. Every town has a library, but only your town has your library – chances are it has been part of your community for decades. They’re a cool place to walk around, even for just a few minutes. Libraries are a dying breed, but they are one of the only unique public structures between municipalities. Take advantage of them while you can.
Local museums and attractions. When I found out that a local restaurant was at one point a stop on the Underground Railroad, I remember thinking, Yeah right, pffff. But it’s true. And while my town doesn’t have one, there’s a reputable art museum minutes away from the house I grew up in. Your town might have museums or unique attractions that you’ve never visited before. Sometimes we take these things for granted because they’re so close. Really get to know your town and see what you’re missing.
Give it a shot!
Challenge yourself to crossover every square inch of your town before the summer ends. It’s a fun thing to do with your friends and you’ll learn some new things about the town you grew up in. The next time someone asks, you can honestly answer you know your hometown like the back of your hand.
Now I want to hear from you. What do you think of the idea of taking a day to be a tourist in your hometown? What are some cool spots you’ve found?
(photo from here)