How to be a Hometown Tourist

Discovering Dixie's Guide to Being a Hometown Tourist

It can be difficult to get away for a weekend with work and school and ballet lessons, so why not plan a Staycation!  Every town has a tourist attraction, whether it’s a museum or music festival or botanical garden, and I bet you’ve never been.  Or it’s been decades since you last visited.  Set aside a weekend to become a hometown tourist and see what your own backyard has to offer.

Living in Huntsville, AL, our biggest draw is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, home to Space Camp and Aviation Challenge.  During college, I worked as a counselor and lived on the grounds, so I have spent thousands of hours wandering the facility.  But it’s been years since I went back and watched an IMAX movie or rode Space Shot or cruised around Rocket Park.  Being a hometown tourist allows you to revisit great memories while creating new ones.

Here are my TOP 10 tips to become a hometown tourist:

  • Find a neat place to stay for the weekend.  When you travel, you’ll rent an AirBnB or find a swanky boutique hotel to wine and dine your significant other.  Do some research and find a special place in town for you to escape to, a place you can relax in and forget about the stresses of daily life.  This charming house is in Paducah, KY and was built in 1895!  The suite was charming and I’d definitely recommend it.
AirBnB in Paducah, KY
AirBnB in Paducah, KY
  • Go to a museum.  Each city has a museum of some kind, whether it’s art or military or history, the subject doesn’t matter.  Spend an hour learning about something new.  The Parthenon in Nashville, TN is a full scale replica of the original in Athens, Greece and was built in 1897.  This 42-foot sculpture of Athena was added in the early 1990s.  To give some sense of scale, the statue of Nike in her right hand is 6 feet tall!
The Parthenon in Nashville, TN
The Parthenon in Nashville, TN
  • Take photographs with the murals.  As a tourist, we’re all looking for that magical shot for Instagram, and many seek out unique murals.  As a hometown tourist, do the same!  Find the murals livening up dingy alleyways and boring brick walls.  Huntsville, AL has a mural trail, with maps available showing the locations.  Nashville, Paducah, Florence, and Chattanooga all offer vibrant street art, you just have to find it!
Welcome_to_Huntsville_mural
Welcome to Huntsville Mural in Big Spring Park
  • Explore the big attraction.  This will encompass a place that takes several hours to fully enjoy.  It could be a waterpark, the Space and Rocket Center, a tour of the Ryman, the botanical gardens, whatever your city has to offer.  This is a broad category for an afternoon of fun, because you get to cater this hometown tourist weekend to your own liking!
Huntsville Botanical Gardens
Huntsville Botanical Gardens
  • Take in a show.  This can vary by your preferences but many options are available.  Find some live music, attend a ballet or musical, or go see a movie.  Does your city have a minor league sports team?  Have you ever been to a game?  Find something that’s been on your list for a while, and enjoy it!
The Brevet at The Local in Nashville, TN
The Brevet at The Local in Nashville, TN
  • Try the local beverage of choice.  Where do visitors go for happy hour?  A local brewery or tap room or swanky cigar bar?  With the craft beer trend in full swing, most cities, even the smaller ones, have at least one brewery.  Find a place that suits your preference and spend an hour of two sipping the good stuff!
Beer Flight from Green Bus Brewing in Huntsville, AL
  • Treat yourself to a nice dinner out.  Chances are, you have your favorite local dives or chain restaurants that you eat at repeatedly.  Try out a new place and allow yourself to indulge in dinner, desert, and a nice bottle of wine.
Dinner at Matilda Midnight in Chattanooga, TN
Dinner at Matilda Midnight in Chattanooga, TN
  • Spend your morning reading in a coffee shop.  There is a craft coffee movement right now, and local shops are getting in on the game by roasting their own beans and creating their own blends.  Maybe you’ll find a new favorite!
Frothy Monkey in Franklin, TN
Frothy Monkey in Franklin, TN
  • Grab brunch at that new spot downtown.  Weekends should be for relaxing and indulging, and brunch offers both!  Good food, coupled with a mimosa or bloody mary, can really get you in vacation mode!
The Factory Cafe at Alabama Chanin in Florence, AL
The Factory Cafe at Alabama Chanin in Florence, AL
  • Get physical.  Take a hike with your dogs or strip down and jump into that spring hidden around the corner.  Explore a cave or take in the power of a waterfall.
Suspension Bridge at Rock City in Chattanooga, TN
Braving the Suspension Bridge with Mama at Rock City in Chattanooga, TN

With so many options to explore, you will probably need more than one weekend to explore your hometown.  Don’t forget about seasonal attractions also.  As autumn approaches, pumpkin patches and ghost tours will be available.  Winter brings Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and new flavors of coffee, beer, and cocktails at your new favorite place.  Being a hometown tourist can be exciting and new each time you venture out.  So explore and start living like a local!

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