Forget 3-oz Liquids: A Year As A Hometown Tourist

Hometown Tourist


We made it through the holidays and into a whole new year–new beginnings, new challenges, and new adventures.

It’s time for new goals–or habits if that sounds more appealing. Many of us aim for better nutrition, a higher level of fitness, less clutter, more financial security, and stronger relationships. These are laudable values that are worth prioritizing year after year, and 2017 is no exception.

This year, though, let’s spice it up. If you got your Southwest Companion Pass like we did, we’ll all be traveling more than normal, but that doesn’t mean our time at home should be dedicated to forming a permanent and customized butt-print on the couch. Instead, take all the goals mentioned above, toss in a little extra fun and a lot of adventure, then commit to one solid year of being the best hometown tourists we can be. 

It Isn’t Your Mom’s Staycation

Just as my idea of a vacation is not staying cooped up in a fancypants hotel, my idea of a staycation certainly isn’t heading to a local resort.

I want to get out and explore with friends and family–to see what there is to see and do what there is to do. Beaches*, pools, and room service are ubiquitous, so we skip those in favor of what makes a location unique.

In fact, I couldn’t care less about hotels because we’re only there for sleeping and bathing. As long as the room is clean, other amenities we’ll never use are unimportant.

So, when we take a staycation, we stay at home. There’s no packing, no extra expense for a hotel or travel gear, no worrying about what time we can check in or what time we have to check out, and no noisy neighbors or traffic delays. We have all our comforts with none of the hassle.

When To Go

Hometown TouristIf your idea of a staycation is similar to mine, or if you’re at least willing to give it a try, then use the following ideas as a springboard for your own hometown tourist shenanigans.

In addition to skipping the hassles of travel, locals also get to skip the bad weather. You have the benefit of living in this excellent location year-round, so pick the most gorgeous days and take full advantage of them!

Visit the botanical gardens in the spring before the flowers scorch, then hit up the World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott on the Fourth of July. Don’t get trampled in the Running of the Bulls in Cave Creek each October, and while you’re there check out neighboring Carefree’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden. Christmas at the Princess is a can’t-miss (at least on discount days), and be sure to visit Flagstaff for sledding and skiing after the first snowfall.

Most All attractions are best during the week and in the mornings when crowds are smaller. The waterpark is a much nicer place early on a Wednesday than later on a Saturday afternoon, but if you choose to venture out on a weekend, at least get there right when it opens.

Other sites select discount days like Wrigley Mansion’s Free Tours Tuesdays. The Arizona Renaissance Festival also accepts 2-for-1 discount coupons on opening weekend every year, and Grand Canyon, Saguaro, and Petrified Forest National Parks have no entrance fee on these 10 days per year!

Local Secrets

While Yelp and Tripadvisor will provide a plethora of suggestions for filling your time, they will miss some secrets that only the locals know.

They won’t tell you about local high school students performing Seussical or the community college’s rendition of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. What better way to support local kids, enjoy the arts, and not have to drive all the way downtown and parallel park (the horror!)?

Travel sites also won’t clue you in to the library’s culture pass–you can ‘check out’ two free tickets to local attractions and museums including Arcosanti and the Heard Museum.

Many museums have reciprocal membership agreements, so check to see if your family’s art or science museum membership is also valid for free admission to other museums across the city and country. In addition, if you use Groupon or have an Entertainment Book and activate your membership online or use the app, you can change the city to receive great discounts across the country too.

Continuing Education

Schools and the library aren’t the only places to score entertaining education–tours also give you a behind-the-scenes look at the products and places you love.

Ceretta offers free tours of its family-owned chocolate factory, and Karsten Manufacturing will demonstrate how it makes Ping golf clubs.

Now that you’ve mastered production, have you ever wondered what happens to your stuff when you’re finished with it? Do you know how recyclables are sorted after they’re all collected in one bin? You can tour a sorting and recycling facility to find out (Hint: it involves, magnets, shakers, lasers, and wind. Science in action!).

Get Moving

We’ve covered nutrition (chocolate), clutter (recycling), financial security (freebies!), and relationships (adventure buddies), so now we’ll tackle fitness.

And you know I wouldn’t write a post like this without including some hikes.

Skip the uber-crowded Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak and instead opt for rugged Black Mountain or easy to access Shaw Butte Trail starting from the North Mountain Visitor Center.

Pinnacle Peak Trail is immaculately maintained with numerous educational signs that provide an excuse to stop and catch your breath.

If you’re looking to get even farther off the beaten path, check out 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of your city.

 No Excuses

I’m not saying that we should never travel–far from it (find a great deal here)! But sometimes it’s nice to stick closer to home.

Just imagine–no missed flights, no TSA lines, no rental car, no forgotten passport, no public restrooms, no jet lag.

As hometown tourists, we get to enjoy adventures and still sleep in our own beds. We already have our own transportation and we know our way around. It’s a low-stress vacation from which we don’t need a vacation afterward!

What are your favorite hometown tourist activities?

*Phoenix has plenty of beach, just no ocean…

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Comments 16

  1. I love staycations! We did a little staycationing over winter break – though we enjoyed food, a fire and games at home, we also ventured out for some rock wall climbing, a movie and sushi.

    I admit, AZ sounds like a dream to me right now. We’re living in a deep freeze and I’m at that point when I start considering an escape! You have some great suggestions I will refer to next time we’re in the area. The last time we were in AZ, we went to Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff and did the ropes course – a very memorable experience! I highly recommend it.

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      Thanks for the recommendation! We’ve seen most of Phoenix but only half of Flagstaff. The next time you’re there you should check out Riordan Mansion. Two brothers built identical homes connected by a shared living room. It’s a great tour! We save Flag for the summer, though 😉

      You really should visit- we’d love to see you!

  2. I love this post because of the PHX and AZ specifics. So many specific ideas to explore in your state.

    I think I’m going to spend a week in Flagstaff on the way to Albuquerque when I start driving in several weeks, I’ve never been to that part of Arizona, so hopefully I enjoy it.

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      Thanks, TJ. So many people never take the time to explore what’s in their backyard because it’s always there so they don’t feel any urgency, but they’re missing out on all the fun!
      Safe travels and have a great trip!

  3. Funny how we are pretty much oblivious to the “tourist attractions” in our own backyard. By virtue of the name, it’s like they’re only there for visitors.

    Now that you’ve conquered your immediate surroundings, enjoy that companion pass

    Cheers to a 2017 full of exciting travel!

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      Thanks, PoF. There’s always more to see. Companies come and go, new stadiums get built, etc. We’re touring the University of Phoenix stadium next week, and there’s a wait list to tour the Amazon warehouse and see how they work their magic.

      We do feel a little odd sometimes because the crowd consists of a boatload of senior citizens, a few moms with little kids, my husband, and me. Oh well 🙂

      You guys should be near some cheese factories and cranberry bogs, right? Those are both some pretty neat tours with yummy samples!

  4. Here’s a funny one… I grew up near Niagara Falls and I never went on the Maid of the Mist (the boat that takes you right up near the Falls) until I was in my late 30’s! We traveled all over the country when I was young, but missed a bunch of things real close to home. We went to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra last night and they played the score to Raiders of the Lost Ark as the movie played. It was amazing! Right in our own backyard – even had dinner at home before we went. Love your point about hotels just being clean too – we never use the amenities…

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  5. Love North Carolina, but I think my beloved stated pales in comparison to the staycation opportunities in Arizona. But your point is well taken. There are plenty of museums, parks, and cultural opportunities in Charlotte that we haven’t taken advantage of yet–and we’ve been here for almost 11 years now. So thanks for the timely reminder, Julie. Mrs. G and I needed it.

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      Mr. G, I visited Charlotte briefly for residency interviews a long time ago, and my host drove me around a super-fancy neighborhood where a house actually had a moat! Do you have any idea where that is? We definitely need to plan a trip back there as I remember everything being beautiful. Please keep a list of your adventures for us.

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  6. I’ve been actively trying to hike more in the LA area since there are so many. I’ve gotten lazy over the last 10 years here where i just tend to stick to my area of LA instead of getting out there. Although not quite a staycation, I also think that people undervalue some great spots in the US to travel for cheap, like our national parks, that make great alternatives to that expensive european vacation. Ya know?

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      We love the national parks too! For an $80 annual pass, you can get into all of them for the entire year! Stringing a couple together makes a great road trip, especially in Colorado, Utah (with a stop at the Grand Canyon), and the Pacific states. The east coast is a little sparse.
      Enjoy your hikes! It is hard to get our of our comfort zone sometimes, but it’s nice to have a larger repertoire when you have visitors with different abilities. And yay for sunny weather when everyone else is snowed in 😉

  7. Those are some great ideas for local activities 🙂

    We just had a nice hike around the local park and then another along the Long Island Sound. Probably the same sort of thing we would do if we were visiting another state. You just gotta get yourself into that mode while you are at home.

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