How to Be a Tourist in Your Own City: 8 Fun, Affordable Ideas

updated Jun 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Low budgets and a lack of time can put a dent in the fun of summer traveling, without doubt. But just because you can’t go far doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Lovingly called a “staycation” by some, we call it being a tourist in your own city. Here are eight ways how to do it.

1. Head to any hotel or motel lobby or welcoming center

Find one of those brochure kiosks in a local hotel or motel lobby, and take home a few for local attractions or activities that grab your attention, especially the ones that seem like something you wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Ask someone behind a desk for what they recommend to tourists who have one day to spend in your city or town. And then be sure and call and ask if there’s a discount for locals or residents (you’d be surprised to learn how many places offer discounts like that!).

2. Get a friend to show you around like you’re a tourist

Call up a friend you know who usually loves showing visitors around town and ask them to take you to some of their favorites places that make the city you live in special! They may take you to a place you would have never thought about visiting.

3. Move through it differently than you usually do

Consider taking a tour on a bus (in Austin we have these things called duck tours, and I couldn’t recommend more) or some other form of transportation. You’ll see your city with fresh eyes when learning about interesting points and fun historical facts. Bonus points if you can find — and take — a Segway tour.

4. Take cheesy photos of yourself in front of tourist spots

That well-known statue in your town square. A view from the park downtown. The famous graffiti. Your city’s welcoming sign. Even if you’ve already seen a lot of your city’s tourist spots, embrace the cheesiness of visiting them again by taking photos of yourself in front of them.

5. Grab a meal at the most touristy restaurant in your town

Get the dish they swear they’re the best at making and that your city’s known for. Revel in its tasty (or greasy) glory. But also take a look around when you get there. I’ve found a lot of the touristy spots actually have cool history to them, with old photos decorating the walls and stories about your town waiting to be discovered.

6. Do something outdoors that only your city can offer

Is your neck of the woods known for fly fishing? Do it. Your city the home to the world’s largest urban bat colony? See it. Tons of farms open their “doors” during particularly lovely parts of the seasons? Take advantage! Is there a public fountain or water feature that you can take the kids to? Have fun! Chances are there’s something outdoorsy your city does well and promotes to tourists; discover it.

7. Cheer on a local sports team

You can go to a game, or even find a popular sports bar to watch a game on a TV, surrounded by passionate locals and tourists alike. It’ll give you a good feeling of the spirit of your city.

8. Embrace a bit of history

Depending on the size of your city, there might be a museum that illustrates an exciting part of your hometown’s history that might be worth checking out. Think about stopping and reading any roadside markers with interesting historical facts. And check to see if your city has any historical collections at local libraries — sometimes you can find a whole collection of cool photos showing what your city looked like years ago.

Looking for ideas for kiddos in tow? This post is about things to do in Los Angeles, but might give you some ideas of places to check out with your kids in your city. More inspiration for being a tourist can be found here, too.

How have you been a tourist in your own city or town? What are some “tourist-y” things around where you live that are actually pretty cool and worth checking out? Share in the comments below!

(Image credit: Janel Laban)

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