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6 Simple Ways to be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown

Updated: October 12, 2021

This post has been sponsored by Free Tours by Foot, but all my opinions are my own.

The travel world may be at a halt, but that does not mean that travel is cancelled! It is just redefined. Instead of seeking to get on the next flight to another country or state, travel is now “let’s get out the apartment and walk” or  “let’s hop on a bus and be transported to a new neighborhood.”

I live in New York City, which is considered to be “The Capital of the World,” receiving over 60 mlllion tourists a year! Yet, I am often running to catch a flight to my next travel destination. This pandemic has made me pause to think: have I explored enough of my own city? I realized that I have frequently been a tourist in my own city without knowing it!

However, you do not have to live in a metropolis like NYC to be a tourist in your own hometown. There are many benefits to exploring home aka planning a staycation! Convenience is everything! You do not have to worry about packing for a week long trip, getting up super early to catch a red-eye flight or deal with the hassle of airport security. Saving money is HUGE!

While being super convenient, you still get all the benefits of travel -- feeling refreshed and learning something new! You are guaranteed to make a new discovery in your own backyard, which can give you the same feelings of awe when looking at a new landscape in another country. Now that I have convinced you to be a tourist in your own hometown, here are six ways you can plan the best staycation!

1. Visit tourist attractions.

Franny visiting a tourist attraction      

How many tourist attractions can you name in your hometown? OK, how many tourist attractions have you visited? Fun fact, I have been to the top of the Empire State building twice! Once, when I was 6 years old and once 20 years later…a VERY different experience! Clearly, I put off revisiting this iconic building for a LONG time even though it is a subway ride away.  Yet, 4 million visitors from around the world come to my backyard to see it. There is a reason why certain attractions are popular tourist attractions, so it is worth putting aside your pride to find out why! I literally felt on top of the world when I finally took that elevator ride to the 102nd floor. Concerned about costs? Groupon often has coupons for these popular tourist attractions!

2. Organize a photoshoot.

Franny at Hudson Vessel for a photo shoot

Everyone: “Why would I create a photoshoot?”

Me: “Why not?”

This is a sure way to make you feel like a tourist. It also is a great way to capture (and create) memories for FREE.

All you need is a willing partner or a Tripod. Capturing iconic sites not only makes great Instagram posts, but also great framed pictures for the home.

Last summer, I decided to take my fiancé to the Hudson Vessel. I noticed on Instagram that EVERYONE -- most especially non New Yorkers -- were taking photos with it. Meanwhile, I am a borough away. It turned out to be a fun date outing as we explored both the Vessel and the High Line nearby.

3. Join a walking tour.

Franny on a walking tour

It is one thing to know all the major tourist attractions in your city, but it is a whole different story to know the history behind such attractions.

As a history nerd, learning the origins of street names and the historical contexts behind certain traditions peak my interest. A great way to learn this history AND deeply explore a neighborhood for a short period of time is by taking a walking tour.

As an avid traveler, I always recommend taking a free walking tour when exploring a new city, if available. One of my favorite companies is Free Tours by Foot.

At this point, I have taken 7 tours from this company over the past 3 years in various cities around the country including Boston, New Orleans, and of course in my hometown of NYC.

In my hometown, I have enjoyed the Holiday Lights of Manhattan Tour, Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour, and the East Village Food Tour.

I always learn so much and am able to take great photos. The best part is that it is FREE -- it is donation based! They are so good that you will be inclined to give your guide a tip!

4. Become the guide.

Franny playing tour guide

What better way to be a tourist in your own hometown than by showing a tourist around?

About 10 years ago, I became the “tour guide” for a group of friends I met at a summer pre-med program in Boston who attended school in Louisiana. Considering Boston is only about 4.5 hours away, we decided to take a weekend where I showed them around New York City.

During this time, I also had friends who were residents of New York join along. One of my friends, who is from Detroit, but attended Columbia University with me in New York, said that during her 4 years, she had never done any of the touristy things and enjoyed herself so much!

We took the Megabus (the cheapest option since we were broke college students) to New York City and spent the weekend exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn.

We did a wide range of things from wandering Times Square, taking the New York City subway, frolicking the Metropolitan Museum of Art, riding the amusement park rides at Coney Island, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and eating a Junior’s Cheesecake! Showing my friends around helped me rediscover some top gems in my own hometown through the lens of a tourist that I had forgotten.

5. Book a room.

Franny's staycation near the Oculus

You do not need to wait until you travel to another state or country to book a room!  Treat yoself!

When I want the ultimate staycation, I love to book a hotel room. T

here is nothing like waking up in a hotel room, even if it's just for one night. It is helpful to book a hotel stay that is centrally located to where you want to explore. For example, most recently, I booked a hotel stay in the Flatiron District for my fiance’s birthday where we were walking distance to Eataly.

It is SUPER convenient for grabbing dinner on a snowy January evening!

A couple of years ago, we booked a hotel in Lower Manhattan where we were conveniently situated to explore the 9-11 Memorial & Museum and the Oculus and eat at the Instagrammable spot Blacktap known for their massive, over-the-top milkshakes!

6. Attend an event.

Franny at Diner en Blanc

Have you attended an event in your hometown that is well attended by outsiders? This can be a whole vibe!

It is a great way to meet new people, provides an excuse to get cute, and is an awesome way to have a fun time. Invite friends to join as well and grab a meal before or after you have a whole day planned out.

I have attended my fair share of events in my hometown which include Curl Fest, Target First Saturdays, Dinner en Blanc, Central Park SummerStage, Feast of San Gennaro, and Global Citizens Festival!

I hope that I have convinced you about the fact that there is so much beauty in touring your hometown. This summer is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of exploring your own backyard as we engage in cautious travel!

Now, take these tips and plan the perfect staycation.

About The Author

Franny the Traveler

Franny the Traveler is a passionate educator inside and outside the classroom: a nationally award-winning High School Assistant Principal and travel blogger. She uses her platform, Franny the Traveler blog, to inspire micro-cations, educate on ALL things travel, and amplify underrepresented voices as she shares her expertise on micro-cations, domestic travel, and Black travel. At 28 countries and 35 USA states, she seeks to visit 50 countries and all 50 states before the age of 50!
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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