Oh I know what you’re thinking: act like a tourist where I live? It sounds funny, doesn’t it, because being a tourist usually means visiting a place where you don’t live.
I think that you can be a tourist in your own town. I’m sure there are places that are unfamiliar to you – places that you’ve seen but never checked out or places you’ve heard of but never made the effort to visit. In a way it’s good being a tourist because you can be curious about a place without caring about what other people think. To me, it’s great being a tourist in your town because you learn so much about your community and the people in it. You also get great ideas about places to visit when family and friends come from out of town.
I became a “hometown tourist” a year ago. I used to travel extensively for work (and had lots of fun doing it!). I loved visiting new places, many that spoke different languages and had different customs, and get paid for it. Then I took another position within my company (better job, better pay) but the international travel was very limited. Since I no longer had my company funding these trips, I decided to explore my hometown of Los Angeles.
LA is a big place – I’ve heard of people referring to it as a “concrete prairie” (as opposed to New York’s “concrete jungle”) because it just goes on and on. People who’ve been living here all their lives can’t claim to have seen it all – there is always some new development, park, garden, museum, or attraction to visit. In the past year I’ve seen several California Missions, beaches, botanical gardens, museums, and parks. I even saw bison one day when I visited a park on a whim. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by what you find in your own town.
So how does someone become a “hometown tourist”? A good way to start is to pay attention to what your friends, family, or co-workers are doing on weekends. They’ll let you know if they had fun visiting a new place, restaurant, or event. Since they’ve been there they can tell you the best time to go, or the best dish on the menu, or the best place to find free parking (very valuable information here in LA).
Another way to find places to visit is by reading local magazines and newspapers for upcoming events. For example, this weekend the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be performing at Staples Center, and there’s a great article about cheap eats in Southern California. Dollar hot dogs at The Strand sound awfully good right now.
If you still don’t get any ideas from these resources, check out websites that cater to your interests. I love home décor so I frequently visit Apartment Therapy LA for ideas on where to find cool things for the home, as well as local home and garden shows. Just the other week I found out about the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society’s annual plant show, and enjoyed seeing wonderful displays of cacti and succulents (they are very hardy plants, for those of you that have a black thumb like me). I got to vote for my favorite display, which ended up placing second (it was robbed!) and got an opportunity to buy new plant varieties that aren’t normally sold in nurseries. My husband, who collects succulents, had a field day and bought three new plants.
Lastly, come up with a theme and see where it takes you. Last summer I came up with the idea to visit all 21 California Missions. After visiting a few Missions, and came across places I wanted to visit en route to these Missions. Once I saw the Getty Center overlooking the 405 freeway and thought hey, I’ve never been there before – I should visit next weekend. I did visit the following weekend and was impressed with the architecture, gardens, and art collection. The Getty Center is free to the public, and no reservations are required. You should definitely take advantage if you’re in Los Angeles and have a free afternoon.
Sometimes you just have to go for it – visit those places you’ve always been curious about. Before you know it, planning these excursions will give you something to look forward to every weekend. I’m totally hooked on LA and all the fabulous things it has to offer.
When not exploring her hometown, Abby Canizales can be found wandering the aisles of Target or browsing the J. Crew website for fabulous deals. Abby lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and ridiculously good-looking dog. You can learn more about Abby and her travels by checking out her blog, Speedy Canizales.