Posted: Mar 27, 2014 9:00 AM
No matter where you live, it's likely that there are interesting locations you haven't seen. Take an afternoon staycation and explore your home town. Discover how to create a walking tour in your own city.

Walking tours aren't only for vacations

Our afternoon trek around the city made me acutely aware of the hidden gems in our own home town.

Last year during a trip to Toronto, my husband and I explored the city through a walking tour he'd found online. Though we've been to the city a number of times and have walked around for hours, the planned tour gave us a glimpse of the city we might not have noticed on our own. Large attractions were highlighted, like the CN Tower, but there were also small stops, like small squares between buildings with hidden sculptures or a labyrinth outside a mall designed to help clear your mind and settle your thoughts. Our afternoon trek around the city made me acutely aware of the hidden gems in our own home town, and I realized even longtime residents could take advantage of the spring weather to explore the city by foot.

Planning stops for a walking tour

Keep your audience in mind when planning a walking tour. Young children will need frequent stops, frequent water breaks and infrequent explanations. Balance quiet activities like an art gallery showing local artists' work with freer moments, like a park you don't visit frequently. Even if your home town doesn't have official walking tours, there are always resources you can use to personalize your afternoon.

  • Libraries generally have pamphlets outlining local attractions, including calendars with festivals or special town events.
  • Check city websites for monthly activities.
  • Call local establishments, like small farms or manufacturers, to see if they do free tours.
  • Think like a tourist. Consider where you would take someone visiting your city for the first time.
  • Keep distances and public transportation options in mind.
  • Make your last stop exciting to keep feet motivated — a sports game, special treat or old family favorite will be great incentives for kids to keep walking.

Keep the afternoon entertaining

A scavenger hunt is a fantastic way to keep older kids interested in the walking tour, even when they aren't particularly interested in one of the stops. Kids — and adults — like to feel like they're finding something special. Scavenger hunts don't have to be complicated. In fact, developing a simple set of objects can work in your favor. When you do leave your home town for a vacation destination, repeat the scavenger hunt in your new locale. Compare the new finds to the ones from your town and collect objects from new places you visit. Let kids snap photos of the objects that can't be taken with you.

A sample scavenger hunt can include:

  • a found coin
  • someone wearing a red hat
  • a business card
  • a street sign that starts with your first initial
  • a piece of art you love
  • a shirt with the name of a local college

Keep in mind

A walking tour that weaves in a circle might be the best way to explore, but small legs get tired quickly. Keep kids involved by letting them help with map-reading or playing I-Spy while walking to your next destination. If you're including young children, consider bringing a wagon or building in frequent stops like parks with benches or swings, small restaurants that won't care if you're simply stopping for a snack and maybe even a small scoop of ice cream to commemorate the new things you learned about your home town.

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