Enjoying the local favorites and getting to know your hometown heroes
If you’ve made new year’s resolutions to spend wisely and live mindfully, then 2018 may be the year of your best staycation yet. You’ll save money on airfare and accommodation, and get to know the region where you live. Put in your PTO request and walk down your hometown streets with a spring in your step. Savor the best dishes at a new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, sleep late in the comfort of your own bed, and visit that one tourist attraction you’ve always been curious about, but have never experienced in person. Who cares if the neighbors see you sunning on your back patio with a mai tai? There’s no place like home…especially when you’re prepared with fun staycation ideas!
We’ve picked out the best small cities for a stay-at-home vacation in the United States. Some of them are within a day trip to a popular metropolis, and others are just too cool to pass up. From the Puget Sound to the sun-kissed lakes of Florida, you don’t have to go far for relaxation, excitement, and delicious eats. The key to planning a staycation that slays is seeing your hometown with new eyes, exploring sites you haven’t visited before, and splurging on a few indulgent experiences you wouldn’t do on an average day in the life. So, the next time someone tells you, “Go big or go home,” you know what to do: #stayallday.
1. Everett, WA
Seattle isn’t the only gorgeous city in the Puget Sound. Everett is just a ferry ride away from Whidbey Island and a short drive to Seattle attractions. You don’t ever have to leave this waterfront wonderland to have a refreshing break from the norm—and we’re not just talking to people with bosses named Norman.
All the parks!
- Evergreen Arboretum & Garden inside Legion Park has awesome views of the water from the city’s north coastline. We don’t have to tell you that Everett has impressive parks, and this is where we’d start a relaxing long weekend.
- Howarth Park is located on the west shore of the city, and has a great view of Hat Island.
- Spencer Island Park is huge and perfect when you want to take a walk on the wild side, because it’s less developed and more secluded.
- Take a self-guided tour and stand in awe of historical aerospace innovation at Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum.
- Imagine Children’s Museum is a fully interactive experience for all ages. On the first Saturday of the month join Movin’ and Groovin’ for music and stretching, and make your own magic at the Art Studio on selected weekdays.
- Schack Art Center is a museum as well as a learning center with workshops and local art sales.
- Learn to speak Irish and enjoy traditional pub fare at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub.
- Asian flavors fuse with European techniques at Moon Tree Asian Tapas, and the result is delicious.
- The New Mexicans has new owners—Evie and Vince De Simone—who have been infusing the Southwestern menu with flavors from their Samoan and Italian cultural roots since the beginning of 2017.
- Enjoy the Sound’s wine culture, starting at Everett’s own Port Gardner Bay Winery and venturing out to surrounding cities Woodinville and Snohomish.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Everett is a garden city, and if you aren’t familiar with Everett Community College, you might not have wandered through the tranquil Nishiyama Japanese Garden. Pause to appreciate the garden’s eleven elements, including the Iwakuni footbridge, made with reclaimed wood from the Kintai Bridge in Everett’s sister city, Iwakuni, Japan.
2. Redding, CA
For many tourists, Northern California begins and ends with San Francisco. But they’re missing out on the scenic small towns and stunning national forests that surround Redding. In fact, from Redding, you could visit a different national forest every day for a week without driving farther than 150 miles! That’s a recipe for adventure…or some Zen time with mother nature.
NorCal arts & culture
- Have you taken the time to explore the Art Exhibit and Sculpture Park at City Hall? Pack a picnic and check out the local artwork. The pieces rotate quarterly, so you may not have seen the current exhibition.
- See a show at the historic Cascade Theatre, an art deco performing arts venue that opened in 1935.
- Explore downtown Redding with fresh eyes—order a pint at Carnegie’s, and go for that extra espresso shot at Brew Craft Coffee. You can sleep in tomorrow.
- With over 10 signature cheesecake varieties on the menu at any given time, Cheesecakes Unlimited is true to its name; they also serve a full savory menu and drinks.
- When it comes to fine dining, you already know Clearie’s is the best in town, but have you ever splurged on the abalone and risotto? You aren’t booking a hotel, so you’re still saving!
- Armando’s Gallery House will appeal to all your senses. Come for dinner or a wine and paint night, and chat about art with Armando.
- Take the kiddos to nearby Historic Hawes Farm for a taste of the agrarian life and carnival-style activities, like a 6-acre corn maze and gemstone mining.
- If the youngsters have been caught jumping on the furniture, take them to Rare Air Trampoline Park to jump, flip, and climb the indoor rock wall.
- Spend the day playing baseball, basketball, and soccer at Caldwell Park. The Teen Center, playground, and walking trails round out this well-kept greenspace. You can even bring the family doggo.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Go spelunking in the nearby small towns. Some of the best caves in Northern California are all within an hour’s drive of Redding, including Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark in Lakehead, Lassen Volcanic National Park in Mineral, and Lava Beds National Monument—with more than 700 caves—in Tulelake.
3. Cleveland, OH
Why leave Cleveland when you could spend your time on the banks of Lake Erie, and take a tasting tour of up-and-coming breweries? We can’t think of a good reason either. Cleveland is in the midst of a “moment.” The food scene is booming, and we can’t get enough of the local beers (Masthead’s Jalapeno IPA hurts so good). Have you been too busy to savor Cleveland’s greatest hits and impressive upstarts? Here’s your chance to fix that!
- Cleveland Vegan serves comfort foods with an extra serving of compassion; whether you’re an herbivore or omnivore, you’ll love the winter stew and dumplings.
- Hook & Hoof opened in nearby downtown Willoughby in April of 2017, with New American cuisine and a knack for elevated surf and turf.
- Go ahead and graze at West Side Market, with over 100 vendors and flavors from around the world.
- Cuyahoga Arts and Culture is great for people of all ages, bringing together artists and events from all over the city and globe in one community.
- Wander around Gordon Square Arts District and pop into galleries or take a selfie scavenger hunt with the neighborhood’s public art installations.
The beer scene
- Cleveland is a beer city, which you might not have been able to take full advantage of during a regular work week. Taste flights all over the top tap districts, downtown and Cleveland West. Board the Cleveland Brew Bus for a tour for your taste buds.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: You can’t live in Cleveland, or even remotely close to it, and skip the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Tuesdays are the best time to visit if you want to avoid crowds and have easy access to all the exhibitions. On January 15, the RRHF is hosting an all-day event, celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Check their calendar for even more upcoming events!
4. Overland Park, KS
Overland Park has all the amenities you’d expect from the second-largest city in the state, but it really embraces indie businesses and community ties like a small town. You already know the area is great for families with kids, but have you taken time off to check out nearby nightlife and awesome revitalization that’s turning OP into a gathering place for young professionals? It’s time to find out first-hand.
The brunch bunch
- Louie’s Wine Dive is OP’s worst kept secret…and its most delicious. Try ordering something new-to-you from the vast menu, like Emily’s Apple Harvest.
- McLain’s Market is all about breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Grab a seat on the patio and tuck into the Market Bowl.
- Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is both educational and fun, complete with baby goat feeding, a historical school house, wagon rides, and more. The kiddos will enjoy learning about farm life, and you’ll love the fresh air and wide-open spaces.
- The Museum at Prairiefire is great for all ages, kids and adults alike. It’s a natural history museum that incorporates the changing landscape of technology—be sure you check out the Discovery Room.
- Take your fun to the next level at iFly Kansas City, an indoor skydiving simulator. It’s way safer than the real thing!
- If you want to leave your day-to-day life behind for a few hours and really relax for evening, head to neighboring city Lawrence. The downtown is very walkable, quiet, and home to several brew pubs, cocktail bars, and grills. Enjoy dinner and a show at Jazzhaus (with 40 beers on tap!), and stop for a post-show mojito on the porch at The Bourgeois Pig—both located in the Lawrence Cultural District.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: If you don’t live near the southernmost part of OP, it’s easy to miss Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, but you really should plan your staycation with their events and trails in mind. Wednesdays and Thursdays are great for skipping crowds.
5. Kissimmee, FL
Maybe you moved here for work, for the beautiful waterfront scenery, or to be close to family. Whatever the reason, you also get the sun-smooched glow Kissimmee’s name implies. Soak up the Sunshine State’s signature rays and enjoy fresh hometown cuisine and old-fashioned fun. We also wouldn’t blame you if you spent your entire staycation floating in the middle of Lake Toho.
- January and February are kicking off the year with the MLK Parade and Unity Festival in downtown Kissimmee on January 13. We can’t wait!
- The 2018 Osceola County Fair runs February 9 – 18. That’s 10 days of funnel cakes and wild rides, but who’s counting? Get out to the fairgrounds and support your local community!
- The Sunshine Regional Chili Cook-off spices things up February 24.
- Kissimmee is home to the ultimate Old Town. This historical ‘hood is reminiscent of a vintage carnival with stagecoaches in the streets, a carousel, and charming storefronts. Take a spin on the Ferris wheel with your sweetheart for a romantic moment close to home.
- Experience a piece of Kissimmee’s history first hand at the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek, where living historians educate and enrich.
- Visit Kissimmee Air Museum, and even take a flight with Warbird Adventures. It’s a little extravagant, but you’re not paying for airfare to get there.
The greatest outdoors
- Don’t pass up a little more time on East Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga). Relax on the beach, pack a picnic, or float across the water in a fan boat.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a Chocolate Kingdom Factory Tour with the whole family. You’ll learn how they make chocolate from bean to bars. The Kissimmee location is in Old Town, and you can join a wine and chocolate pairing experience or take a chocolate-making class before or after your tour.
6. Franklin, TN
Franklin may have been founded in 1799, but did you know that this historical hub almost became its own state in 1788? Although that didn’t pan out, Franklin is still home to a unique culture, with a balance of old-school sights and contemporary arts and cuisine. So, stop packing that suitcase for your next getaway and pack your itinerary full of these things to do on a staycation in Franklin instead!
- Dress in your vintage wear and spend an evening at Franklin Theatre, which opened as a cinema in 1937.
- Get to know your hometown even better with a Trolley Tour through the city’s historic sites. Drive by the Old, Old Jail, Franklin’s “Great American Main Street,” and somber sites Carnton Plantation, where themed tours offer an informative and raw perspective on slavery and Civil War battles.
- Learn about the Civil Rights Act of 1875 at the Fleming Center at Carnton, and gain new knowledge of the long journey toward equal voting rights for all.
Breweries and juiceries
- Sample local craft brews at Mantra Artisan Ales—we can’t get enough of Japa, the milk stout infused with chai tea. It’s like comfort in a pint. Need a little kick? Order the Hot Yoga, a wit with cucumber and jalapeno. All the benefits of good sweat without going to the gym.
- Order pie first at the Frothy Monkey. Then, build your own decadent omelet, or go light with the roasted beets and a fresh salad.
- Be well at Juice Bar. Start the day with shots…of powerful juices, essential oils, and spices. Line ‘em up!
- Franklin is great for antique shopping. Explore the centuries and hunt for treasures at Arbor Antique Mall, where 30 antiques dealers have curated jewelry, art, home goods, and more.
- Stay local, shop local at unique boutiques, like Finnley’s, and Baya Designs. Your own neighbors are designers, artisans, and savvy shopkeepers. They say every time you support a small business, a real person does a happy dance. Let’s make it happen!
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a long weekend at the beginning of any month and do a first Friday art walk scavenger hunt. How many of the local pop-up galleries can you visit? How many artists’ signatures can you get? What’s your favorite wine and nibbles offering? This is the kind of challenge you can’t lose.
7. Bloomington, MN
A lot of people think of Bloomington as the Twin Cities’ kid cousin with a major shopping obsession. We’re not saying that’s not true, but as any Bloomington resident knows, there’s more to this suburban city than meets the eye…and it’s anything but sleepy. Explore gorgeous greenspaces, spend a night out on the town, and yes, take advantage of the Mall of America sitting pretty in your own backyard.
- Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a habitat for Minnesota’s indigenous creatures and offers education and opportunities to immerse yourself in nature.
- Hyland Park Reserve and Bush Lake Park are a calm water wonderland—perfect for hikes and in some seasons sunning or skiing.
- Normandale Japanese Garden is a tranquil international experience. The garden is maintained by Normandale Community College, volunteer gardeners, and generous donor support.
- Laugh your bum off at House of Comedy inside Mall of America, or enjoy a romantic date on the patio at Urbana Craeft Kitchen & Market.
- Take advantage of being just a Lyft ride away from Southwest Minneapolis, and enjoy burgers and bombers at the one-of-a-kind George and the Dragon Pub.
- When you’ve had your fill of the “small lakes,” take the 165-mile drive to Duluth and stand on the banks of Lake Superior. Learn more about the port at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, and watch the ships in the bay.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Go to the Mall of America, seriously. With an in-house aquarium, dining, and entertainment like Nickelodeon Universe, it’s a fun destination for the whole family.
8. Burlington, VT
Located just 95 miles south of Montreal, Vermont’s largest city is a great place to stick around and soak up the local charm, and the starting point of some great international adventures. Embrace Burlington’s artsy ambiance and don’t miss out on the natural wonders around every turn. It might be old hat to you, but one of the best staycation tips we have is to see your home like a brand-new destination, and thanks to a beautiful landscape, you won’t have any problems with that! Lake Champlain fills this bay town’s exquisite sightline and supplies local restaurants with succulent seafood—win, win!
Waterfront arts & culture
- Bring the whole family or plan a special date to the Flynn Center of Performing Arts. From concerts to variety acts, you’ll have a unique and enriching experience.
- The Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center is a collection of venues on the waterfront, with traveling exhibitions, talent shows, and contemporary productions.
- Burlington is home to several parks and trails in a small space. Pedal along the Burlington Bike Path and watch the sunset at Waterfront Park.
- Burlington is considered one of the top beer towns in the country, but people who aren’t die-hard brewheads may not know it. We love Switchback Brewing Company, because they always have something hopping—pun intended. From a beer-infused cocktail night for those who love mixers to live music and release parties, you’ve got to join the party.
- “I love a good foamy beer,” said no one ever, but that didn’t stop Foam Brewers from embracing their spritely name. Fruit-forward flavors keep with the lightheartedness of their moniker, and they’re darn good. Let the Funk Flow is our favorite variety, and not just because of the name—each batch includes 200 pounds of pineapple.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a road trip to Montreal! You’re just a day trip away from our neighbors to the north. Montreal Botanical Garden is stunning, and Quebec’s biggest city is home to some delicious international cuisine.
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