Thursday, June 27, 2013

Discovering My Town’s Treasures

By Phoebe Farag Mikhail

When I moved to the town I live in, a part of me was overwhelmed – the unpacking, the maintenance of a home, the unfamiliarity of a new locale. But a part of me was also excited to discover my new location and what it has to offer.  With many of us taking “staycations” instead of spending extra money to travel for vacations, it’s all the more important to get to know our towns. More than a year later, I’m still happily discovering, but here is how I’m learning so far:

1- I take walks with my kids (and wish I could do this more). One walk in April led us to a street lined cherry blossom trees – just when I was feeling nostalgic about them during my days in Washington, DC. We also found a beautiful school playground that is open to the public when school is out.

2- I chat with my neighbors. Walks, especially when the weather is good, lead to introductions to neighbors also enjoying the weather. Young children end up either starting the conversations, or are conversation starters. Neighbors help share the history and demography of the neighborhood. During those chats I discovered a local farm that offers pony rides for children in the fall, and that my town has a large Syrian population.

3- I visit the main streets. Despite the proximity of three huge malls to my area, the main streets are not dead. I discovered a fantastic Middle Eastern grocer (owned, of course, by a friendly Syrian woman) this way, an ice cream parlor, our local hardware store, a charity thrift shop reminiscent of London’s ubiquitous (and absolutely awesome) charity stores, a huge dollar store, and a coffee shop where the owners post inspirational quotes for people to read as they stand in line, waiting for their coffee.
4- I read the local newspaper that reports on my town. These newspapers often include information on the local weekly farmer’s market, events in the area, and local government and politics that directly affect us. I learned about children’s events sponsored by local churches through the local paper, and about the town-wide garage sale.

5- I visit the local public library. Public libraries are, thankfully, still very important to communities. At the library I’ve not only participated in library events, but also pick up the free local monthly magazines that provide events calendars, reviews of local restaurants, and other town tidbits. In one of those magazines, I learned about my local MOPS group, in another I found out about the annual touch-a-truck event for my toddler, and in another, I discovered a castle and waterfall that are only 20 minutes away!

6- I sign up for local blogs and newsletters. An internet search on my county and my town, as well as links and bloggers mentioned in the magazines I mentioned in #5, have helped me find numerous bloggers and websites that regularly post about events and happenings in my area. These post great reviews through their own experiences about area sites like museums and parks, giving me information I need to plan for those outings (like whether food is allowed, if strollers are allowed, etc.).

7- I sign up for local coupon sites. Sites like AmazonLocal, Plum District, LivingSocial and Groupon all share deals on local businesses based on zip code. With these I’ve found out about (and gotten great deals on) kids art classes, kids cooking classes, local indoor gyms, and other nearby services I would have otherwise not heard about. 

How have you discovered your town’s treasures? Please share your adventures in the comments: