So what exactly is the #TouristInMyTown Summer Challenge? Well it’s a challenge I created to inspire myself and others to take advantage of the abundant tourism that’s right in our own back yard. I’m always intrigued whenever I meet people from other parts of the country and globe that have experienced and know more about my city than I do. I mean, how exactly does this happen? How is that John has been to Navy Pier more than I have and he lives in Seattle? Well, I have a theory. Just like a relationship, we get complacent. The attractions we have access to will always be there, so we take them for granted.
In the early 90’s my family and I relocated from the burbs to Hyde Park. If you’re not familiar with Chicago, Hyde Park sits along the lakefront and houses the prestigious University of Chicago and Museum of Science and Industry. And it is also home of our current First Family. Although it’s changed a lot over the years, there has always been great beauty and a lot of history there. Growing up as a suburbanite, moving to Hyde Park was a welcome change for me. I was so excited to be taking the plunge into city life. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited living on the 22nd floor with a panoramic view of the lake. I couldn’t wait to stroll on the lake with the rest of the joggers and bikers. Well, after my few times, my enthusiasm died down. After my first year, I can count on one hand how many times I went back over the 12 years that followed. And the Museum of Science and Industry? I didn’t go at all. It was walking distance from my apartment building SMH! Truth be told, I really haven’t gone to any museums or zoos since my high school years. And the last time I went to the Sears Tower (I’m a native Chicagoan, it will NEVER be the Willis Tower) was for a job interview. Why didn’t I check out the new Skydeck? I didn’t even get the job, so it would have at least made the trip worth my while.
A second theory I believe keeps us complacent is the “work factor”. Many of us live in the suburbs and work in the city. When we have our freedom on the weekends, the last thing we want to do is travel back to where we work. We commute in, do our work, and leave. Meanwhile, the tourists are having a field day taking advantage of every awesome experience we take for granted. While we’re running to catch that last train back to the burbs, they’re passing us by on their Segway tour.
I want to inspire people to venture outside of the comforts of their own neighbor for leisure rather than work, school, or a doctor’s appointment. Everyone isn’t in the position to quit their jobs to globetrot and island hop every weekend. Everyone doesn’t have the financial resources or even available time off to travel. Some people even have trouble getting passports. But EVERYONE can take advantage of the tourism opportunities right in their back yard.
So how to do you do the #TouristInMyTown Summer Challenge? It’s simple. Pick a day (or a few) and pick out a few attractions you want to check out over the summer:
- Museums/Landmarks/Tours: Check out the museum or landmark you haven’t visited since childhood. Try going for pure leisure, instead of going because you have to chaperone on a field trip. Does your city offer a walking or bus tour? Try one. You’ll be surprised at what you might learn.
- Ferris Buller Day: Remember the 80’s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day off (I know, I’m telling my age)? While I would never advocate anyone jeopardizing their job, you can play hooky from work and spend the day in your city sightseeing. Just don’t go near your workplace LOL!
- Day Trip: Find a destination a couple of hours away from your city and plan a full day trip. Is there a winery or beach you’ve always wanted to visit? Is there an activity you’ve wanted to try, like kayaking or hiking, but never made time for it? The possibilities are endless with a day trip.
It is my sincere hope that this challenge will give us a new appreciation for where we live and what we take for granted. The news reminds us daily of what’s wrong with our city. Let’s show the world what’s “right” with it. There is so much history and beauty right in our backyard. You can start anytime you want over the summer. Rep your city and don’t forget the #TouristInMyTown hashtag in your social media pics. Let’s go!!!