I have lived in New York City for more than 11 years. Have I been to Ellis Island? No. Have I taken the Staten Island ferry? No. And how often have I visited Lady Liberty? I think once…
As you can see, I don't often partake in the typical tourist attractions in my own town, partly because I always think there's time to do it someday and partly because I'm not a tourist; I'm a New York City resident! So why should I be a tourist in my own city? Well, an even better question to ask myself is why not?
Too often we take our own cities for granted, never taking the time to stop and explore our backyards through the eyes of someone seeing everything for the first time.
I know whenever someone first visits New York, I'm SO excited to show them all of the great things about the city. I even ask if they've been to Times Square because, as aggravated as I get walking through that crazy mass of people and giant cartoon characters, it's actually a pretty impressive site, particularly at night when all of the Broadway show billboards are lit up.
So, how does one become a tourist in their own city? In my opinion, it's a matter of doing as the tourists do for a few days. With that in mind, I've partnered with travel guide company Marco Polo to show you five steps to embrace your inner tourist and rediscover your own city:
1. Schedule Your Staycation
What's a staycation? It's when you take time off from work or other obligations to enjoy leisure activities in your hometown. Just as you would schedule a vacation, it's important to pencil in a staycation. We often get pulled into our usual routines, and before we know it, the week is over. Instead, take however many days you can and set that time aside to be a tourist. If you have a family, all the more reason to include them! They'll enjoy stepping away from their daily appointments and responsibilities to try something new.
2: Arm Yourself with a Travel Guide
You may be thinking, why do I need a guide to explore my own city? I already know what to do. Well, maybe you do, but I bet you don't know everything. While perusing my New York Marco Polo Travel guide, I learned so many interesting tidbits about my home of 11 years. For example, did you know the first battery-driven taxis appeared in New York in the 1890s? Today, there are more than 13,000 taxis in the city. This was fascinating news to me! Another great thing about this particular travel guide is that it shows you what you can do if you're on a budget and, if you don't want to carry the entire guide around, you can use the pull-out map at the back of the book.
3. Go for the Obvious
There are certain attractions in your city that pretty much every travel guide and "What to Do" list will cover. Visit those places. Yes, you may have to deal with crowds and you may even get a little aggravated at dealing with said crowds, but you also could end up having an amazing time and learning something new. One obvious attraction that took me years to visit was the Empire State Building. It was a madhouse when I finally went, but I'm also really glad I did it. Another attraction that's well known, but I always saw it as too far away is Coney Island. After years of putting it off, I went and had a wonderful time! Why didn't I go sooner?
4. Go for the Non-Obvious
What I love about the Marco Polo Travel guide is that it highlights some lesser known attractions and venues in New York City for me to explore. Regardless of where you live, it's possible to do the same. That's what a good guidebook is for! There is likely information on a place that you did not know existed, so take the time to check out the not-so-popular spots because you may find a new place you hadn't expected to love but do.
5. Tap Into Your Tourist Side Regularly
While I don't think you need to go to the busiest tourist sights in your hometown all the time, I do think it's healthy to be a tourist in your own city every once in a while. By that I mean, if you usually run errands or meet up at the same places with friends, try something new. Gather those around you and do a fun and cheesy activity that you have never done before. I once rode one of those red double decker tourist buses around New York and, to my big surprise, loved it! I genuinely thought I would never take those buses, but I ended up having a great time! All because I decided to be a tourist in my own city.
With these five steps, you will be a tourist in your own city in no time!
Do you have any tips for exploring your own hometown?
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Travel Publishing. The Globe Getter retains full editorial control of what is published. All opinions are my own.