Paris, Kentucky, will never be Paris, France, no matter how great the Kentucky Horse Park and Bluegrass Bourbon may be. But you do score some undeniable bonuses with close-to-home travel: No airports, no TSA, no exchange rate, and no translation.
Part of the joy of blooming where you’re planted is the spontaneity of flipping open an atlas or speed-dialing a GPS and heading off whichever way the wind blows. If something piques your interest, you can go down a country lane or make a fresh turn into an undiscovered part of the city. You’re an explorer in your own land, digging deeper into the history and culture of an area you thought you knew. For starters, here’s a dozen ideas to mix and match after checking local city guides for details. (And remember, you’ll always have Paris—be it Kentucky or France.)
- If you’re a sports fan, grab your favorite treats from the concession stand and root for a minor or major league team at a stadium you’ve never visited before.
- When flowers are in glorious bloom, stroll through outdoor sculpture parks, gardens, and zoos that are proud of their gardens, too.
- Pull on a life jacket and hop on board a riverboat or lake cruiser to explore a new body of water. Some cities have amphibious duck rides that plunge you right into the waves.
- Weather permitting, pack a picnic with foods from a deli or market you’ve not yet tried. Check out city or state parks within an easy drive, and again, try one that’s new to you.
- Book a matinee at a regional theater, then the evening will be free for a special dinner together.
- Look into local historical societies, and explore a noteworthy house museum or a quirky local landmark. Some areas were famous for making glass, fine furniture, or farm equipment, and dedicated curators have saved the best for later generations to enjoy.
- Make a reservation to dine by a lake or river. Twilight’s magical on the waves.
- Be brave and hop into a pub or tavern for karaoke night. Brush up your “Jeopardy!” skills with trivia night at the pub or sports bar.
- Travel for your stomach. Search for regional favorites wherever you go: Maybe it’s Cincinnati chili, Milwaukee beer and brats, or a Maine lobster bake.
- Find the oldest tavern in town and taste a bit of history. Order up the signature drink that’s been pleasing locals for generations.
- Scan university music and theater programs for some of the best productions (and prices!) in town.
- Break out of your pizza rut and try a new regional style—every town has its favorite twists on the best pie.
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