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KIWI magazine

Be a hometown tourist

Austin, Texas is a unique and exciting place. It’s got all the amenities of a big city—tons of live music, museums of all sorts, cultural events occurring nearly every weekend, and lots of delicious food—while still managing to offer plenty of natural space, including parks, hiking and biking trails, natural springs, and even rock climbing walls. What’s more, you don’t have to drive far outside of town to experience some of the other great things about central Texas, like natural caves, quaint Southwestern towns, and tons of rolling hills.

When I moved here a year and a half ago, I wanted to see everything—and I did. One weekend, we went to the annual hot sauce festival. The next weekend, a new friend took me to a hidden natural spring. I’ve browsed through all the stores on bustling South Congress, rode my bike around the eight-mile path next to Town Lake, and have eaten at plenty of Austin’s famous food trucks. But after about a year, I thought I’d seen it all, and started scaling back on my adventures. Getting lunch at my usual spot and taking the dog to the usual park was about as busy as I felt like being—which was fine—but then it started to get boring.

Though I thought I’d seen almost all of Austin, I’d never been to Mount Bonnell, the highest spot in the city. At about 800 feet, it’s hardly a mountain, but from the top you can see almost the entire town, including the University of Texas football stadium and clock tower that are both within a mile of my apartment building. This weekend, my husband and I packed a lunch, headed out, and made the quick climb up. The sun was warm and the sky was completely clear, and we sat around, marveling at the view until our dog finally decided she was bored and wanted to go home. (We later found out that there’s a peacock preserve right nearby, which we plan to check out next weekend!)

If my story has you excited about a family vacation to Austin, that’s great! But I’m also hoping that it got you thinking about all theopportunities to explore your town. When I lived near Philadelphia, I never bothered going to the zoo or to see the Liberty Bell, because in my mind, that’s what tourists did. But why shouldn’t I check it out? Certainly, I wouldn’t have any less fun than a visitor from Minnesota—and that fun would cost a lot less, since I wouldn’t have to buy a plane ticket or stay at a hotel.

As schools across the country begin to let out for spring breaks, think about how your family can be hometown tourists. What are some of the must-see attractions in your area that you’ve simply never bothered to see? Make a list with your kids—and start checking off the items.

Written by Marygrace Taylor
Reprinted from KIWI Magazine

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