How to be a Tourist in your Hometown

Can’t escape for spring break? A Royal Oak 'staycation' will coast your family through the dregs of winter.

Here in southeast Michigan, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically reaches epidemic proportions by mid-March. 

Watch for the following symptoms:

  1. A chronic urge to kick your snow boots to the back of the closet.
  2. A sudden aversion to turtleneck sweaters.
  3. A rise in blood pressure at the mere mention of “winter storm advisory” on the evening news.

A couple of piña coladas on a sandy beach might cure what ails you. But what if your budget or your work schedule won’t allow for a week in the tropics? Not to worry. I’m here to help you map out a Royal Oak “staycation” that will brighten your outlook until gardening season begins.

The term staycation earned its way into the American traveler’s lexicon during the gas crisis of 2007. With gasoline prices rising even higher today, playing tourist in your hometown sounds more attractive than ever.

While it’s tempting to use a staycation to catch up on household maintenance, be sure to finish your chores ahead of time. Log off the computer and grab your sense of adventure. To paraphrase a favorite T.S. Eliot quote, the best reason for a staycation is “to arrive where you started and know the place for the first time.”  Here are just a few tips to inspire your escape:

New discoveries and cheap thrills

If you live in Royal Oak, there's no excuse for getting stuck in a restaurant rut. If you’re typically a meat eater, try a vegetarian restaurant, such as . Haven’t gone out for brunch since last Easter? Meet a neighbor downtown at a place that’s known for serving gourmet breakfasts. Just for starters, and are two excellent choices. Or maybe it's been ages since you and your spouse went on a midweek date just for drinks. Try sampling a new beer and choose from six varieties of oysters at . 

Next on the menu: Take an afternoon to bone up on your hometown history. Begin with a visit to the in the old Northwood Fire Station, newly opened last year. The museum's popular World War II exhibit continues through March 19. Over on Main, the historic (open 1-4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month) was the home of one of Royal Oak’s first well-known manufacturers. Decorated with charming period furnishings, it’s listed in the Michigan Register of Historic Sites and received the official designation of “Save America’s Treasures” from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

When it comes to curing cabin fever, don't underestimate the benefits of retail therapy. In Royal Oak, there’s no shortage of intriguing shops, art galleries and boutiques just waiting to help you jazz up your spring wardrobe or update your living room. Meanwhile, all sorts of thrift shops and secondhand stores double as mini museums – so plan on taking a detour down memory lane.

Before you get started, stop by the to pick up a free directory of local members and a city map to help you pinpoint shops that suit your interests. Or peruse the directory of businesses listed on RoyalOak.Patch.com. Park the car and go for a stroll downtown. Don’t forget to explore the shops nestled on the side streets off Main and Washington. Just one example: I never miss a chance to visit on Fourth Street, a très chic boutique that’s loaded with new and vintage clothing, plus all sorts of accessories inspired by the real City of Light. Afterward, a cup of rich French roast at or the is in order.  

If shopping’s not your thing, you can always head back to nature. Hike through a neighborhood park you haven't explored and look for early signs of spring. Or take a self-guided safari through the . Indoor exhibits there include the Butterfly Garden – a lush tropical escape that never fails to lift me out of my winter funk.

Create your own bed-and-breakfast

Once you’ve made a few discoveries around town, it’s almost time to return home and enjoy your own place with renewed perspective. You’ve cleaned it before starting your staycation, right? All you need are a few affordable luxuries from your favorite supermarket and the drugstore.

From to , most local grocers carry spring bouquets at bargain prices. Borrow a page from Michigan’s best B&B innkeepers and purchase fresh flowers for your bedroom – or anywhere else you’d enjoy their color and scent. While you’re shopping, don’t forget to stock up on snacks or treats you wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Finally, make one last stop at and treat yourself to new bath products. (Just think of all the money you’ve saved on hotel bills.)

For easy entertainment, rent the entire season of a TV series you were too busy to watch earlier in the season. Splurge on a new board game the whole family can enjoy or dig out a deck of cards and challenge your partner to a game you haven’t played in years.

A staycation is also the perfect opportunity to use your good china, serving sets, luxury bath towels or any of the fancy stuff you’ve been saving for “company.” Make this the special occasion you’ve been waiting for. After all, enjoying the present moment – and appreciating what you already have – is half the pleasure of staying home.

Cindy La Ferle's award-winning story collection, Writing Home, is available on Amazon.com. For more information, visit Cindy La Ferle's Home Office. "No Place Like Home" appears Sundays on Royal Oak Patch.

Cindy Hampel March 19, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Cindy, sounds as if you've got a great frame of mind for a staycation!


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