25 Ways To Be a Tourist In Your Own Town

Now that summer is here, you don’t have to plan a getaway to enjoy some new sights. Chances are, there are plenty of interesting fun things to do in your own hometown that you’ve never tried because, hey, they will always be there, right? Time to go exploring in your own backyard with these great tips:

  1. Pretend you have friends coming to stay with you from a foreign country for the first time. Where would you take them?
  2. Pick up a local guidebook. You’re likely to discover places and tips you didn’t even know about!
  3. Sign up for community newsletters and mailings to be aware of happenings.
  4. Use web apps like Yelp! to discover new places to eat that are rated by locals.
  5. Spend a few minutes looking at the postings on bulletin boards in public places like libraries and schools.
  6. Visit your town’s website. Find out historical facts and future events.
  7. Make a list of museums, galleries, and parks in your town and make a point to visit them.
  8. If there are lakes or rivers nearby, rent a canoe and spend a day on the water fishing or relaxing.
  9. Research nearby walking, biking, or hiking trails. Take a bottled water and bug spray and make an afternoon exploring the great outdoors.
  10. Ditch your car for the day and plot out a pedestrian day about town.
  11. Take a ride on public transportation, whether bus, metro, tram or train. You’re likely to get a different glimpse of your own city and community.
  12. Snap a lot of photos, just as you would when touring other cities. Don’t let the familiarity keep you from preserving memories.
  13. Interview longtime residents about what life was like when they were younger. Ask their recommendations for a day on the town.
  14. Explore your local architecture. Look for themes, influences and charm. What’s the tallest building in town? The oldest?
  15. If you live in an older town, find out if there are guided ghost tours and take a friend for a bone-chilling walk into the past.
  16. Research your local gardener’s guild and participate in a garden tour of homes.
  17. Many tourist councils offer city passes with discounts to major attractions. Purchase one and spend the summer visiting different attractions.
  18. Any famous persons from your town? Research their biography and walk in their footsteps.
  19. Get connected with your local arts council. Attend outdoor concerts or plays put on in the community.
  20. Utilize weekend mornings for farmers markets and yard sales to pick up local delicacies and great antiques.
  21. Mix up your routine. Drive a different route to work for a week. Eat in different restaurants. Shop at a different grocery store.
  22. Spend a night or weekend at a local hotel or bed and breakfast.
  23. Attend a local sporting event and cheer for the local team. Even if you don’t know anybody!
  24. Shop local small businesses to find unique and meaningful “souvenirs” unique to your town and the people there.
  25. Adopt an adventurous attitude. We’re more likely to try new things on vacation, but why not at home too? Say yes to new opportunities and invitations that push you out of your comfort zone and lead to discovery.

12 Great Recipe Ideas for a Long Weekend

If you’re hosting a houseful for the holiday weekend ahead, there’s no need to slave over a stove to keep everybody fed. We’ve got a secret weapon to keep you on top of your game. Store-bought rotisserie chicken can be transformed into so many different delicious recipes, it’s the most versatile way to feed your crowd over the long weekend without breaking a sweat. (And nobody knows they’re eating leftovers!) We’ve put together a dozen crowd-pleasing meal ideas (hot, cold, and room temperature) to see you through from Friday to Monday.

1. Stir some tangy barbecue sauce with the chicken and serve it on rolls with coleslaw for a delicious Pulled Chicken Sandwiches.

2.  This Asian Chicken Pasta Salad is fantastic as a light lunch or dinner, or as a perfect potluck side dish.

3. A platter of Chicken Chimichangas can be put together quickly and will undoubtedly go fast.

4. A pot of this Half Hour Chicken Gumbo and a pan of cornbread is an impressive quick meal with impressively rich flavors.

5. Fresh Greek-inspired flavors come together in this Chicken, Tomato and Feta Pasta Salad that is perfect served cold or at room temperature.

6. Everybody loves an enchilada, and the pre-cooked chicken makes these Chicken and Green Chile Enchiladas come together in a snap.

7. Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps are a fabulous appetizer or lunch with fresh, summery flavors that everyone will love.

8. It’s hardy, it’s healthy, and so pretty too. Chicken and Wild Rice Salad is a meal on its own or a perfect side dish at the BBQ.

9. A Pear and Chicken Sandwich is perfect for a picnic in the park, a hike in the hills, or fresh fare during fireworks.

10. Loaded with grapes, apples, cashews and dill, My Favorite Chicken Salad is delicious on a croissant or as an appetizer next to a plate of crackers.

11. You can’t go wrong with a pot of chili and this White Chicken Chili is a savory summer alternative to heavier beef versions. Load it with fresh toppings like avocado, cilantro and sour cream.

12. And finally, a Tex-Mex twist makes these BBQ Chicken Tacos a festive (and easy) meal to serve inside, outside, for lunch or dinner.

Tips for a Perfect Cheese Plate

As an appetizer at the beginning of a party or as dessert to wind things down, a cheese plate is a beautiful and creative way to feed your guests. Putting together a great cheese plate is both an art and a science, but it’s not hard to pull off once you learn a few tricks. Here’s everything you need to know to do it right:

  • Serving Sizes: Plan on roughly 1-2 ounces of cheese per guest.
  • Variety: Select cheeses that are a variety of different textures (aged, firm, soft, semi-soft, blue) and made from different milks (cow, sheep, goat).
  • How Many: No need to go overboard. Three to five cheeses are plenty for a great platter. Too many options can get overwhelming.
  • Serving Temperature: Room temperature provides the best flavor and texture of each cheese. If you make your platter ahead of time, allow 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
  • Use Labels: Mark each cheese with its name and a simple one or two word description.
  • Knives: Have one knife per cheese.
  • Ask an Expert: If you’re not a cheese connoisseur yourself, no problem! Ask the advice of your local deli manager when putting together your cheese platter. He or she will likely have a lot of great recommendations. Let them know your budget and then allow them to offer advice.
  • Always Have Honey: A drizzle of honey balances and tames the flavor of sharp cheeses that some guests might not enjoy on their own.
  • Use Plain Bread and Crackers: Avoid herb-infused or flavored breads and crackers, which can fight flavors and take away from the experience.
  • Don’t Crowd the Platter: Leave a 1-2 inch gap between items on the platter to avoid getting fingers and knuckles where they don’t belong (and possibly cut!).
  • Fruit and Nuts Are a Must: Break things up with fresh fruit like grapes, figs, apricots and dates as well as small handfuls of your favorite nuts.
  • Sweet and Savory Sides: Jams, chutneys, olives, and thinly sliced salty meats like prosciutto are also great additions to your platter.
  • Platter vs. Individual Plates: If guests are walking around, opt for a large platter from which everyone can serve themselves. If it’s a formal sit-down meal, use an individual plate for each guest.

Do you have a favorite cheese or platter tip? Share your ideas!

Image via Williams Sonoma

10 Genius Camping Tips

Summer is officially here and the great outdoors is calling. Before you pack up your gear and head for the hills, check out these great tips that will make your camping trip a breeze (and make you look like a genius)!

1. No need to lug around an entire bag of charcoal. Fill an empty paper egg carton with Match Light charcoal for a simple and effective fire starter for the grill.

2. No coffee pot? No problem. Make individual coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss. Allow them to steep in boiling water for several minutes, just like tea.

3. Refill empty Tic Tac containers with your favorite spices. It takes up less space and you can store them with your camping equipment year round.

4. Add bundles of sage to your campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

5. For perfect s’mores, use a small block of wood on the outer rim of campfire to rest your cracker and chocolate while you roast the marshmallow.The wood will transfer heat to get the chocolate nice and melted.

6. Campfire Banana Boats are a delicious ooey-gooey alternative to s’mores. Or a good side dish for s’mores. Either way.

7. Freeze drinking water in jugs and use them instead of ice in your cooler. Not only does it save space, it saves your ham sandwiches from getting soggy.

8. Avoid soggy, slippery bars of soap by creating one-time-use strips of soap with a vegetable peeler. HINT: rub dry soap on a mosquito bite to relieve itching.

9. Place a few of unscented dryer sheets on the table (or under a tablecloth) to keep bees away from the food.

10. A first aid kit that fits in your pocket is a must-have for hiking. Use an old prescription bottle and fill it with bandaids, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment and some Benadryl.

Do you have a favorite camping tip? Share you ideas with us!

Oh Fudge!

Today is National Fudge Day, the day we all gather to celebrate the rich, chocolaty goodness that is known as fudge. But how will you pay homage to this perfect confection? Here are some favorite fudge recipes to inspire your day:

Instead of your morning coffee, how about morning coffee fudge?

Or swap your sandwich for Mini Mint Fudge Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Think you don’t have time for fudge? Think again. This recipe for Easy Chocolate Fudge comes together in only ten minutes!

And happy hour just got happier with fudgy Guinness Brownies.

Heat things up in the evening with a little hot fudge, because everything is better with Hot Fudge Sauce (except, perhaps, spaghetti).

Or, cool things down with some Homemade Fudge Pops, the perfect treat on a summer evening.

Whatever you do, enjoy your day enjoying fudge!

Colorful Ice Cubes

Mrs. Fields Secrets Flavored Ice Cubes

We’ve got a simple way to add a fun range of flavor and color to your summer beverages. Freezing concentrated cubes of punch or juice will not only cool your summer drinks, but infuse them with bright color and flavor. You can match the colors to your party theme or holiday fare (think red, white and blue), combine them in a beautiful pitcher or in individual glasses. As the cubes melt, the drink gets more flavor and color with each sip!

Rainbow Ice Cubes

3 packets Koolaid, different flavors/colors
1 cup sugar
6 cups water
3 ice cube trays

Directions
Mix contents of one Koolaid packet with 1/3 cup sugar and 2 cups water. Stir thoroughly to ensure that sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into one ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Repeat with remaining Koolaid packets and ice trays. Once frozen, place cubes in a punch bowl, pitcher, or individual glasses with water, wine or clear soda for a beautiful pop of color and flavor.

HINT: Dark, concentrated juices like grape or pomegranate work best for juices. Consider freezing berries inside ice cubes for even more color and texture!

Great Ideas for Tackling Road Trips

If your summer plans include a road trip with the kids, the difference between whines of “Are we there yet?” and happy campers usually comes down to some smart planning ahead. We’ve found some genius ideas to make life on the road easy, so take note and buckle up!

1. Tackle Box Snacks. Forget expensive gas station grub along the way. Get the kids their own inexpensive tackle box and fill the individual compartments with a colorful mix of healthy and fun options.

2. Individual Coloring Kits. Keep colored pencils and paper in a handy kit by reinventing a DVD case. It’s easy to pack and store for any kind of travel.

3. Canvas Shoe Bag Organizers. Keep the car tidy and everything in reach with this clever idea. A simple canvas shoe organizer can be tied around the seat  and filled with toys, books, snacks and supplies.

4. Stop for Scenic Outlooks. A great way to ensure fabulous photos from your trip and plenty of rest for the travelers is to commit to stop for scenic outlooks. There is often ample space to park, bathroom facilities, and the kids will enjoy watching for the random signs.

5. A Map for Everyone. One of the best ways to avoid, “Are we there yet?” is to equip the kids with their own map or atlas. They can follow along, look for upcoming towns, and they may even be able to help you avoid getting lost.

Do you have a favorite road trip tip? Share your ideas in the comments!

 

Pancakes On Sticks & Other Fun Breakfast Ideas

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did you know that it can be the most fun? We’ve gathered some incredible ideas to serve at your next summertime sleepover, brunch with friends, or even Father’s Day breakfast. Follow the links for full instructions or use them to inspire your own creativity.

Like a lollipop but better, these pancakes on a stick are too cute and super easy for serving.

Cheesy baked eggs inside potato skins is such a fun new way to serve individual eggs. Serve with your favorite hot sauce or ketchup.

Intermixing donut holes and fresh berries or fruit on a skewer ensures a balanced and beautiful breakfast. Plus, it’s so pretty!

Create lacy, lovely pancakes by using a simple squeeze bottle for your batter. Stack them up for a funnel-cake-like taste of sweet crunch.

Thin slices of fresh apple dipped in pancake batter create these delicious Apple Pancake Rings.

Betcha didn’t know you can make bacon cute. It’s actually quite easy with these bacon hearts. (Plus, you get a good mix of soft and crispy edges in each strip!)

And, of course, a little food coloring goes a long way. Create bright, colorful waffles in any color scheme. (We’re loving this red, white and blue!)

Do you have a favorite fun breakfast idea?

Fun Ideas to Commemorate the School Year

With the school year wrapping up, we’ve gathered some great ideas to help commemorate the year for teachers, students, and parents too. (Let’s face it, it’s a long year for all of us!)

Get all your friends to sign a t-shirt that you can wear and remember for years.

Have children’s artwork turned into an artistic screen print.

Use sidewalk chalk to write a “Welcome to Summer” message on the road or driveway.

Take a Last Day of School photo holding your First Day of School Photo for a fun comparison.

Decorate the car with washable paints.

After a year of learning and development, have the class make future predictions about their professions as a gift to the teacher.

Do you have a fun way to commemorate the year? Share your ideas in the comments section!

Graduation Gift Idea: On Your Own Survival Kit

It’s that time of year when graduation caps begin flying in the air and young adults head off on their own for the first time, either to college or the great wide world. If you’re looking for a great graduation gift idea, we’ve got it: an “On Your Own Survival Kit” complete with all the little things you find yourself needing when suddenly you’re the one in charge. Use our list as a shopping guide or as inspiration for your own gift. But whatever you do, don’t forget the cookies!

The On Your Own Survival Kit

  • Small sewing kit with buttons, needles, thread
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Rainy day funds gift card
  • Cookbook
  • Kitchen knife set
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Cough drops
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Air freshener
  • Basic medications like pain, allergy, antacid
  • Address book with family and friends mailing addresses
  • Duct tape
  • WD-40
  • Flashlight
  • Assortment of batteries
  • Safety pins
  • USB thumb drive
  • Laundry soap
  • Tooth floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Cell phone battery backup
  • Basic screwdriver set
  • Basic wrench set
  • Krazy glue
  • Scissors
  • GPS
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Road atlas
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Ziploc bags
  • Clorox wipes
  • Multivitamins
  • Wall calendar
  • Board game
  • Emergency candles
  • Lint roller
  • Kleenex
  • Laundry basket
  • Sharpie markers
  • Box of ramen noodles
  • Case of toilet paper
  • Plunger
  • Travel blanket
  • Plenty of Mrs. Fields cookies
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