This post will discuss tips for traveling locally–in your state or in your region. Why? Because the world is experiencing a pandemic, as we’ve detailed our recent travel experience with COVID 19. When I was talking with a friend recently about her travel plans for 2020, she said she was planning on just laying low this year, to be safe, and will start traveling again in 2021. This is understandable. But just because you are not going international, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any fun. I think you’ll be surprised what you can find to do in your home area if you do a little digging.

National Monuments, Historical Sites, Historical Parks, Preserves, Battlefields, etc.

I have mentioned how much I love our national park system a time or two (or a hundred, probably). But I don’t think people realize just how many other types of areas are included in the national park system, other than national parks. Would you believe it is over 300? When you visit nps.gov and search by state, you can find all sorts of interesting places that have made the cut. By branching out and going to places other than the big boy national parks, you’ll be much more able to social distance. 

Sawtooth Mountains and lake
Not much beats the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho.

State Parks

A list with tips for traveling locally would be remiss if it didn’t mention state parks. We’ve discussed in other posts that the distinction between the grandeur in a national park and the grandeur in a state park next door is often an arbitrary line. So go visit a state park! Admission is often very affordable, usually $5 or $10. State parks cover a variety of topics from historical buildings to lakes and reservoirs. You can camp, bike, canoe, and all sorts of other activities. Or you can just sit in your car and take in the beautiful places that can be found in any state. 

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site: I honestly don’t know why this place isn’t a national park.

Bonus tip: in Idaho, you can buy an annual state parks pass for $10 when you register your car. Go to three parks and you’ve made your fee in a year.

1,000 places to see before you die

Everyone has heard of this book, right? It has been around and I don’t give it that much credence, but it does have some good ideas in it. Most states have at least one place that is recommended. What I like about this is you’ll find stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

For example, when my dad and I were driving from Cape Cod to Boise, I found an Amish town in Indiana called Shipshewana. We made sure to swing by and as I write this I am looking at a shelf that I purchased from a nice Amish man. Since I’m not overly familiar with Indiana or the Amish, without this book my trinkets would have to live somewhere else.

State line rest stops

Have you ever driven across the state line and found yourself super happy to see a rest stop sign up ahead? Well next time you are in that predicament, don’t just rush in, use the facilities, and rush out. Check out the offerings on the shelves or racks. If you are really lucky, a friendly (typically senior citizen) tourism board representative will be around. You can find all sorts of good info about an area from these resources. At the very minimum you should be able to pick up a map. 

North Carolina and Tennessee state line in the Smokey Mountains
Well, not exactly a rest stop, but you get the idea.

State Historical Society

Most states will have websites for their state historical society. Here you will be able to learn all about the state, but also interesting places in that state where you can visit. These sites might overlap with the state parks, but many don’t. If the site is maintained by the historical society, you might have to pay some sort of a fee, but it probably won’t be too much.

When C, B and I visited north central Idaho, we set our home base in a very small town called Pierce. We made sure to visit the Pierce Courthouse, which I heard about by looking on the Idaho State Historical Society’s webpage. I never would have known about this cool piece of Idaho history otherwise. 

Traveling Locally…Ask the locals

Obviously on a post with tips for traveling locally, talking to locals is going to be featured. These are the people who know this area better than anything. Just think about how much you could tell a visitor about your hometown if they asked.

When we visited Orofino, Idaho, in 2019, we knew we wanted to go spend time in the Clearwater River. But we didn’t know exactly how to make that happen. When we were getting snacks at the gas station, we asked the friendly clerk where we could park and walk to for easy access and a nice river bank. She told us exactly where to drive, which included a weird, low overpass we probably would have driven right past without her instructions. Sure enough, we made it to the park, pulled out our chairs and were relaxing in the river in no time. Most people are friendly. Be nice and they’ll be nice back.

sitting in the clearwater river
Just chillin’ in the Clearwater River.

Ask friends and acquaintances

Whenever you go on any trip, it always pays to see if you can find someone who has been there before. We try to do this for international trips. But even if you are going somewhere just a few hours from home, you can get good advice from a person who knows the area.

A few years ago, B and I were at the BBR music festival in Challis, Idaho. We had time to kill during the day before the concerts started and were looking for something to do. One of our friends who was familiar with this part of Idaho told us about a cool ghost town called Bayhorse, just down the road. We decided to check it out and found a really cool old mining town with lots of structures still standing. Bayhorse was awesome and it was a unique and interesting way to pass the day. We wouldn’t have known about this place without our friend. So on your next trip, ask your people about their experiences. This might be the starting point for coming up with a destination for traveling locally.

Conclusion

There are lots of reasons why you might not want to go big on your next vacation. But please don’t let those reasons stop you from having fun exploring! Traveling locally can mean the next state, town or street over. Use these tips to make the most of your next adventure, no matter where it is.

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