Be A Tourist in Your Own City: 12 Tips For A Fresh Perspective

Be A Tourist in Your Own City: 12 Tips For A Fresh Perspective

Tawawa Park in Sidney

I think back to my time enlisted in the Air Force and the many beautiful places I got to experience and live in. One of my first stations was in Aviano, Italy. An hour from Venice and nestled in picturesque Italian countryside along the base of the Alps, I couldn’t believe it. At first, my breath would be taken away every time I took a simple trip to a grocery store or gas station; The mountains were so massive they took up half of the skyline. And don’t get me started on those sunsets. As a homegrown southwestern Ohio native, I couldn’t believe I was living overseas in one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world.

Well reader, you know how the story goes. We get very used to seeing the same things repeatedly -- they lose their sparkle and become commonplace. We often take for granted a lot of the beauty that is in our daily lives. So yes, as beautiful as the Italian countryside was, it too became commonplace. The rows and rows of grape vineyards that people spend thousands of dollars to visit annually felt no different than driving past the rows and rows of cornfields back home.


As Dorothy once proclaimed, "there's no place like home."

After I got out of the Air Force, I eventually made my way back to the Great Miami River, back to my family and beloved cornfields (I really enjoy them now, by the way). Spending that time away from this region during my enlistment really allowed me to return with fresh eyes for the things we all take for granted as we move about our days.

I’m lucky. Life circumstances allowed me to get away and come back with a refreshed perspective on life in southwestern Ohio. However, for many people it’s simply not feasible financially, or timewise. For this, I’ve written up some tips that may help you get out there and find incredible experiences in your own community, or in one of the many beautiful destinations along the Great Miami River.

Our region is home to some incredibly unique resources that simply don’t exist in many other parts of the country. With the Great Miami Riverway spreading over 99 miles, there are countless journeys to go on.

So, what does it really mean to be a tourist in our own cities? I think this question opens the door to a deeper reflection on what it means to practice daily gratitude. It highlights the importance of cultivating a sense of curiosity about our lives and the people and places in them. Becoming a tourist in places that we visit frequently is one way to practice this. Here are my suggestions for you to begin to explore your own area with fresh eyes this year:


#1. Adopt the ‘mini vacation’ mindset. 

If you only read one of these tips, this is the tip to consider: Rethink your limited free time to maximize your days off work. Every weekend can be a vacation experience, especially with how much this corner of Ohio has to offer.

 A 2020 study that asks the very important question, “How might people enjoy the emotional benefits of vacation without taking additional time off work or spending additional money?”, found that when people treated their weekends like a vacation, meaning they prioritized things like enjoying good food and being present in the moment, they were ultimately happier (and spent less money and time accessing that vacation-mentality bliss). Remind yourself to really be present to what is available in your proximity and then go enjoy it.

The Mayflower by A.M. Scott Distillery in Troy


#2. Recreate travel experiences at home.

An easy approach is to think about what you like to do when you travel somewhere new, and then seek those experiences locally. If you like to do wine-tastings, park excursions, or visit historical sites, try to replicate those experiences with what is available nearby (pssst.. the Riverway has all of these and much more).


Hamilton is covered in mural art! 


#3. Walk/bike a route you normally drive. 

Putting foot to pavement, especially in areas you would never normally walk or bike through, gives you an entirely different perspective of a city. Bring a camera and find unique things to snap photos of. Create your own tour guide to share with others. The Great Miami Riverway has the largest paved trail system in the country, so the biking and walking opportunities are endless to experience your daily life from a new point of view.

#4. Speaking of views, visit a popular viewpoint.

Is there a lookout that’s popular among tourists in your area? A certain mural, vantagepoint, or Instagram-worthy hotspot that people frequently photograph? I personally live in downtown Dayton, and I am constantly shocked at how many locals have never simply gone to Deed’s Point MetroPark to look at the city from across the river. Sometimes, it is refreshing to just sit and spend some time observing the communities we often take for granted.

The famous Martin's Donuts in Trenton


#5. Explore at a time you normally wouldn’t.

If you’re an early-bird sunrise type person, head out for an evening or nighttime adventure. If you’re never up for a sunrise (guilty), head out to watch it rise over the river and then get breakfast from a small local joint like famous Sam & Ethel’s in Tipp City. Mixing up your typical schedule will open the door to sights, people, and experiences you wouldn’t normally encounter.

#6. Head to a hotel lobby, local library, or welcome center. 

Grab all the little tourist-y rack cards you can fit in your hands. Grab the pamphlets, brochures, free magazines. Bother the front desk clerk with questions. Ask about promotions or discounts. These are the places to gather recommendations. Local libraries often have guidebooks to cities as well and other resources that may be useful for inspo.

Franklin Food Truck Park


#7. Book a Staycation.

Check out AirBnB listings, bed & breakfasts, locally owned hotels, or cabin rentals. While chain hotels suffice when traveling out of the area, I personally find that more unique accommodations help make local travel feel more special for a ‘staycation’. And trust me, we have some pretty interesting places to stay along the Riverway, like a bed & breakfast castle in Sidney (bonus: it has a spa).

Yoga workshop at Cedar Ridge Trails lavendar farm in Miamisburg


#8. Do something unusual (for you). 

One way to freshen up your mindset about local travel is to pursue a new activity you would normally never do. Here’s an idea: Go sign up for some goat yoga in Miamisburg at a U-Pick lavender farm (yes… Goats. Goats everywhere).


#9. Follow a blogger’s itinerary. 

Yes, believe it or not, you can find out-of-town tourists that have written about their experiences in your own town. For example, I searched “visiting Piqua blog” and found a very detailed blog post from a visitor who spent a day exploring Piqua. Here’s another blog I found about someone visiting Hamilton for the first time with her family. Another blogger details his family’s visit to Butler County in this blog.  We also write plenty of blogs on itinerary ideas and top spots to explore along the river.


#10. Strike up conversation with a local. 

Coffee shops are great places to try this. Get out of your comfort zone a little and make some new connections. I’m always learning something new about my own community from the strangers I talk to.

Kayaking in West Carrollton


#11. Don’t forget about park districts!

Park districts have so many cool classes and guided activities going on almost daily for every age group and physical capability range. Zip lining, climbing, hiking, birdwatching, gardening, fishing, cooking classes, yoga workshops… It is seriously endless. Check out our park district coalition members' calendars:

Miami County Park District

Five Rivers MetroParks

MetroParks of Butler County

Great Parks of Hamilton County


#12. And finally…Explore our website, event calendar, and subscribe to our newsletter.

Ok, shameless plug. But it really is our job to find the coolest things about the Great Miami Riverway and serve it up on a digital platter just for you.  The coalition works together to help feature what is truly special about each city along the Great Miami Riverway. It’s the certified insider’s scoop.


By Darion Smith, Communications Specialist