Outdoor activities

(approx reading time 9 mins 37 secs, last updated 08/July/2021)

Staycations have been getting more and more popular as people want to save money or have shorter breaks. And if we take into account all the travel restriction, enjoying what your local area has to offer is a no-brainer.

But even if you don’t take those into consideration, staycations are a great way to slow down and appreciate what we have available right next to us. Not every beautiful place and interesting visit requires a trip on a plane or hours of driving.

I haven’t been ‘on holidays’ for about 10 years, and this comes after a long time of travelling at least twice per year! Staying home doesn’t mean I don’t get to experience tourist activities and enjoy my time off, I just do it in a different way.

So, what can you do if you holiday at home? Well, it mostly depends on where you live (and what is open to the public!). But here are some ideas.

Many options might be a bit hard depending on local restrictions, but local businesses and the arts need your support in any way you can offer it, whether it’s streaming a play on YouTube from your local theatre to getting your dinner delivered by one of your local restaurants, it all helps.

Get hiking

A hike doesn’t need to be miles and miles in the wilderness, a gentle walk around the local green spaces counts too. Extra points for paying attention to local information signs or carrying with you a local wildlife handbook.

Hiking is my go-to activity for nice weather. I did it before having children, I did it while pregnant, and I did it with babies and toddlers. My children are now 7 and 9 and can manage a 20-mile hike without issues.

If you want to get started, the Ramblers has a lot of fantastic and easy-to-understand information on safety, walking with disabilities and health issues, and navigation basics.

Follow the tracks of a local personality

Everywhere has at least one famous historical personality. Why not learn about them and visit places that were important throughout their life?

If you’re completely stumped, you can do a web search for ‘people from…’ to find people who come from your city or town.

Nature reserve

If you are lucky enough to live near a nature reserve, drop whatever you are doing, and go. Just go now.

I’m not even going to try and convince you. Nature reserves are little bits of heaven in Earth and they should receive all our support. If yours has a small shop or cafe, spend some money in it too if you can.

Fight those who want to build on every inch of land and show that nature reserves are used and popular and supported by people.

Birdwatching (and animal watching in general)

This is an activity that I haven’t really done, except for taking part on a bird listening walk once. I am just not patient enough to wait long times for a bird to appear. If you are, birdwatching can be a great affordable all-weather hobby.

If, like me, you are a bit more impatient, a more generic animal watching might be better suited for you. I regularly go on walks with my children and we pay attention to all the local fauna, from birds to pets.

Enjoy a spa day

Most spas offer day or half-day passes, often at a discount if booked by a couple or group.

I have to admit, I’m not a spa kind of person so I leave the advice to the experts! Luxury Activist has a great post on tips for choosing and going to a day spa, and Good Spa Guide has a post on different kinds of spa.

Grab your camera

You don’t need a fancy one, the camera on your phone is more than enough. I have a very cheap phone and while the photos may not be art gallery quality, but they’re good enough for memories!

Walk around your town and city and look at it through the lens of your camera. You’ll be surprised what you’ll discover once you stop rushing around. If you’re looking for ideas, you can check my Pinterest board of photography challenges.

Go to that special restaurant

Most places have an upscale restaurant that you only go to when you want to impress a visit. Why not just go for yourself? If you go on a weekday it will be quieter and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the food.

If cost is a issue, check the restaurant’s website. Many high-end restaurants have a weekday or lunch-time deal when you can get to try the food at a fraction of the cost.

Appreciate local art

Even if you’re not the greatest art fan, there are art galleries and museums that specialize in all sorts of different styles. And if you want to support them, most offer affordable prints and presents.

Many galleries are a bit hidden. The easiest way to discover these is to use Google maps and search for ‘galleries near me’. I was shocked to discover my small city has about 20 art and crafts galleries!

Go on day trip

A staycation doesn’t mean staying at home. Jump on the car or better yet use public transport (I’m a big fan of trains and coaches) and visit a nearby town. No need for an overnight stay.

A web search for ‘what can I visit near…’ or ‘day trips from…’ should give you some ideas of places you can visit. You could also check your local tourist board website, where many interesting places will be listed, and in some cases you will be able to book your trip tickets from the website (and support them as well!).

Check the local museums

Almost all towns have a local museum, and some can be quite surprising. One of the places I’ve lived in had an old computers museum and another one a fan museum!

Just like with galleries, you can use Google maps and search for ‘museums near me…’, or you can also check your local tourism board’s website.

Spend the night somewhere else

Nothing makes you feel like you’re on holidays as sleeping somewhere that is not your house does. But you don’t have to travel far to experience a different bed.

All cities and towns, no matter how small have some sort of hotel, camping (or glamping) location, guesthouse, or B&B, and if all else fails check Airbnb.

See a live performance

A concert, a play, stand-up comedy, or whatever tickles your fancy. There are several ways you can check for events and performances:

  • Venue listings: most venues have websites where they will post all upcoming events.
  • Facebook events: you can look for events by location, time, and kind. Now there is even a section for online events.
  • Google: if you do a search for the kind of event you’re interested in, the ‘events’ tab will open and you will be able to browse what’s happening around you.

If you can’t go out, check for online performances. Many theatres and performing venues have been live-streaming performances or uploading them to YouTube or Vimeo since the pandemic started.

Go to the local market

You’re probably used to doing your shopping at a supermarket. Change it up a bit and hit your local market, and cook a meal using what you found there.

A big part of the slow living movement promotes the celebration of local food and local business. But even if you don’t care about slow living, you should still check out your local market. Sellers are usually friendly and very knowledgeable about their products, and you can get things that are not available at a large supermarket.

Watch a game

In many places, major sporting events are being held without or with limited public at the moment, but once things go back to normal, watching a live game can be lots of fun.

Luckily, small non-ticketed events can still be enjoyed by passersby. Check your local parks for regular groups.

Visit the library

Libraries offer much more than books and baby groups. Check your local ones for film showings, expert talks, poem readings, and all sorts of activities for all ages and interests.

Lately, many libraries have been offering these events online giving you a chance to participate in things happening in other cities and countries.

Chill with a book (or some other portable hobby)

Many people spend thousands just to sit on a beach and read. But there’s no need to do that when your local area is sure to have plenty of relaxing spots to take a break and relax.

You can visit parks, gardens, squares, beaches, wooded areas, natural reserves, historical buildings, some museums, and don’t forget cafes.

If reading is not your thing, you can always knit, crochet, do crosswords, embroider, listen to music, write, draw, or just sit there and people watch. 

Geocashing

I have to admit, I’ve never gone geocashing (even if my children keep asking me to). I don’t really need a excuse to get out into nature even if my year-round hayfever hates me for it. However, if you or your family are somewhat reluctant to leave the house, geocashing can be a great way to do it.

Geocashing is basically a modern-day looking for treasure activity, except that the treasure is a little trinket, and when you take one you have to leave one of your own.

To find your local geocashing locations, check the official website, where you will also find a much better explanation.

Visit a local food factory

A lot of smaller owner-run factories offer public tours. My small city has gin factory, a sourdough bakery, and an ice-cream factory that regularly host tours (tastings included!).

You’re more likely to find these tours done by farms and small-batch boutique producers, but even big names like Coca-Cola and Guinness offer them. The best way to find these events is to check the websites of each company individually.

Foraging

Foraging means finding and gathering wild food, it includes both plants and animals. Foraging usually gets you out in nature, but it can also be done in cities. In fact, you’d be surprised by the amount of wild food you can find in largely populated areas.

Depending on where you live foraging may or may not be legal in certain areas, so make sure you check your local laws. And if you do forage, take only what you need. Don’t be greedy!

Enjoy a posh picnic

Skip the boring egg sandwiches and hummus and go all-out on your next picnic. You could prepare all the food yourself, or do it potluck-style. You can even order the food to go if you would rather skip the cooking all-together. Most large cities now have picnic organisation services that will arrange everything for you, from food to location.

For some extra fun, you could do a themed picnic (like a teddy bear picnic for children or a cuisine-themed picnic). And even better if you visit a new place.

Go to a festival

During summer and Christmas especially, towns usually have festivals meant to attract tourists. If you’ve never gone to your local one, try doing it.

They are cheesy and usually charge way too much for everything, but you will be supporting local businesses and, let’s face it: festivals are a lot of fun!

Volunteer

Volunteering doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. There are many short-term volunteering opportunities, some only last hours.

Most events need volunteers to help them run smoothly, charities are always happy to have volunteers supporting them even for a short while, educational institutions might need help and support from the community. And if none of those sound interesting, you could always help friends and family with some free babysitting or batch cooking.

Do a guided tour

No matter how long you have been living in your town, there are surely a lot of things you still don’t know about it.

You can do a tour with a guide (those are usually a lot of fun and you get to ask questions), or follow a self-guided tour. You can check your local area’s tourism board website for self-guided tours or do a web search for ‘tour of…’ for a guided one.

Play tour guide

If the thought of following someone else’s plan doesn’t sound appealing, you can always come up with a tour of your own and do it! It could include the biggest attractions or even be themed around a topic you are interested in: food, architecture, history, music, churches…

You can work on it with other people too. It can be either a collaborative activity, or each person focuses on a different area or topic.

That one tacky tourist activity

You know the one. Go ahead and do it, you know you want to!

You can later post ‘ironic’ photos on social media.

Bring the world home

Staying at home doesn’t mean you don’t get to experience the world. Reach out to your local immigrant community and take part in some of the musical and social events they hold, and eat at their restaurants.

If you’re friends with someone that comes from a different place, why not have a cultural exchange day? Most people will be happy to share their culture with locals, just remember to be respectful and open-minded.

Just walk around

When was the last time you went for a walk around your neighbourhood? No destination, not going to get something, or visit someone, just a leisure walk. I’ve lived in my current flat for 2 years and have done it only twice: when my parents were visiting.

If you do feel the need to have something to do, Pokemon GO is a good option. I often use it with the kids, and it has lead to discovering some really cool bits of history that we wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise.

You can also look up your area online. Usually there will be either a Wikipedia entry, or a local organisation’s or charity’s website that lists interesting things about the history of the place or cool places to visit.

Theme park

Theme parks always make me feel like a kid again. They can get expensive, especially if you go with children who want to buy everything. Luckily, many theme parks have discounts for locals or have cheaper hours or days on times that are not very popular.

My mum and I once went to a local water theme park on an autumn Thursday morning with 2×1 tickets and a free meal included.

Join a workshop

Workshops are great. You learn a new skill (or at least improve on one you already know), you get something to take home when you finish, and you spend a few enjoyable hours making a fool of yourself with other people who are also making fools of themselves. What could be better!

If you are like me and don’t enjoy forced socialisation, workshops also give you the chance to talk to people who already have something in common with you. And if you’re feeling particularly antisocial, you can just focus on the teacher and your work and ignore everyone without looking rude.

Pick-your-own farm

Depending where you live, finding a local farm could prove hard. But if you’re lucky enough to have one near you, a pick-your-own farm can be a lot of fun!

You get a day (or half-day) out in nature, but not so wild that those who prefer city life will feel the need to run away back to civilisation. Often these farms will have a cafe or pub either in-situ or nearby and they tend to be quite close to cities and towns.

Berries and pumpkins are the best-known, but there are many other options too!