What am I? You wouldn’t believe that right within your very own city or town (whether you're in the US Capitol, New York, or Cleveland, Mississippi), there waits a small, inviting, often ignored and overlooked facility that’s more like a diamond in the rough. You probably pass it more often than you realize, and just didn’t know what all lies within the walls of a quaint and cozy building. You’ve probably even “visited” (hint-hint) such a place when you were out of town! What am I? (See the video here.)
YEP, you guessed it! A Visitor’s Center, or Welcome Center!
It’s interesting how, if you’re at all like us, we often search for visitor’s centers when we’re out of town. They are chock-full of valuable information about the city we’re visiting. At these generally small facilities lies almost every major activity or event that the city has to offer, all neatly compiled and organized in wonderfully inviting brochures, flyers, and pamphlets. Don’t you usually feel like getting into some great out-of-town adventures once you leave the visitor’s center? We sure do!
The town’s marketing team does a very fine job of embellishing and encouraging visitors to engage in much of what/why you’re probably on vacation in the first place - to have fun, be entertained, and/or relax. You’re definitely there to be entertained in ways that you may not have access to back home.
So, what about YOUR town’s visitor’s centers? Your in-town diamonds in the rough? Do you or have you ever visited any of your city’s visitor’s centers? You will be amazed at the idea that there is some thing or some place in your very own city that is considered an attraction or place of interest to out-of-towners. It’s definitely worth a visit.
When we’ve decided to drop in a few of our visitor’s centers, we have “discovered” SO MANY THINGS that have been “hiding” under our noses all along. It's like we're traveling without moving away, kind of like in-town tourists!
Here are six (6) fun, worthy reasons for dropping in on one of yours soon. Below are just a few of the great discoveries to be made at your welcome center.
1. Restaurant & Entertainment Hot Spots
We know we have our favorite, familiar, go-to restaurants that we frequent, but there are several eateries around town that we didn’t know had been featured on famous shows like “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Channel/Food Network. Then there are places to eat near us that may have won awards for best barbecue in annual festivals and shows; some have been honored in national magazines and so on. With such accolades, and as “in-towners,” the least we can do is see what all the hype is about and judge for ourselves! Welcome centers provide lots of leaflets on local eateries.
The same rules apply for in-town entertainment spots that travelers often visit that we never thought about, didn't view as a tourist idea, or didn't even know existed. Something about a full-color brochure, printed on thick, shiny paper, highlighting the museum or park can oftentimes make ANY location look "touristy," or at least encourage its viewers to consider dropping in. We've found and visited several small-scale museums in-town that we probably wouldn't have discovered were it not for our trip to our visitors center.
2. Educational Field Trip
If ever you're in Memphis, Tennessee and you have a chance to visit downtown, you'll find that our downtown welcome center has an interesting history exhibit about the Tennessee Civil War. Though small in nature, this presentation is very informative and contains several facts and pictures about the history of the war in our area, compact and conclusive on just one wall of the facility (see image below). Though you may be on "staycation" or even a "playcation," a little history is always "welcome" and in order.
Where better to find up-to-date maps of your local town than at the visitor’s center!? That’s one of the first things we look for when we visit these facilities when we’re on vacation. So why not see what parts of town (if only from an aerial, map view) you maybe hadn’t yet explored, or realized was shaped the way it’s shown on your new-found map?
4. Hometown Souvenirs
I’m sure you have several refrigerator magnets for different cities and countries, but wouldn’t it be nice to add one of YOUR hometown to the collection? Or what about a beautiful post card of your downtown’s cityscape? Maybe even just a keepsakes keychain like the ones you gravitate toward when you’re visiting other places? Even better yet, how about a pencil with your city’s name painted beautifully on the side while you’re writing something great? Try visiting one of your visitor's centers and see what hometown souvenirs you and the kiddies can find and collect.
5. Rest Stop Spot
Yep! Rest stops sometimes make great rest spots for in-town pit stops between events. (Try saying THAT three times fast!) Sometimes homeschool parents are pressed for time... okay, maybe OFTEN. Consider using nearby rest stops as quick stops for grabbing a snack, taking a twinkle-break, or stretching those muscles.
If you're not necessarily rushed, and are looking for a nice place to just chill out and take a breather while simultaneously exploring something new, these places can serve you well. The downtown Memphis visitor's center has WONDERFUL river views, covered picnic tables, walking trails, spacious parking, miniature outdoor rest stops, and more (see images below). All this PLUS regularly updated hometown information on local businesses, restaurants, and entertainment spots are comfortably stationed inside. There are even statues of local greats standing inside ready for visitors to meet and greet them. :)
6. Explore More
Next time you approach your in-town visitors centers, stop in to check out local information on national parks, national forests, landmarks, or state parks. Then you can schedule one of your new finds for an upcoming home school field trip. Or, you could even plan a group field trip with your support group. The possibilities you can imagine after visiting your hometown welcome center are endless!
We hope you take a moment during your busy scheduled days to drop in on one of your town's welcome centers and see what you've been missing. Are there any exhibits on display that you or the kids hadn't explored yet? What about new restaurants in town? Or are there a few museums that you hadn't visited yet? If you take a moment to browse around, you're SURE to find something new!
Be sure to comment below and let us know what you discover! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. And as always, enjoy! :)
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us."
Explore MORE in the articles below!
Enjoy the "6 Ways to Explore Your
Welcome Center" Video below!