Every day we read about the benefits of local, shopping locally and dining at independent local establishments. Being married to a farmer and having a son also that has joined us in the farming operation in the last few years, I know what it is like to run a small business. I have always had an admiration for entrepreneurs whether they run a farm, a store or a diner. It takes grit and determination to put in the time required to make a business work. Plus, besides any of that, the quality and the individuality found at local establishments are usually keen. When you support your local merchant you support your town, your school and really yourself!
To save both time and money this past year I have been also focusing on one tank trips, festivals and nearby events. Living just outside the Land of Lincoln, I am always amazed by all the things there is to see and do in Springfield and within a couple of hours drive. I think if you look around, you will also find this true. To help you plan your one-tank trips, I have developed a few tips for day trips in your backyard.
1-check out events listed on your local CVB I am amazed by how many great things are happening in Springfield. This year I attended Holiday tea, and home tour and more just from perusing the local events calendar. For holiday events be sure to book early because things like the tea and house tour I attended sell out fast! Call the CVB too to see what perks they offer. I found that for out of town visitors, Visit Springfield offers free parking signs. Who knew?
2-see if there is a local food tour. I read a blog saying that they had discovered that going on a local food tour was the best way to learn about a city. While there isn’t currently an organized food tour in Springfield, Jeff Berg of Visit Springfield set one up for me and I turned it into a series of blog posts and articles. Best of all though, now I plan on doing several mini food tours at independent locally owned restaurants. A call to your local CVB or Chamber or just checking online could line you up with several food tour options. I see tons of tours for Chicago and know that would be great fun. I now want to expand my research to local cities nearby like Decatur, Bloomington and more to see what they have to offer.
3-check out the local museums. Springfield has the amazing Abraham Lincoln presidential museum and library, plus Lincoln sites galore. There is the Dana Thomas House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There is a military museum and a soon to reopen state museum. I love to go to historic museums in small towns. There is always something wonderful I see and many times these small museums are located in cool historic buildings offering some amazing architecture.
4-historic home tours. Is there anything better than going through an amazing house with history especially those that are filled with period antiques and led by a docent that knows the people that lived there?
5-Festivals, did I say festivals? Whether you are a car bum, or love Route 66, there is the Mother Road festival in Springfield that will serve both audiences. The other day we were downtown and enjoyed some of the music from the SoHo festival. My entire family is huge admirers of the Springfield Fine Arts Festival. During the summer there are so many festivals and events it is impossible to go to all of them.
6-Expo’s of all kinds. During the past few months, I have attended two women’s expos with family and had a great time. Both expos offered entertainment, giveaways, and lots of information you can use. The same goes for health fairs and celebrations. I attended a Senior Celebration that offered up an array of health screenings that if you were patient enough could save you tons of dough.
7-History nearby to learn about this, I turn to my local visitor’s guides. Most CVB’s and towns have online guides that offer up some surprises. By turning to visitors guides with a couple hours I found a French courthouse in Cahokia, Illinois, an Anheuser Busch farmstead in Kimmswick, Missouri. Google searches also turn up some great stuff like the Daniel Boone home in Defiance, Missouri.
8-Last but not least is roadside stops. Who doesn’t love a roadside treasure? In the past few years I have seen stops from the World’s Largest Man history to Indian trail of tears, and a few really fun stops in Casey, Illinois where the town has created some of the world’s largest this and that and I can’t forget the double-decker outhouse in Gays. Historical to gimmicky to just interesting, there is a stop that will catch your fancy. I just learned about the extensive list of Looking for Lincoln stops and plan to try out a few of these when I hit the road perhaps include a few with my food tours.
These are just a few tips for finding some of the best of what your backyard has to offer. If you have some and want to share them, I am listening!