On Sunday afternoon, John and I took a beautiful country drive to the rural town of Saxapahaw, walked along the Haw River exploring old dams, split a BLT at the Saxapahaw General Store, and finished our afternoon with ice cream at Maple View Farm. We call little excursions like this “everyday adventures,” and they are one of our most favorite things in life.
Three years ago I posted a few of our favorite tips for finding fun and free (or almost free) things to do, and I thought the unofficial start to summer would be the perfect time to update that list. Our methodology isn’t rocket science, but I’m hoping it might reignite your spark for discovering the adventure that’s all around!
Tip One: Watch the News
John watches the news every night (he really, really loves the weather, but usually tunes in for the whole shebang). News stations will often sponsor or have a presence at interesting community events, giving them incentive to promote them beforehand.
Success Story: A few years ago we heard about a massive azalea garden in Raleigh while watching the evening news, and it’s been a must-visit in our household every spring since. SO Pretty! Cost: FREE
Tip Two: Listen to the Radio
I find that the best stations to tune in to are NPR and the oldies station. You’re looking for the advertisements here, so don’t change the station once the music stops!
Success Story: The Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary shows recently released feature films almost every Friday in the summer. The Amphitheater itself is beautiful, and the surroundings are equally so. The back deck hosts a variety of independent vendors, and you’re also welcome to bring your own food and drink. Heard about this while driving home on NPR! Cost: $6 for two tickets
Tip Three: Read the NY Times Travel Section
They have entries for an astonishing array of locales across the US (and beyond!), and they always unearth some fun choices. Check the main page out here. John also wanted me to recommend looking at TripAdvisor for your locale, instead of just when you’re traveling!
Success Story: The nearby NC Museum of Art has an awesome sculpture garden. We first read about it here, and have since walked and biked its path many times, and even took our engagement photos there! Cost: FREE (A few years ago we also found out they show outdoor movies in the summer – so fun!)
Tip Four: Read Grace’s Guides
I’ve talked about this a bit way back when, but Design*Sponge has amassed an excellent collection of City Guides, similar to the Times’ write-ups but with a longer list of options and more of an indie-crafty bent. Click here to see if there’s one for your area!
Success Story: Though it’s hard NOT to run across the cheerful Locopops logo after spending a short while in the Triangle, I believe we read about them first on Design*Sponge. Think flavors like raspberry hibiscus, cucumber chili, banana pudding, and Thin Mint. COST: $5 for two pops
Tip Five: Use Your Resources
This could mean a variety of things, but for us, it primarily means the universities: Duke, UNC, and NC State are all within a half hour’s drive. About twice a year I make a point to stop by each school’s website (specifically, their calendar) to see what lectures, performances, or events might be on tap. I’d also recommend checking out your town or region’s website and/or Parks & Rec publication for notice of festivals (which are often free) and classes (which are often inexpensive), as well as your local library.
Success Story: One of our favorite NC traditions is attending the Duke Chorale’s annual Christmas concert. The singing is wonderful, every pew in the breathtaking Duke Chapel is filled, and it really puts you in the Christmas spirit (and y’all know I love Christmas). Cost: a can of food each for the local food bank.
Tip Six: Follow Local Media
Between Twitter, Facebook, blogs, mainstream newspapers, and local publications, there’s no shortage of insider knowledge out there for the plucking. I personally love Map & Menu (particularly great for Portland, ME and the Triangle!) and Indy Week’s “Best of” recommendations (lots of communities have something similar); I also love finding random bloggers’ suggestions for our area, like this post from The Fresh Exchange.
Before she moved to Boston, Dina from Honey & Fitz was one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter because she always seemed to know what was up before I did :) She was the first person to know a Container Store location was opening in Raleigh, she led me to an amazing charity tag sale, and she tipped me off about a new restaurant focused on pies (yum!). PieBird is a great spot for lunch or something sweet post-dinner. COST: $5.50 per slice
Tip Seven: Talk to the Locals
Fairly obvious, but worth mentioning. Once you start to meet people who’ve lived in the area, you can of course pick their brains about little-known landmarks and leisure activities, but I’d also suggest some innocent eavesdropping. (What?! You haven’t done this in, say, a coffee shop?) I also find asking people what their favorite local place or thing to do is a great conversation starter!
Success Story: A friend tipped us off to the opening of Rise in Durham. Their narrow focus on biscuits and donuts is right up my alley, and their flavor combinations are hard to beat: to name just a few, cardamom tea cake, Nutella, tiramisu, and orange and rose water donuts as well as BLT with chipotle mayo, French toast, and spinach and goat cheese biscuits. YUM! COST: From $.95 to $2.95 per donut, and $2.25 to $4.50 per biscuit
Tip Eight: Be Observant
Again, I know this is patently obvious, but stick with me here, because this is the single best tip I’ve got. Wherever John and I are, we keep our eyes peeled. We peruse flyer walls while waiting for restaurant tables, we notice roadside signs, we pick up brochures wherever they’re available. And then we remember to follow up once we’re back home.
Success Story: What do we keep our eyes peeled for? We never know, but it’s usually something good. We stumbled upon Backwoods OK while on an unrelated hike, found out about a massive used book sale from a poster at the library, and discovered the best family farm (with the most delicious pick-your-own strawberries) because we weren’t afraid to follow a sign onto a side road on the way home from the grocery store. A tip: If I see a sign or flyer that catches my eye while out and about, I’ll snap a quick photo with my phone so I can add the info to my planner later or look up the website when we get home.
So tell me — do you love everyday adventures, too? What’s your favorite one? Where do you find your best ideas? I’d love to hear!