When it comes to being a tourist, I feel like most people think they need to explore some new city miles and miles away. Some of my favorite adventures have been in my town or a few towns over. A few weeks ago, my parents and I were looking for a new place to film a recent campaign. We decided to check out St. Francis National Forest and Mississippi River State Park in Marianna, Arkansas. My dad grew up going to school in Marianna, but I hadn't gone there that many times. It was such a fun morning adventure, and we didn't even get to explore everything. Today I wanted to share some of those pictures as well as how to explore your own backyard.
1. Use Google Maps
New things are popping up all the time. I find that most sites update Google first before any other map service. Apple Maps tend to be a little outdated for me. Sometimes I go to my local area on Google Maps and look around to see what pops up. You never know what could pop up.
Tip: Zoom in on your city. The more you zoom on Google Maps, the more places you see. If you don't see that many places, chances are you are zoomed out. When you are zoomed out, Google Maps only shows areas of more significant interest. If you are trying to find hidden gems, you won't find that if your Google Maps app is too zoomed out.
2. Check Out Tourism Board Instagram Pages And Websites
Okay, this is my secret weapon for being a tourist in your backyard. I always find unique things to do by checking out tourism board Instagrams and websites. Whenever I am thinking of checking out a new city, I always go to their tourism board website or Instagram first. Depending on how big the city is, they may or may not have an Instagram or website for the city. I am almost sure most states have an Instagram and site for tourism, though, so check that out.
Tourism Boards know where all the fun and exciting sights are. They are more aware of things to do and post about them all the time. For example, the Arkansas tourism website is filled with stuff to do, no matter which region of Arkansas you are visiting.
3. Drive Around
If you have more time on your hands, drive around with nowhere to go. When I am looking for a place to take photos, this is my favorite way to do it. I have taken pictures all over my city and explored places I never knew existed until recently. You'd be surprised by what you explore in your own backyard when you are just driving around your city. If you are looking for something to do, this might not be the best method, but driving around can be an activity too.
4. Utilize Sites Like TripAdvisor And Yelp
I am not going to lie. I'm pretty obsessed with using sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. If you are looking for recommendations, I even have a TripAdvisor profile I regularly update with any new places I see. Whenever I am visiting a new city or need some inspiration on what to do, I go to these sites. Sites like TripAdvisor might not be my go-to for new locations, but I love checking it out for new to me locations.
5. Stalk Instagram Hashtags And Locations For Nearby Things To Do
Last, but not least, stalk Instagram hashtags for nearby cities and places. People and businesses are always using location-specific hashtags. I know I love to stalk the Memphis hashtag for what people are currently doing when I am visiting Memphis. It's an easy way to see what there is to do. It can also be beneficial because often people post in the moment, and you might see something you can do right now.
More About St. Francis National Forest And Mississippi River State Park
If you are local to my area, you need to take some time to visit St. Francis National Forest and Mississippi River State Park. It was such a delight visiting this area, and it's only going to get better. I know they are doing some exciting renovations and updates to the area. What I've seen so far is beautiful, and I can't wait to keep going back. We are definitely making another stop before the fall finishes. I can't wait to see this park once the fall foliage starts taking over.
This forest and park is pretty amazing. There are tons of different types of wildlife in the park, and we even heard a woodpecker while we were there. The visitor's center of the park is gorgeous, and they have an exhibit on the inside explaining Crowley's Ridge and the types of wildlife you see in the park.
If you are into camping, kayaking, or other outdoor activities, you can go further into the forest for space for those activities. There is a ton of birds to watch in this park if you are into that activity. I can see this being an outdoorsy person's dream forest to visit. It's smaller than most national forests out there, but it has so much diversity.
We spent multiple hours in the park, walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the scenery. I can tell this will be a great location to visit if you happen to be in the area.
Explore Your Own Backyard
You don't have to go far to see something interesting. It's amazing what you can find when you open your eyes to the possibility of what's around you. Do you go exploring in your own backyard often? What's the coolest thing you've come across on your recent adventures?