Be a Tourist in Your Own City

*Originally ran July 25, 2015*

While living in the tourist magnet city of Virginia Beach the past few years, I’ve picked up that the word “tourist” sometimes carries around a negative connotation. Locals tend to stereotype this group as a bunch of loud mouthed, wide-eyed people who walk way too slowly and don’t know how to properly drive on our roads. My friends and I often wonder why people bother coming to vacation here, of all places, when they could go anywhere in the world. They come to our city with amazement and wide arms ready to soak up everything that comes their way and maybe these “annoying” tourists actually have the right idea…

      Often times our every day surroundings become monotonous and we begin to take everything around us for granted. So here’s a challenge: set aside a day to be a tourist in your own city.  Do all of the roll-your-eye tacky, cheesy things those visitors in your city flock to. The other day my friend, Katie, and I did just that. We took on the beach with the most hotels lining the streets and tourists bursting around every corner; the Oceanfront. I had always had it in my mind that it was just hotel after hotel after hotel, etc. But recently we’ve found some hidden gems that made us finally understand the appeal of that part of our city to others.

      After starting off the day with fresh fruit and delicious coffee from Bad Ass Coffee, we began the search for a parking spot, which usually turns into quite the adventure. The great thing about having an awful sense of direction is that I often get lost. A lot. Which usually ends in discovering cute little tucked away shops and faded, pretty brick walls that are perfect for posing.

      We walked along the boardwalk with the beach to our right covered in umbrellas and tents that made it appear as if a lively circus was in town. Vendors sold ice cream and water ice from their stands to those melting in the summer heat and little kids ran around half naked splashing in puddles. Families rode together on bikes, couples roller bladed down the sidewalk, and we had to skirt around the occasional oblivious surfboard carrier.

       After the sun rose higher and the air grew thicker with heat, we took shelter under the pier along with the others seeking shade and cool sand. People had set up fort with hammocks and beach chairs as the cool water splashed against their feet. We took the opportunity to jump around in the waves crashing on the shore and ended up with soaking dresses and happy faces.

       As we began the trek back to our cars, we passed a cute little building that we had always overlooked on our boardwalk strolls. But since the day was for discovering, we decided to stop in and look around. It turned out to be a cute, little museum full of vintage pictures of Virginia Beach and carvings of birds and other wildlife. Plus the yard outside was decorated with the most beautiful flowers and cute benches, which made it even better.

       The day was full of sun and sand and adventures. Looking at our city in a different light definitely made for an interesting experience. Now go out and explore your home through the eyes of a tourist! You never know what hidden treasures you might stumble upon…

~Madelynne Catherine

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