Who says you have to leave town to relax?

By Carlye Wisel
August 07, 2015
Credit: Jorge Quinteros / Flickr

When you’re taking a staycation, it’s not about the journey, or in this case, the destination: it’s about breaking your patterns and habits, which can be trickier than it sounds. Here are some of the easiest ways to shake up your hometown monotony in order to have a great vacation — without having to board a plane, hop a train, or even rent an automobile.

Embrace spontaneity

Leave your phone at the hotel, or at least put it on airplane mode. You’re a local, after all, so you probably know where you’re going — and if you get lost, that’s just part of the adventure. Opt out of reservations, too — this is the perfect time to visit a restaurant where nabbing a table is an event in itself.

Get your name in at around 5 p.m. to enjoy a perfect pizza dinner at Lucali’s in Brooklyn, try the walk-up list at San Francisco’s famed State Bird Provisions, or brave Gjelina’s lengthy wait for a picture-perfect weekend dinner in L.A. You can explore the neighborhood without feeling rushed, and finally get to eat at one of your city’s hottest spots.

Stay somewhere unusual

A staycation is a great time to try a quirky B&B or mega-hip hotel without the pressure of needing five-star amenities or a concierge. Opt for one that has features you don’t typically encounter at home, like a backyard cabin (at Brooklyn’s Urban Cowboy B&B), ocean-front access (at Los Angeles’ The Rose Hotel) or even a bedroom on a boat (at Boston’s Green Turtle Floating B&B).

Explore somewhere totally new

You can be a visitor without being a tourist, but there’s probably a neighborhood you’ve never explored. Take a free day to eat your way through Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, explore vintage treasures and goat tacos in Pilsen, Chicago, and traipse through Oakland’s hottest bars.

Do one thing that’s purely fun

The difference between a Saturday and a staycation is what you make of it, so squeeze in an activity that serves no purpose save for sheer joy. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Chicago’s Navy Pier, bounce around at Boston’s Sky Zone trampoline park, or brave Brooklyn’s Coney Island crowds.

Even if the weather’s got you down, don’t default to a run-of-the-mill art museum. San Francisco’s Musée Mécanique has an array of ancient (and playable!) arcade games, Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum puts medical oddities on display, and Boston’s Museum of Bad Art hosts, well, a rotating collection of just that. You can critique a Rothko any other day of the week—this is your chance to do something simply for the thrill of it.

Turn breakfast into an adventure

If you can rattle off how many Starbucks rewards stars you have from memory, take an opportunity to break out of this rut by checking out multiple new places you can’t typically visit during the workweek. Consider hitting Chicago’s Doughnut Vault for a delicious deep-fried confection and following it up with an espresso at the city’s newest gem, Café Integral.

Or, if you’re in Boston, grab your coffee fix at Pavement Coffeehouse and chase it with a breakfast sandwich at Wheelhouse. Either way, you’ll get to eat your way through a new side of town without chowing down on a plateful of watery scrambled eggs at your hotel’s breakfast buffet.

Get thee to a roof

Strip away the coconuts and the hat vendors and the only difference between a trip to Bermuda and a hotel’s outdoor deck are…okay, there are still a few differences, but a day spent poolside in your own town is still pretty sweet. Wake up early to snag chairs at the Line Hotel’s pool oasis in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, where you don’t need to be a hotel guest to lounge, or at Boston’s Colonnade Hotel, where you can pay $40 for weekday access without having to stay overnight. Steep for a daytime activity, sure, but when you compare it to the cost of taxis and round-trip airfare, it’s the most budget-friendly trip you could book.

Go out on the town without going anywhere

If your idea of staycationing involves more raging than relaxing, opt for lodging that’ll grant you access to somewhere hard to get into. In New York, Miami, and Chicago, staying at a Soho House gives you full member access to everything from rooftop pools and insider events to private beaches and exclusive restaurants, and in Los Angeles, sleeping at the Magic Castle Hotel grants you entry to their famed private club, which has as many magicians as it does celebrity drop-ins.

Be sure to buy at least one pointless thing

On an ordinary day it would seem like a waste to overpay for a kitschy magnet or photo booth strip, but during a staycation buying a souvenir is a must. A tacky keychain serves as a reminder that the exploration doesn’t have to end once you unlock your front door. Or, buy a tchotchke to leave on your desk or in your work bag to remind yourself that there’s a world outside of the office — and sometimes it’s reachable just by venturing a few blocks in a different direction on your lunch break.