Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Be a tourist in your own neighborhood

I've done a good amount of traveling lately and have written much about my "On the Road" adventures. Visiting all of these new cities has given me an even greater appreciation for where I live. No matter how many times I go away, it's always good to come home. 

I took a couple more trips to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida after my visit to Montreal and after so many months of traveling, I realized that lately, I've been doing more sightseeing and have seen more museums in other cities that I have in my own city. I suppose there's an urgency to see as much as possible when you're visiting a new place for a short time. We just assume there will be plenty of time to take advantage of all the fun things to do in our own neighborhoods. 

These days, many people can't afford to take trips to other cities but there's lots of fun things you can do and great places to visit in your own area. You can look up your local Visitor's Bureau online and find out about sightseeing, shopping, dining, shows, museums, activities and sports in your area. 

One of my favorite things to do in my neighborhood is what I like to call "Queens Fun Day." I'll take a short subway ride to Flushing Meadows Corona Park which was the site of the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fair. In addition to its many lakes, playground, and athletic fields, the park houses the Queens Zoo the Queens Museum of Art and the New York Hall of Science.

After enjoying a concert at the theater or a stroll through one of the many gardens, you can head over to the Queens Zoo and see animals from North and South America, feed animals in the petting zoo and take the "Migration Challenge" in the new playground. I helped develop some of the new interactive elements throughout the zoo which address the topics of Endangered Species, Invasive Species, and Extinction.

If the weather isn't conducive to outdoor activities, a visit to the Queens Museum of Art is a mandatory stop. Many people who live here don't even know it exists but it's one of my favorite places to visit because of the Panorama. No matter how many times I visit, it never ceases to impress me. The panorama is the world's largest scale model of New York City. It includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs and it takes up an entire room. After a short period of time, the room will go dark and all of the little windows in the buildings will light up!

The museum also houses the Worlds Fair Exhibition. I took my mom to see this when she came to visit a couple years ago. She had actually been to the World's Fair when she was about 10 or 11 years old and was able to tell me stories about all of the pictures and objects on display. Even though I'd seen this exhibit a few times already, it was even better to see it with someone who'd actually been there. 

The last stop on the "Queens Fun Day" tour is the New York Hall of Science which is just a short walk from the Queens Zoo and Queens Museum. The NY Hall of Science is a hands-on science and technology center. With over 400 interactive exhibits, there's something fun for everyone whether you're a toddler, kid, or an adult. They also have a space for traveling exhibits so there's always something new to see. (This a picture of "Genomes", a traveling exhibit I worked on at the Hall of Science a couple years ago)

I hope this has inspired you to create you're own "Fun Day" wherever you live. I'd love to hear comments or suggestions about your favorite places in the neighborhood you live in. Here's some links to tourist bureaus in other cities to give you some ideas.