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Wondering what to do with visitors the next time they come to town? Create a little scavenger hunt to explore your town or city. Everything is more fun when it becomes a game.
Do you know the feeling when you have visitors in town and you’re trying to find some special things to do? You want to spend time doing things your visitors can’t do in their own town, but you’re not sure exactly what that is?
Since moving to the suburbs of Philadelphia, I’ve found this to be especially true. We have a handful of nice things to do, and there are plenty of activities in downtown Philadelphia, but many aren’t all that conducive to doing with young children.
Recently my sister visited with her family. She has two kids, 3 and 2 years old, and they stayed with us for five days. Before they came, I made a list of activities to try out in our neighborhood, a bit like a neighborhood scavenger hunt. I thought it would be fun to plan a few activities with the kids that were simple and not far from our house but also something she and her family couldn’t do at their home. By focusing on activities nearby, we not only limited travel but also supported our local community.
Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt Adventure Ideas with Young Children
Have you ever tried a scavenger hunt to explore your local area? Grab a snack and check out the list of ideas I drew up, many of which are great with tourists and a few of which you can try with your family. Show off what makes your town special when you have visitors or just get to know and invest in your community.
1. Find and play at a new park ~ Especially after living in the city, we learned that parks can be hidden in some unexpected places. Find a new park in your area and make a plan to stop by.
2. Visit a farmer’s market ~ Local food. Local vendors. Local shoppers. Everyone at the farmer’s market lives and works nearby, so it’s a great way to get to know the community and the people in your neighborhood.
3. Spot an American flag ~ This should be an easy one to check off the list, but it’s a chance to point out the flag to children. Remind them that is represents our country, freedom, and so many off the values that make our lives plentiful.
4. Drop a letter in the mail box at the local post office ~ My boys tried this for the first time not long ago. Living in an apartment previously, we always dropped our mail in the slot in the wall in our mail room. I occasionally drop off a package now, and the boys get a big kick out of putting any other mail we have in the big blue box. It also gave me a chance to show them where the path for mail starts, now that they understand it ends up in the mailbox at the end of our driveway.
5. Visit the local library ~ Most libraries offer so much more than books. We are big fans of the children’s book section, but many libraries also offer free kids’ activities and classes, story time, audio book and DVD rentals, summertime activities and more. It’s a great starting point for finding out more about events in the community.
6. Stop by a public flower garden ~ So much energy goes into building and caring for flower gardens, but too often, we drive by and don’t really appreciate how much beauty they add to the view (or maybe that’s just me). Stop and smell the roses (or whatever flowers are growing in the gardens around you). We have some large gardens open to the public near us and also some smaller butterfly gardens and such in the public parks. Let the children explore the flowers while you do the same.
7. Visit a local historical site or monument ~ Just about every city has something special in its history. Living in Philadelphia, we have a little more famous history around us than some other places. But no matter how fancy or how few times your community’s stories show up in the school history books, the history of a place adds plenty of character.
8. Explore a nature trail or walking path ~ What’s not to love about long walks on nature trails? One caveat: if you leave anywhere I’ve ever lived, avoid the paths near dusk in summer. Pesky mosquitoes might get the best of you… ugh!
9. Shop a local thrift or resale shop ~ Let the kids pick out one thing from a local kids resale, thrift or consignment shop . Items usually aren’t too expensive, it’s fun, and you support the local economy. If you’re really an overachiever, encourage children to bring along something to donate to complete the cycle of consumption.
Bonus: Take a family photo during one of the adventures or maybe even all of them. Last year, when I started designing our holiday card, I realized we only snapped one family photo the entire year. One?! Family photos don’t require fancy clothes or matching outfits. Just huddle up and snap a photo; it’s better than nothing.
Making a Good First Impression
As for my sister visiting, this was their first visit to our new house, so we really wanted to show them a good time and why we like the area. Yet with young children, some of whom still nap everyday, we “stayed in our lane”. We tried to avoid cramming too many activities into the visit to prevent from making it more exhausting and disappointing than manageable (with four kids between the ages of 2 and 5).
While she and her family visited, we didn’t get to everything on our list. We did, however, check off a few of the items, especially those that are really unique to where we live. We visited a local flower garden, walked around a historical site, and played at a new park (twice!). We also popped into the library, and everyone had a chance to choose a few books to bring home.
Never Leave Home Without Snacks
Any mom knows that kids inevitably are starving as soon as arriving just about anywhere. I rarely leave the house without some little snack packed in my bag for the kids (and maybe me) while we’re out and about.
Before we headed to Longwood Gardens, a large garden and arboretum not far from where we live, we packed up raspberries, blueberries, and a couple of boxes of GOOD THiNS snacks to satiate any “starvation” during our walk through the park. We opted for GOOD THiNS- The Wheat One- Ancient Grains, which are made with grains like quinoa, amaranth & millet and GOOD THiNS- The Potato One- Sweet Potato, made with … you guessed it … real sweet potatoes.
They also had GOOD THiNS- The Beet One- Balsamic Vinegar & Sea Salt that looked interesting, but two boxes seemed like enough for one child-encumbered adventure.
If you haven’t tried them, GOOD THiNS start with real ingredients (like wheat, potato and rice), combined with enticing flavors (like garlic, spinach and sweet potato) and baked thin and crispy without any artificial flavors, colors, cholesterol, partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. They are made with real ingredients and are available at grocery stores all across the country, including all the Kroger stores, like Ralph’s.
As expected, the littles wasted no time asking for snacks. No sooner had we arrived at the Gardens and little hands dove into the snacks like they hadn’t eaten in days (monitored by parents, of course).
Visit a Flower Garden
For a couple of hours, we climbed through tree houses, enjoyed fountains, and admired thousands of gorgeous flowers at Longwood Gardens. The kids eventually hit a wall before we made our way through all the Gardens, but we enjoyed the summer weather and the walk while it lasted.
Play at a New Park
A brand new park opened up down the street from our house, so the boys were excited to check it out and show it to their cousins. Not surprisingly, it proved a big hit. We visited several times during their short stay, and the kids begged to stay a little longer each time we set to leave.
Visit the Local Library
The boys love visiting our library, and it’s not far from the new park, so we checked off two boxes in one day.
We walked in and, per the usual, headed straight for the children’s section. We missed story time, but that meant most children had already visited that day. We had the whole children’s library to ourselves. No complaints about that.
Check out a Local Historical Site or Monument
It’s not hard to find history in Philadelphia. We live close to some famous Revolutionary War sites and there is so much history all around Philly.
We, however, called in a babysitter to watch all the kiddos and spent an adult afternoon in downtown Philadelphia. We stopped by the Liberty Bell and walked around Independence Hall.
We didn’t spend a ton of time taking full tours. We’ll save those for a few years down the road when the children can join us and learn a thing or two.
For now, we just picked a good restaurant and enjoyed a hot, tasty meal in peace free of any nagging or bribery to encourage others to eat their meals.
Find the Goodness in Your Community with a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt
Piecing together a little community scavenger hunt doesn’t necessarily have to be saved for visitors. I think it would make a great checklist of activities to do as a family as well. I’ve found it’s helpful to have on hand a written list of things (and favorite restaurants, for that matter) to do and try in our local area. This ensure we always have a bank of ideas when family and friends visit or when we’re just looking for a mini adventure with our own family.
Have you ever tried anything like this? What types of activities would you do in your community?
And don’t forget, when you plan your family neighborhood scavenger hunt, be sure to pack your snack supplies before leaving. No sooner do you leave the car, you know the kids will be hungry…