Traveling to small towns for vacation can be a lot of fun, just make sure you're being mindful of local culture.
Fourth of July weekend in the small town where I grew up in is always fun. We probably run one of the longest parades known to mankind and I get to see many people I went to grade school, middle school and high school with. The people-watching is absurdly entertaining. And I am utterly amazed (not in a good way) at how some of the visitors to the area act while vacationing.
In an attempt to be helpful to people wanting to visit a small resort town during peak tourist season, here’s my simple guide for how to get the best service and experience out of your visit.
1.“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
If you’re in a small resort town and you walk into a packed restaurant with no reservation and the host tells you that he’s going to try to squeeze you in, don’t roll your eyes at him and ask him “How long is THAT going to be?” I guarantee you if you do that, what could’ve been a short 15 minute wait will become an hour or longer wait.
Owners of businesses in small towns usually love meeting visitors but ain’t nobody got time for rude folk. A little bit of nice goes a long way and locals will bend over backwards to help you if you practice this tip.
2. Do not ask where the McDonalds is.
Small towns are, well...small. You’ll rarely find chains in these locations. Vacations are meant for exploring and living like the locals do. If you’re lucky you’ll find yourself in a small town with some amazing food.
The small town where I grew up has some really great places to eat, drink and enjoy dessert. Local brewery? Check. Locally sourced food? Check. Coffee shops and bakeries? Check. You can eat at your chain restaurants when you go back to reality.
3. It’s not Disneyland.
I’m a firm believer that kids should be able to run free like I did when I was growing up - exploring in the woods, building forts, playing at the local parks, climbing trees, running, jumping, doing cartwheels...but not inside of businesses.
Helping your child understand socially acceptable behavior will make everyone’s life easier and will save you the feelings of offense you will surely have when a business owner asks you to keep your child from standing on tables or licking the windows. Oh, and those paper goods...they’re actually not art supplies.
4. “Our sidewalks are for public use, not display items…” - Fred Berry
Those paved areas on the sides of the streets are called sidewalks. You actually have them in the city, too. Please use them. The locals in small towns COMPLETELY understand your awe with the beauty and sites in their area, but walking down the middle of the street with your whole family is just unproductive to society.
I hope you find these tips useful. I would love to hear your stories (either as a tourist or a business owner). Sharing is learning and can help everyone have a more enjoyable time. Happy 4th!