Monday, August 17, 2009

Ideas for an Un-ordinary Summer "Staycation"

This blog was written with Massachusetts residents in mind, but don't let that stop you! Residents of other regions will find that their states also have much to offer for an out-of-the-ordinary summer staycation. We provide some links below.

Eight Tips for a Great Massachusetts Staycation

Rising gas prices and a lagging economy have many families in Massachusetts choosing to enjoy a staycation this summer, staying at home and enjoying what you have right in your town — or backyard — rather than planning an expensive vacation.

“But staying home for vacation doesn’t mean you will be missing out on fun and relaxation,” says Massachusetts Flower Growers Association president Dave Volante. “Staying close to home is affordable and bound to draw your family together.”

Here are eight tips to make your staycation in Massachusetts relaxing and fun.

1. Be a tourist in your own town. It isn’t hard to find history in Massachusetts, but it probably has been a while since you have taken it all in. Visit a farmers' market for fresh produce, and stop in at local historical sites. Check out for ideas.

2. Enjoy your own garden. With all the rain we’ve been having, now is a good time to freshen up your flower beds, window boxes, and borders. Stop by your local garden center or farm stand, and check out the wide array of new and different-colored annuals for a burst of fun. These garden experts will share their secrets eagerly and help you make your garden extra special this summer. To find a local garden center visit

3. Try something new on your barbeque. If you had a bumper crop of zucchini in the garden this year, slice them lengthwise and grill them for a crowd-pleasing side dish. Potted rosemary, sage, or other herbs make an uncommon addition to the grill, and cilantro is a must for salsa. Didn’t grow your own? Take a “road trip” to one of the many Massachusetts farms that offer u-pick berries or to farm stands overflowing with local goodies.

4. Have a seat! The trend this summer is outdoor living — for eating, entertaining, and just plain relaxing. Homeowners are extending living spaces with outdoor “living rooms” — where the dรฉcor is alive with blooming aromatic flowers, lively songbirds, and trickling water. Patio pots of colorful annuals can brighten up your living area and attract birds and butterflies.

5. Spruce up your patio. Spend some of your vacation savings enhancing your patio or deck and increase your property value at the same time. Decorative patio pots range in size from as small as 8” to as large as 48” and make an instant impact. You can make your own or a garden center expert can pot them up for you, matching your flowers or colorful containers to your dรฉcor. Creating an outdoor room gives you and your loved ones a spot to enjoy nature, play games, or gather around for family stories.

6. Have a picnic in your backyard. Bring a plate to your garden or lay out a picnic blanket. Let the kids plan the menu and help make the food. Many local farm stands and farmers' markets specialize in local, homemade food and fresh produce perfect for all your picnic needs. Plan some old-fashioned games like three-legged races, kick the can, or tug of war. You'll love "dining out," saving money, and making memories all at the same time.

7. Pitch a tent. Children love camping, and you'll save money on park fees and travel costs. Toast some marshmallows and make s’mores. It'll feel like you're camping, but all the comforts of home are a few steps away. And being so “close to home,” you might decide to sleep inside, and some of the kids might wander back in, too, flashlight in hand.

8. Have a party. Invite family and friends to bring their favorite dishes, pitch a tent, and have an enjoyable evening in the great outdoors without paying a fortune on park fees or foods. Moreover, by having guests bring a different dish, you can sample a wide variety of foods. Let your kids decorate containers and fill them with colorful annuals or herbs to use as centerpieces. Then give them to your guests as party favors.

Staying in Massachusetts this summer also helps your community when you visit local museums, garden centers, and restaurants rather than patronizing out-of-state businesses.

You might be inspired to stay home more often, since you don’t have a mountain of mail to open, laundry to catch up on, and a big credit card bill to recover from. And the best thing might be that you won’t hear, “Are we there yet??”

Viva the Massachusetts Staycation!

Kathleen Hassinger, Garden Media Group

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