When my husband and I first met in 2009, I was writing a manuscript set in New York City—primarily in and around the subway system. The first summer we were dating, I convinced him to go on several research trips with me. We visited the NYC Transit Museum. We rode the A train all the way out to Far Rockaway, across Jamaica Bay to a beachy strip of land you can hardly believe is still part of NYC. We even toured the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, an abandoned underground railway tunnel that is unfortunately no longer open to the public. (We had to enter through a manhole in the middle of one of Brooklyn's busiest streets—best date ever, right?)
On all of those trips, I got the information I was looking for to enhance my manuscript. I learned more about the city I'd fallen head over heels with since moving here in 2004. But best of all, my husband and I started a tradition that has only grown over the past six years. At the start of each summer, we come up with a list of "adventures" we want to go on together. We choose tourist attractions and unusual spaces within the five boroughs that we've never visited: museums, parks, monuments, skyscrapers, oddball hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants, and much more. We've gone to the top of the Empire State Building; walked around the botanic gardens in Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island; ridden the roller coasters and eaten hot dogs (and watched the Mermaid Parade) at Coney Island; admired medieval art and tapestries at The Cloisters; taken walking tours of Manhattan's Lower East Side and the Financial District—the list goes on and on.
This summer, our adventures have included a trip to the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair site in Queens (you might recognize it from the movie Men in Black) and a tour of the U.S.S. Intrepid (did you know there is a massive aircraft carrier docked in the Hudson River?). This past spring, we toured the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. With each adventure, I learn a little more about what this city has to offer: its history, its character, its magic. I try to let go of my cool New Yorker persona (ha!) and act like a tourist, exploring and taking it all in.
(On the writing front, needless to say I've gotten tons of book and character ideas from these activities over the years. Who knows if I'll ever write them all—but going on adventures definitely helps keep the creative juices flowing!)
So here is my dare to all of you: Go on an adventure in your hometown or local region. Is there a museum or historical site in your area that you've been meaning to check out? Find the time. Have you heard about a beautiful nature trail in a nearby national park? Strap on your hiking boots. Don't let the day-to-day routine of living somewhere keep you from discovering everything that's unusual and fascinating and magical about your home. Go on an adventure, and be inspired.
Tell us about the hometown adventure you want to take—or one you recently took—in the comments! If you're feeling really ambitious, write about your adventure in 200 words or less for this month's Walk the Plank challenge (more HERE). And have fun!