If you were among the 400,000 estimated service members who move each summer, you may just be settling into your new duty station. It takes time to find a place to live, unpack, settle the family, and settle into the new job. The new year is the time and opportunity to get out and explore the local area, getting to know your new, albeit temporary, home. Use the holiday period to plan outings with friends and family in the coming year. Getting to know your local area through the avenues below will unveil hidden gems you may not have known about.
Use Your Local Library
The library is a gem for exploration that many need to consider. Many local libraries offer free entry into museums and parks as a library card holder. Yes, it’s true. Ask your local librarian about what programs are provided in your local area. Typically, library card holders must register online and sign up for the museum of their choice in advance to get free admission. There may be a limit to the number of family members you can designate – but it still provides an economical way to explore and learn about the local area. In San Diego, for example, many museums at Balboa Park offer rotating free admission through the San Diego County system. They even offer a park pass that you can “check out” to park at state parks for free to get out, hike, and explore the local beaches. In Florida, several counties also offer free museum admission to local museums – and the list changes day by day.
Blue Star Families
While many military families know about the Blue Star Museums program offered in the summer, there are also Blue Star Outdoors. The local chapters of Blue Star Families provide many programs at no cost throughout the year. Log in, create an account on Blue Star Neighborhood, and find your local chapter. The chapter will announce on their website and often on their social media pages when there are available events to attend. You can attend a baseball game, hockey game, concert, or ballet performance free of charge thanks to local donations. BSF programming provides a time to explore local entertainment options and spend time with your family in a unique way.
Local County or State Fairs
What better way to learn about your local area than the county fair? Many fairs offer free or discounted admission to their local fairs to the military. If a local USO or Blue Star Families chapter is near you, ask the team leader if they offer free or discounted tickets during the season. Learn about what the county and area can offer you and your family in both produce to get a taste of the local area and what artisans or local camps are offered each year. County and state fairs aren’t just about eating fried Oreos or riding the tilt-a-whirl; they provide educational opportunities on local farming and programming offered to families and children alike.
Geocaching involves using GPS coordinates to find hidden containers, or “caches,” that other participants have hidden. Join local groups on social media to find out how and where to find “caches” near you.
Explore Historical Sites
Don’t discount the historical sites at your new duty station. Take guided tours of historical landmarks or heritage sites in your new area. Learning about the history and culture of the region can deepen your connection to it.
Connect with the community by volunteering for local organizations or charities. This helps you give back and allows you to meet people who share similar values. Many organizations limit these opportunities to certain ages, usually due to liability or ability to complete specific tasks, so always call ahead and ask if you want your entire family to volunteer.