Well, our weekly adventure challenge continues! (If you haven’t seen the challenge post yet, you can see it here.) Last week I shared our pirate nature scavenger hunt, and it was geared more specifically for small children. This time for our second adventure we did an activity which isn’t targeted at any specific age, and can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone.
(Although, confession – I cheated a little on the “weekly” this time. I’ve been posting the week after the adventure, but we didn’t go on an adventure last week due to sickness, we are doing two this week instead. Life happens! And the end count will be the same.)
This week’s adventure is to explore a small town. Typically we think of finding sights and activities in larger cities, but it can be an interesting and fun challenge to play the tourist in a small town. It takes a little more effort, and you have to keep your eyes open to find those special places, but that is part of the joy of it.
That can feel a little nebulous, though, and so I think it helps to quantify it. The goal is to explore a small town and discover five places of interest. They don’t have to be ground breaking, just interesting. Discover a small town’s treasures, learning the best place to get a sandwich, the story behind a mom-and-pop shop, the breakfast place where all the older men gather, the home-town band that everyone loves, the best place to get local produce, the history and story of the town.
And, to help you keep track of your finds, I’ve illustrated this free printable to document those interesting places that you discover, which is included at the end of this post.
I’ve included a few tips there on the printable:
1 – Take your camera! It can be a fun photography project to capture the essence of a small town on film. Well, not film anymore, I guess, but that sounds better than “capture the essence on a memory card.”
2 – Look for stories. If you go in looking for typical tourist-attractions in an itty-bitty town, chances are your options will be fairly limited. And probably less interesting. Stories, though, abound and are fascinating. Why the town is what it is, why that shop sells what it sells, why this spot is the place everyone tends to gather.
3 – Chat with local business owners. I love local businesses and their stories are ones that can be so interesting to discover. Plus, there is often a friendliness in small towns that lends them to be chatty, although this may vary geographically. But many small business owners would be happy to tell you about their story. I’m not saying take an hour of their time, just remark on something interesting you notice about their business, and you might be surprised to find out how eager they are to tell you more.
4. Get out and walk around! This is key. If you just drive down main street waiting for something to jump out at you, you might be disappointed. But if you park the car, take a stroll, and stop to smell the roses, you’re much more likely to find what you are looking for.
So there is the basic premise of the challenge. And here are the 5 places of interest we found from our own small town exploration…
We decided to explore the nearby small town on Corbin, KY. I’ve been there many times, even found some neat places there before, but never with this specific goal in mind. And so, even in a town I’ve visited before, I learned more stories and found some new aspects I hadn’t known before.
Place 1: The Original KFC.
This is Corbin’s “claim to fame”, and was the easiest place to begin. Nestled on a small road near a towing company and a used furniture store, is “Sander’s Cafe”.
It’s a cute little place on the outside, and when you first walk in it looks just like a regular KFC, with the big menu up above the counter, like any other. But the rest of the building is made into a whole little museum of interesting history and such. For instance, you can look at what the motel rooms looked like (yes, it used to be a restaurant and motel business) and find out that originally Sander’s Cafe was known more for its breakfasts than for its chicken.
As part of the challenge to think outside the box for our activites, we have the $15 limit on these weekly adventures (last week’s cost practically nothing) and so this was a special and easy lunch that fit easily within our budget.
Place 2: The House of S&J
When you first pull off the interstate into Corbin, it looks pretty typical-small-interstate-town-ish. But if you go to the older section, you see that Corbin used to be a railroad town. Main street runs parallel to the railroad, and there’s a little loop of old 50’s looking diners, buildings and so forth. Some are closed up, but you can also find gems. This is where we parked the car and got out to really explore. There were some window displays of beautiful antiques, so I decided to stop into see what it was like. It was The House of S&J, and I had never been there before.
The first room was a jewelry store. From there you enter a veritable labyrinth of rooms filled with antiques and beautiful home furnishings.
After casually browsing through several rooms, we suddenly found ourselves in a winter wonderland. I have never seen such a festive room, or such extravagant decorations! And everything was *huge*. Many of the ornaments would be measure in feet, not inches. Its was quite a sight!
And then, after that, I was shocked to find ourselves in a room that look like an opulent dining room! A giagantic chandelier hung from the ceiling, animal print carpeting, red velvet curtains, a massive fire place, and tables elegantly set. It looked just like a restaurant, but there was no one in there. I started to wonder if maybe I had wandered too far – I had gone through so many rooms throughout the store, maybe I ended up in a room I wasn’t supposed to have entered? Was this the business next door? But no, all the doors I walked through were wide open. I was simultaneously dazzled and confused.
So I made my way back to the front of the store – they had been very friendly when I came in and repeatedly offered to answer any questions I had – and I certainly had questions now! This was a great chance to chat with some local business people and find out the story of the place. It turns out, the room I had ended up in was an about-to-launch restaurant they are opening later this month! They have it open to see because apparently, besides being jewelers, selling antiques, and being about to open a restaurant, they also do interior design and that room shows what they can do. They told me the fare would be high quality regional cooking. They said it was going to be all affordable food, lunch, maybe breakfast, which surprised me based on the opulent decor. It was certainly fun to get a sneak peek of what it looked like, I wouldn’t have stumbled across it except for our exploring adventure.
Place 3: And now for something completely different
We started back up the street, and stopped in at another antique shop. I would be hesitant to have two places that both sell antiques here on my list, but this place was completely different!
I have never seen such unusual and quirky finds in an antique store as this place has. There are so many unusual taxidermy animals, plus a lot of old circus paraphernalia, and even some more macabre finds.
I don’t even know what that thing with the baby’s head is. From chatting with the woman who was running the shop, I learned that the owner just finished mortuary school and that explained the a whole section of skulls, laboratory bottles, and even a casket.
I’ve certainly never seen an antique store quite like this one! Frankly, it was fascinating to constantly be discovering something you’ve never seen before. Like a hoof inkwell, or to look up and see a bobcat (stuffed) sitting on top of a wall partition. My little one really liked seeing all the animals and circus stuff, too. Personally, I found the clown face perched next to the raccoon to be epic. :)
Place 4: The train station
In driving through the town before, I had caught a glimpse of a mural, but I had never really stopped to investigate. Well, this was the day for that! It was a huge and beautiful mural, depicting the train station it was next to:
I went up to check the train station itself – at one end I saw signs of square dance lessons, but on another door, I found a sign for a railroad museum. Neat! Unfortunately it’s apparently only open for 2 1/2 hours on Wednesday afternoons, and our adventure was on a Monday. But still, I was happy to have found out about it. Even if you can’t do everything on your town exploration, even just finding out about places you can come back to later is a success.
Place 5: A little park
Strolling back down main street there is a little park area .. grassy areas, trees, benches, a flag … and a sign that says that downtown Corbin has free wifi! Sweet!
It was getting pretty cold by this point, so we didn’t linger for very long, but I thought this was just a neat little place. It feels so classic American main street. I can imagine on a warmer day it would be a nice place to sit – and hey, free wifi is pretty nice too!
At the end of the day, we were ready to get in the car and get warm. But we had a lot of fun- I absolutely loved it! And as I was getting this blog post ready, my little girl was looking at the pictures from our adventure and said, “Oh, I wish we could do that again!” I might just keep a couple copies of my printable in the car, for whenever an opportunity to explore arises.
Here is the printable so you can keep track of your own small-town discoveries – just click to get to the PDF:
Do you like to explore small towns?
What do you think of our “adventure”?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below! :)
(For a list of all the Adventure-a-Week Challenge posts so far, just click here.)