PHOTO: Aerial view of Fredericksburg

Experts tell us that vacations are important for our mental health. Getting away from the daily routine relieves stress, improves mood and strengthens family bonds. And most people living in the Fredericksburg region who have been cooped up under the coronavirus quarantine for the past three months are more than ready to get out of the house this summer.

But fears of travelling to vacation destinations and tight budgets are making many people think twice about taking a big family vacation this summer. The solution: a staycation.

Researchers have found that planning a vacation is one of the most pleasurable parts of the process. But planning is even more important during a staycation. An ironclad schedule of each day’s activities (with alternatives in case of rain or excessive heat) will ensure that you actually get out every day and do things that will refresh you physically, mentally and spiritually.

Living in an area frequented by tourists almost guarantees that locals seldom take the time to see the sights themselves. But tourists are likely to be sparse this summer, and the city and its beautiful outdoor surroundings will be the emptiest they’ve been in a long time, creating a great opportunity for locals to be tourists in their own home town.

Psychology Today recommends that staycations combine physical activity with learning and doing something new. Luckily, the Fredericksburg region’s many parks offer plenty of opportunities for outside activity while maintaining social distancing. But switch it up. If you usually jog or ride a bike for exercise, spend your staycation kayaking on the Rappahannock River or eagle-watching at Caledon State Park instead. If your kids have never flown a kite or gone fishing, now’s the time to introduce them to these time-tested pastimes.

Play mini golf or pickleball. Explore the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, and Government Island. Retrace the route of the Trail to Freedom—when 10,000 enslaved Virginians set themselves free as the Union Army advanced towards Fredericksburg in 1862.

Go downtown and take photos of the architecture. Help local restauranteurs recover from the lockdown by ordering a takeout gourmet picnic lunch or dinner. Dine al fresco, and linger over drinks as the sun sets. And since you’re already saving a ton of money on gas, plane fares and hotel rooms by staying close to home this year, tip extravagantly—and be grateful that you live in such a great place to visit.

The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star

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