If you live in Westerly and have never been to the Babcock-Smith House, the Granite Theater or the Westerly Armory, raise your hand.
If you live in Stonington and have never been to the Lighthouse Museum, the Stonington Historical Society, or a show at La Grua, raise your hand.
And if you live in Hopkinton and have never discovered the Tomaquag Museum, hiked the Arcadia Management Area to Stepstone Falls, or visited Camp Yawgoog, raise your hand.
Alright, put your hands down and stop mumbling, “But I always wanted to do this.” The truth is, most of us are guilty, even though we were born here, even though we cooked school lunches for the kids who went on these field trips.
About two weeks ago, I had an event to attend at 5 p.m. Before that, I had to deliver something to the Southern Rhode Island Volunteers office located in the Ninigret Park Senior Center in Charlestown. Now I have been to Ninigret many times over the 35+ years I have lived in these areas. I have been to the park several times to watch the Big Apple Circus; for years I ate myself stupidly at the Charlestown Seafood Festival; I stomped and clapped my hands at Rhythm and Roots and other extravaganzas, but that was it. There is a whole other side to this park! Just keep going past the Frosty Drew Observatory (stop, if you’ve never been there, and touch the sky) and keep following the signs for the senior center around and around; and just when you think you’ve taken a wrong turn, you’ll see a large, well-built dog park on your right. If Fido isn’t accompanying you on this jaunt, continue a little further and you’ll soon be in the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge parking lot. What a wonderful place! A place of salt marshes, kettle ponds, wetlands, 250 species of birds and a choice of several walking trails. I chose two, marveling at the view, stopped and read the signs along the way detailing a story I never knew, and enjoyed the quietness of the place so much .
Originally used for agriculture long before the Revolution, during World War II it became a Naval Auxiliary Air Base (called Atlantic Airport), a satellite of Quonset. One of the signs even tells you that if you’re reading this you’re standing on what used to be the trail. All 900 acres are maintained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and if you’re looking for new roads to travel near your home that don’t eat up every drop of gas in your tank, this is a perfect spot.
Our region is much more than beaches. It’s a fantastic place to poke around and be completely amazed to find people whose families go back many generations. You can learn about the slave trade, the Underground Railroad and more by stopping by one of our greatest treasures, the Westerly Library, home to fully educated people in history who would like simply pass on some of their knowledge and passion. for you. And it’s FREE!
About 10 or 12 years ago, my husband and I decided to take a day trip to Boston as “tourists”. Even though Boston was his hometown, he had no idea of all this rich history because his school didn’t organize field trips and his family didn’t have the money to do so. It may be the best money you will ever spend. Catch a train so you don’t have to drive and worry about parking, then invest in a day ticket on the Old Town Tram where you can hop on and off as many times as you want to hang out one of 18 stops where your interest is piqued. Everything from the USS Constitution to Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, Back Bay, the Prudential Center, the Bull and Finch Pub (the model for the TV show “Cheers”)… it’s all there.
If you’re more of a homebody and prefer to stay local, do so, but check out all we have in our area for free to explore. So open your eyes, raise your hand and be proud to be a tourist in a place so rich in history and resources. Love where you live.
Come on, now…raise your hand!
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” articles. She can be reached at [email protected] or 401-539-7762.