Usually, when you have a week off from work, you dream of going away. Maybe to the beach or the mountains or a national park. And oftentimes, that’s just what we do! But this year, this pregnant mama didn’t really see the appeal in driving several hours, being on a hot beach in June, or sleeping in a bed not her own. So a staycation was declared! And everyone was pretty happy, especially considering we live in an area that literally millions of people visit each year. We knew we would have plenty to do. Even the four-year-old thought a staycation sounded exciting, since he had never heard the term before.
Initially, my staycation planning started with about a two-hour radius for activities. The Knoxville Zoo, the Great Smoky Mountains, maybe Frozen Head in Wartburg. But as June grew closer, the temps rose to historic heat-wave levels, and gas prices soared, a different idea started in the back of my mind: what if we REALLY kept it local and staycationed in our own city? Oak Ridge, TN is, after all, a town that made history, and recently became a National Park in its own right. We had also recently moved to a neighborhood that has a huge swimming pool, water slide, playground, fishing spot, etc., so why not take advantage of all that was in our own backyard, and discover local gems along the way!
Knowing my limits at almost eight months pregnant in the heat, I made plans for half of each day, leaving the other half of the day open for either relaxing or working on tasks around the house to prepare for baby’s arrival. One day I left completely open for whatever we felt like doing that day, even if it was nothing. After all, the main goal of a vacation is often to just relax!
We started our week off with a visit to the Oak Ridge Civic Center. The Civic Center contains a wealth of activities and points of interests for families. There’s the library, indoor pool, indoor basketball courts, a playground, and a huge walking area with a beautiful Friendship Bell in the center. Oak Ridge made history in World War II by building the Atomic Bomb as the Secret City, but we now have a relationship of peace and friendship with Japan, symbolized by the Bell.
Our activity on Monday took place in the outdoor amphitheater, consisting of a fantastic puppet show hosted by our library. Granted, it was 95 degrees even in the shade, but we really enjoyed the show even as we melted into puddles of goo. For lunch that day, we hit up Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery in historic Jackson Square. Think homestyle cooking with a glass case of mouthwatering pies for dessert. You really can’t experience Oak Ridge without seeing Jackson Square! It was the original city center and town site. It still houses a theater where you can see plays, restaurants, shops, and a fountain. When we got home that afternoon, we went to the pool to cool off.
Our second day of staycation was our free day! My husband chose to stay home and catch up on movies and video games and outside stuff, and I took the four-year-old to Target in Turkey Creek for Starbucks, a toy from the dollar spot, wandering all the aisles, and lunch from Cookout (can you say pregnancy cravings?!). The rest of the day was spent together in our air conditioned house, watching movies and playing. That was probably one of our favorite days due to its relaxed nature, and I was so glad I had left it open! When both parents work, weekends are often spent catching up on housework and errands, so really relaxing was a treat.
Wednesday was a pool day. It was too hot to be outside in the late afternoon, so we would swim most days from 10am to noon before it became unbearable. If we didn’t have a pool in our neighborhood, we would have gone to the Oak Ridge Outdoor Pool. Constructed in 1944 by the Corps of Engineers, the pool is spring-fed and one of the largest in the nation! The pool has plenty of different areas to it and excellent lifeguard supervision. Our afternoon Wednesday was spent sorting through and washing baby clothes. Exciting, I know! Actually, we all enjoyed seeing those sweet baby items and telling our son memories associated with his little outfits that little brother will soon wear.
We did the pool again Thursday morning (kind of like how we started most days on the beach last summer vacation) and that afternoon we went back to Jackson Square for a treat: Razzleberry’s ice cream. Razzleberry’s also serves authentic Polish food, but that day we were there for the ice cream. The shop is decorated in pig décor and even has a pink pig van for deliveries. Afterwards, we walked around Jackson Square and read the historical marker, trying to imagine what it was like in 1944!
Friday ended up being another relaxation day, with family members coming over. We went back to the pool and cooked a big meal at home, then relaxed and watched a movie that evening after going for a walk.
Saturday was a big day for Oak Ridge thanks to the Lavender Festival! Thousands of visitors come every year to Jackson Square for lavender and tons of booths featuring local craft vendors and food options. We also went to the Oak Ridge Farmer’s Market for some fresh summer favorites.
The weekend following our staycation was spent celebrating Father’s Day, which was a nice ending to a great week. Even though we didn’t fill it with quite as many activities as I had planned due to the heat, we came out of it refreshed and wishing for more time together (something you don’t always wish for after a family vacation and hours in the car together, ha!).
Here’s a list of some other restaurants and activities I had on my list which we’ll probably still do before summer is up!
- Jefferson Soda Fountain has been in business since 1944! It’s also a diner for breakfast and lunch.
- American Museum of Science and Energy has tons of fun, interactive science exhibits for the family.
- Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge has a rainforest, trains, space, and more!
- Melton Hill Lake Adventure Outdoors in addition to miles of walking/biking trails by the water, you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, and bikes