Staycation Ideas: Activities for Creating an Urban Vacation at Home

Urban vacations are exciting, in part because you’re always on the go. Museums in the morning, skyscraper-hopping in the afternoon, flitting from landmark to landmark all the while. Urban “staycations,” however, let you visit New York City without pounding the pavement and the Windy City without actual wind. Use this guide of at-home activities to put you in city-slicker mode, no matter where your home base is. Who knows — you might be able to leave your heart in San Francisco, which means that eventually you’ll have to go back in person to pick it up.

Soak in Some Culture at Home

Take a virtual tour: Enjoy the breathtaking sights and sounds of world-famous zoos and museums from home. All-day animal cams like ones from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., get you up close and personal with exotic animals such as giant panda, seen only in select U.S. destinations like D.C., Atlanta and San Diego. Meanwhile, online museum exhibits bring renowned art to your living room. Take your pick of world-class museums like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Los Angeles’ J. Paul Getty Museum with Google’s collection of online tours. If you want to virtually check out an area’s landmarks, streets and parks, a quick search yields treasures like a 360-degree tour of Austin’s Zilker Botanical Garden in the Texas capital and a journey through Central Park in New York City. 

Get a taste of your favorite city: Turn your kitchen into a buzzing cultural center with city-themed family cooking nights. Whip up some St. Louis-style barbecue ribs, chow down on New Orleans po’boys and settle the debate between New York and Chicago pizza styles with a thin-crust versus deep-dish showdown. Need help with preparation? Take advantage of this collection of city-themed recipes.

Play fashionista: Tap into sophisticated urban style by creating a fashion show at home. Each member of the family can play a role: Parents can become the “fashion designers” and put together colorful costumes using clothes around the house (the wilder the better!). Pick a few distinct themes — sports, holidays, time periods — and go from there. Teens can craft the show’s script, which can include a written introduction and the order in which the outfits will be revealed. Then, the young ones can show off their cool new outfits as they stroll down a makeshift runway — like the longest hallway in your house — with music from a favorite playlist accompanying them.

Listen to sounds of birds chirping and water falling from Bethesda Fountain — one of the largest in New York — as you take a virtual tour of Central Park.

Create the Entertainment

Catch a Broadway musical: Most major musicals have a movie version, and many musicals are available to stream, so it’s easy to have a theatrical experience at home. Set this apart from any old movie night by building a sense of anticipation like you would at the theater. Announce the time of the show the day before the big event, make homemade billboards and posters to advertise the show, tear homemade tickets as you find your seats, dim the lights at showtime and burst into applause the first time the leading lady comes on screen. Nobody will stop you from taking candy into the “theater,” either.

Host a family talent show: One of the joys of urban life is stumbling across street performers — the violinists, drummers, singers, jugglers and dancers who bring art to the masses. Now their task falls to you: Set up a talent show where each member of your family gets to show off a unique skill. To make it “official,” encourage everyone to dress up for the occasion and create a playbill that lists the performers. Remember to keep space on the back page for autographs. Who knows, you might get lucky and meet the performers!

Get silly: Who says you have to actually visit a city before you tell everyone what you thought about it? Fill-in-the-blank activity sheets like Trav-Libs aren’t supposed to be taken too seriously, so they’re perfect for writing up your “vacation notes.” You’ll have a [adjective] time filling them out as a group.

Transform movie night into a trip to your very own at-home theater by streaming Tony Award-winning shows that have been performed from the Lincoln Center Theater in New York to Wyndham’s Theatre in London.

Develop a Virtual Vacation Experience

Do some urban planning: Turn your home into an urban hub by creating a “map” of the city’s hot spots. Assign an attraction or theme to each part of your home — the kitchen becomes Times Square or Pike Place Market, the kids’ bedrooms become “uptown” and “downtown,” the hallways become Fifth Avenue or the Magnificent Mile. Make “museum row” wherever you’re hanging the works of art being created during your staycation.

Be your own tour guide: Vacation is a state of mind — one you can channel in your own town. Go for a walk and challenge the family to see your neighborhood through a visitor’s eyes: What’s the dominant architecture style? What kind of trees and plants line the streets? Take it to the next level by creating a scavenger hunt for common neighborhood items such as chalk drawings, lapsed holiday decorations, garden gnomes and a neighbor spotted through a window. If you’d rather not create your own list, find one online, such as a teddy bear hunt, or play the banana game.

Host a trivia night: You don’t have to be in a city to learn its most intriguing factoids. Have the most research-savvy person in the family search for trivia about your city of choice, then play for bragging rights. Up the stakes by bringing in friends and family via video call. A few prompts to get the fact-finding juices flowing: famous residents born in this city, year of incorporation or founding, design of the official city flag and any odd local traditions.

Take a walk to explore your neighborhood through a traveler’s eyes. Along the way, identify what you’ve never noticed before, whether it’s a secret garden or an interesting gazebo.



We’d love to see your creative staycation! Tag @alamorentacar on Instagram using the hashtag #StaycationCreation for a chance to be featured on our channels.


Vacation Stories

More Staycation Ideas

Staycation Ideas: Turn Your Home into a Beach Vacation

Dreaming of a beach vacation during quarantine? Check out Alamo’s beach-themed staycation ideas and start creating a memorable family vacation at home.

Staycation Ideas: Activities for an Outdoor Adventure at Home

Cure cabin fever with an outdoor adventure! Use these outdoor staycation ideas to plan the ultimate virtual vacation, complete with at-home camping, a family cookout and more!

About the Author

Michael Hickey is a New York City-based writer who has been writing about the world of travel since 2017. When he’s not spending time with family and friends, you can find him at home cheering way too loudly for the Yankees and Knicks.