By Robyn Wolcott

It is only February, and I already need a break as the New Year is just getting started. Maybe it is the segue from the holiday chaos into too much on my plate at work, but I find myself zoning out in front of the TV at night, barely making it to the gym despite my usual routine. If you’re feeling the same way, there’s no better reason than to celebrate this month that focuses on love to remind you to care for yourself.

I already have a couple of trips planned but I need something now, so it’s time for a little staycation. Have you ever explored your hometown like a tourist would? I’m sure you’ve thought about it when you had friends visiting from out of town, but it’s a fun concept if you tackle it like a true tourist would. And so I did. I turned to my favorite vacation-planning website, TripAdvisor, to see what the heck to do in Madison, CT.

Maybe if I approached this staycation like any other vacation, I could truly make the best of it. The top 15 things to do, at quick glimpse, reassured me that this was a great idea – this would be just the relaxing break I needed. Here are TripAdvisor’s top 5, and my plan:

1. Hammonasset Beach State park – With studies focusing on how just walking through nature can put us in a relaxed state, this walk along the water is a win whether you take 10 minutes or several hours. I think I’ll start with about 30 minutes. (My friends are telling me to watch for the seals at this time of year, too!)

2. RJ Julia Booksellers – One review notes that it’s “A gem of a bookstore!” Having been here hundreds of times, I can’t wait to peruse the shelves for something that will let my mind go somewhere new. Not to mention, I can check out the gifts they have, restock my “just in case” greeting card stash, and have lunch or a nice cup of coffee at the same time. Of course, with a plethora of dining options across Madison, there’s nothing lacking regardless of your mood.

3. Meigs Point Nature Center – Only closed on Mondays, this will be a great time to learn about the nature around us and act like a tourist. (I would just bump this up, schedule-wise, above #2 since it’s within Hammonasset Park!)

4. Madison Art Cinema – Yup. A nice little break to catch an indie film in a vintage-feeling theater sounds good. (Plus I’m a sucker for movie theater popcorn.)

5. The Shoreline Greenway Trail – You have to stretch your legs after a flick! I think I’ll grab the trail just past the center and stroll by the marsh before figuring out where I’ll settle in tonight to read my new book.

As I review the rest of the list, it certainly does lend itself to more relaxation ideas – massage, yoga, a local farm, church, and the library, plus some great local downtown shops. I’ll have to put those on my list for the other days of this staycation, make some spa appointments, some dinner reservations, and maintain full relaxation as long as possible. Feel like splurging and really “getting away?” Maybe even a nice overnight date with someone special? Search for lodging and look at some of the great options at local hotels, b&b’s, and more!

Robyn Wolcott is a local newspaper, magazine, and website Publisher as well as a freelance writer. She seeks to explore all that the shoreline has to offer by land or by sea and to offer opportunities to others seeking the same.