The Ultimate Day Trip Town

Fire claims another building in Titusville. Taken in early 2018.

You may be questioning why a piece titled The Ultimate Day Trip Town starts off with an image of a building on fire. Every idea starts with a story and the story behind this idea involves fire and some other things. Bear with me.

When we moved to Titusville in June 2015 the town was still recovering from the Town Square fire that devastated one of the most central buildings in town. In 2018 fire struck once again with back to back fires happening in early January and then February. There were other fires to homes in the area through the years. To a new resident like me it felt like the entire town was burning at an alarming rate.

Town Square is now back, and pictures of the aftermath and rebuild show a beautiful space that is moving forward. Despite the other fires and other not so great things (like a bunch of businesses closing right around the same time) that happened along the way, Titusville kept on going. Titusville embarked upon a quest to rebuild itself, a project that continues to this day. The citizens of this very neat little town did not give up. Sure we were all down and have bouts where we feel overwhelmed by everything, but the neat thing about humans beings overall is that they keep on trying. Titusville is no different. There are people here that care very much. Titusville will continue on, with many more ups and downs along the way to come over the years. This can be said of every small town that exists as well. There are good moments and there are bad moments. The important thing is that we all keep on trying to achieve great things.

All of the fires and the businesses closing got me down a bit, but then that Justin thing where my brain starts firing on all cylinders trying to come up with a solution happened. It’s a common occurrence in my life to try to fix every problem that comes across my brain and this website has been used as a tool to communicate those ideas. Thanks for reading all this time, both with the ideas that have some merit and the others that are half baked and really never go anywhere.

The idea is simple: we small town folk often make the trek to the big city every once in awhile to enjoy some good food, some culture, and more. What’s the flip side of that scenario? It’s a picture where big city folk every once in awhile leave behind their fast paced lives to slow down, enjoy some unique one of a kind shops, take in some small town art & culture, eat some small town food, and visit a small town for a day.

Every small town in America should aim to become the Ultimate Day Trip Town, a place that encourages people from all around the area to stop what they’re doing in their homes, get into their cars, and make a trip to a different part of their world for a few hours. Our small towns in America are a great untapped resource in this country. These small towns are threaded together by a patchwork of interesting and odd people with some very neat ideas, some very cool shops and eateries, and a vibe that is both laid back and intense at the same time. Folks in small towns these days talk a lot about how they feel left behind with the changing world. They also talk about how there’s a stereotype that people have about small towns and their residents that is one where everyone and everything is a bit backwards. After having lived in both big cities and small towns over the past 6 years I can say from experience that we’re more similar than you can ever imagine. Every sized place has both forward thinking people, negative people, backwards people, great shops, and more. We’re actually all on the same page.

The thing that’s neat about small towns and what makes them perfect for a day trip is that you can visit, get the overall vibe of a place, enjoy an entire day, stimulate their local economy, and then go home. Small towns are meant to be taken in and digested by out of towners in just a few hours. Park your car, walk around, have lunch, and then walk around some more. You will leave with your mind feeling less heavy and a sense that you just visited something magical. A quick day trip to a small towns will make you feel like you are part of a community. You’ll go back to wherever you are from and do what you can to recreate that feeling. It’s a feeling we need more of in this world.

Stonehouse Jack in Titusville, PA. This beautiful building was damaged in the 2015 Town Square fire but has now been restored and is a thriving local shop with lots of cool furniture, antiques, and other great oddities.

I think that the key thing that would bring people to small towns in the Ultimate Day Trip Town idea would be that the small town would have to have some great shops and restaurants. The town wouldn’t have to have a plethora of things. Just a few nice shops that sold unique, one a kind gifts and treasures that you could claim as your own while you were on your day trip. Titusville is really lucky to have a place like this. Stonehouse Jack is our place like this in Titusville. Owned and operated by Ross Ruot and Matt Huber, this cool little shop offers one of a kind items and furniture that will for sure catch your eye. If you see something you like, you better grab it that day because it may be gone the next and it will most likely never be coming back. Titusville also has The Blue Canoe, a local brewery and restaurant that is one of those places you’ll find nicely tucked away in a small town. It’s filled with a cast of characters straight out of a small town that will make you feel like you’re a resident while you are there. This is all part of that Ultimate Day Trip experience that small towns should push.

Please note: My wife Haley works at Stonehouse Jack as their weekend store clerk. I would be endorsing their store as a very cool place to go even if she did not work there.

Now I know all of this is easier said than done. I don’t know how to pull this idea off here in Titusville let alone in every other dying small town in America. All that I know is that this idea is something that I keep coming back to in my mind. If this idea had enough support and effort from both community members and politicians that it could be pulled off. Programs & incentives need to be created to push small towns to start thinking about a future where they present themselves as the Ultimate Day Trip town. Community members in these small towns need to start embracing these out of town day trip guests and treating them with the utmost respect, kindness, and love. We small town living folks need to open up our arms for a big hug that is given to these out of towners. They are the people that will visit us and help us thrive for many years to come.

When our small towns in America begin to embrace their future as unique, creative hubs that offer special experiences to everyone, we can all move forward in a positive way.

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