We have a standing tradition to visit friends in another city every spring. The last few years have been rather strained. They have not planned any outings or activities, and when we suggest something they are usually opposed. We have been friends since childhood, but these visits are making it hard to maintain the friendship. We don't expect them to treat us--in fact, we would like to take them out since they are putting us up at their place, but any restaurant we suggest is "no dice." Ditto movies, museums, and other ideas.
We end up bored out of our minds for 48 hours, resentful that we've spent the money and energy to make the trip, and exhausted upon our return home from the strain of it all. I'm starting to dread spring.
Given the description of the previous years, I can't imagine why you'd sign up again, but I understand that these long standing obligations can be complicated. That said, you are certainly well within your rights (and Graciousness) to back out this year. You don't have to be completely honest; avoid telling them that your last visit felt like the longest weekend of your life, longer even than the one during which you contracted food poisoning from bad oysters and suffered the consequences for two full days, even if it is absolutely true.
Little white lies are important tools in these awkward situations. Simply say, "we aren't going to be able to make the trip this year." If you must elaborate, plead pressures of work, overbooked weekends, family obligations, or nothing at all.
If you want to give it another shot, my first suggestion is to do some advance research on the goings on in your friends' town. Well in advance of your scheduled visit, like now, contact your hosts and say, "One of our fave bands has a show at a venue near your house! We have been dying to see them live for ages. We would love to get four tickets and take everyone as our treat. What do you think?" If they decline, say, "Well, Grace and I really want to go; we are going to get tix to the show and we'll treat you to dinner before/drinks afterward. This band hasn't played in our town in years and we really want to hear them."
If you know they are not music buffs, choose something that might interest them more--a golf course that you are eager to try, an art exhibit that is on display a a local gallery, a hiking trail that you read about, competitive eating tournament, or slug race. Pitch it strong.
If they are truly homebodies, or perhaps finances are a concern, suggest something that is more in their budget/comfort zone but still fun for you. "We just love Indian food and I read there is a good take out near your house. How 'bout we order some curry and watch 'Slumdog Millionaire'?" Or, "I have a great new recipe for mac and cheese. I'd love to make a batch for dinner on Saturday night and play Scrabble. How does that sound to you?"
If you meet with utter opposition to any and all ideas, you may want to rethink this annual pilgrimage.