Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Looking for a Different Guided Tour? 10 Unique Ways to Experience a Destination

While many travelers like to experience cities and towns on their own and in their own time without a guide, there many others who prefer to take guided tours. Guided tours can eliminate the worry and hassle of traveling to a new place and ensure that you experience as much as possible during a set time frame. However, just because they are prearranged doesn’t mean these guided tours should be considered mundane. Many tour operators offer unique and fun ways to explore a destination.

Whether you’re looking for something more active and adventurous, or longing for something more laid-back and relaxed, here are 10 unique, fun and surprisingly inexpensive sightseeing tours to consider:

Bicycle—Do you ride a bike ... everywhere? Do you wish you could pack your bicycle to take on a trip? Then a bike tour is for you! You can experience everything from cities to the countryside, mountains to deserts, and all the trails and roads in between while pedaling through the fresh air. Unusual Tours, for instance, will take you on a custom bike tour through the Wallowa Mountains Loop in Oregon, complete with rafting along the Snake River and visits to art galleries.

—Is taking a leisurely stroll through a city’s history and culture more your speed? Many cities and towns offer walking tours that take you through specific neighborhoods, to iconic locations, or along historic routes. For photography enthusiasts, Shutter Tours offers specialized walking tours of Seattle led by photographers, allowing participants to snap photos of their favorite Seattle landmarks.

Segway—You may have seen schools of Segways meandering their way through places like New York and Washington, D.C. Even Heritage Travel Inc. CEO John Williams experienced the sites of Washington on a Segway. Segway tours are great for those who want a unique outdoor sightseeing tour or a quick way to get an overview of the sights without hours of walking.

The nation’s capital in particular has some excellent Segway tours that include stops at many of the District’s most famous monuments and museums. Capital Segway, for instance, visits many of the capital's famous landmarks including the White House, the Washington Monument, the Canadian Embassy and the U.S. Capitol Building.

Helicopter—Have you ever wanted to experience a special destination from up high? Why not take a helicopter tour? Get a bird’s-eye view of your favorite city, town or site and get more of a "big-picture" feel for surrounding areas. For instance, the Holland Inn and Suites in Taft, California, offers historic helicopter tours of the town of Taft, Carrizo Plain National Monument and more.

Hot-Air Balloon—Like helicopter tours, hot-air balloon tours provide that bird’s-eye view of a site or destination but at a slower pace and with a lot less noise. Riding in a balloon is described as a more serene, peaceful experience than any other forms of flight. It is also a wonderful way to get closer to nature, as Wine Country Balloons in Sonoma County, California, aims to do with their Nature Walk in the Sky.

Canal Boat
—What could be more relaxing (and enriching) than lazily floating along a historic canal while learning more about what life was like along that canal in the past? Historic Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Great Falls National Park offer canal boat tours along the C&O (Chesapeake & Ohio) Canal. Be sure to arrive early, because seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

River Cruise—Many major cities along rivers—New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago—have tours providing a perspective of the city’s history from the water. Do you have a special interest in something particular like architecture? A river cruise tour in Chicago offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation shines a spotlight on the architectural gems along the Chicago River.

—To experience the rugged beauty of the high desert and mountainous regions of the American West, consider a sightseeing tour via Jeep. Companies offering Jeep tours, such as A Day in the West in Sedona, Arizona, have specially equipped vehicles to better negotiate rocky terrains, allowing a more up-close view of an area’s mountains and canyons.

Car—Touring by car can be great... but not just any car. How about a tour of Paris in a classic Citroen 2CV? These cars are an icon of Paris, and many companies now offer a variety of tours of the City of Lights via these zippy little automobiles. To learn more about these unique tours visit Viatour.

—Did you ever watch Roman Holiday and long to experience Rome the way Audrey Hepburn did... on a scooter? Now you can zip around the ancient strade and piazze of Rome on a classic Vespa. A word of caution: drivers in Rome are notoriously aggressive, so while a Vespa tour may sound like fun, it is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

What is the most unique sightseeing tour you have been on? Post a comment below!


Kari Rippetoe is the Marketing Manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Photo Credits:
Canal Boat, Washington, D.C., courtesy of the National Park Service
Flickr, "Bicycle City Sightseeing in Madrid!", by sindandune
Segway photo courtesy of Capital Segway
Flickr, "Landed", by Roxie S
Flickr, "Chicago Architectural Foundation River Cruise", by caribbeanfreephoto
Flickr, "2CV Tour Group", by scotrail

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