Stray from the well-worn tourist path and discover the deep cultures of individual cities with the emerging trend of experiential tours.
There’s no cookie-cutter package for tourism, with consumers striving to “travel better” and seek out cities rich in culture and history instead of the typical beach or lakeside destination. Experiential tours allow visitors to dive into a city or region’s history, people and culture, giving them the ultimate vacation experience. This aim for bigger and better experiences is prominent across the nation, especially in the Western region.
When visiting California, tourists are intrigued by the Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour. The tour lasts six hours and consists of riding through the city on a coach bus to see the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and other popular sites and then catching a ferry to the Alcatraz Island. The island contains a former penitentiary that was home to notorious criminals such as Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone. This self-guided audio tour allows visitors to hear real-life commentaries from former staff and inmates. Tickets are likely to sell out weeks in advance because tourists are so fascinated by the eerie island – some even compare it to Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie Shutter Island. The tour is $91 per person, and reviews reinforce how well-worth this tour is.
For a more extensive tour, New Mexico facilitates Journeys into American Indian Territory tours. These tours are tailored for children grades K-12 with an overall mission of connecting visitors and Native Americans. Through interaction with natives, teacher training and hands-on activities, our younger generations are becoming more knowledgeable and perceptive of the American Indian culture. These tours last two to 12 days and cost anywhere between $285-$1,595 (depending on preference in program length). Over 400,000 lives have been enriched by American Indian culture thanks to these tours.
Tours4fun offers a best-in-the-West six-day Yellowstone, West Grand Canyon and Las Vegas Tour for $508 per person. Each day, guests will see a variety of attractions with their tour group. For example, they’ll explore Yellowstone and see Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. After another day exploring west Yellowstone, guests will venture over to the Grand Teton National Park to see more exquisite mountain views. Tourists then head to Salt Lake City on day four to check out the buildings and landscape of this culture.
Guests will arrive in Las Vegas that night, so in the morning of day five they can head down to the Hoover Dam bordering Nevada and Arizona. Guests can either visit the man-made “Skywalk” or undergo a helicopter tour to fly over the entire canyon. On day six, the tour ends in Los Angeles, where guests can visit the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden at no charge. Each day, travelers will immerse themselves in the culture and history of a different region. Instead of coming to the west to experience one of two of these attractions, why not check them all off your bucket list in a one-week excursion?
Las Vegas is a hotspot for tourists, with a variety of activities and excursions beyond the casinos and Caesar’s Palace. For a nice cultural break from the wild parties and nightlife, vacationers have raved over the Historical Tour of the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, just 40 minutes south of Vegas. This three-hour walking tour includes a visit to the ghost town and pioneer saloon that has been featured in classic western movies and television shows. Tourists love hearing stories about the mavericks and movie stars that had kept the town so lively. In fact, this ghost town in Goodsprings used to outshine Las Vegas with its once lively bars and mercantile stores. The tour starts at $198.99 per person, and the reviews never fall short of five stars.
The Rocky Mountain Range is one of the highest elevated national parks in the country; hikers and adventurers flock to this area to enjoy the magnificent views in Denver, Colorado. A fully-narrated day trip tour through the mountains costs $125 per person, and visitors will cross the continental divide, stroll through the popular ski resort town of Winter Park and pause for amazing photo ops all along the way. Tour guides will explain Colorado’s cultural and geological history as they drive guests through the magnificent landscape.
For a more unfamiliar experience, tourists can travel a few hours south of this mountain range to discover the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Travelers can witness 34-million-year-old fossils, plants and animals that have been miraculously preserved between layers of shale. The Rocky Mountain Range has approximately 4,517,585 visits while the Florissant Fossil Beds only have around 73,564 visits. If people wish to experience a lesser-known national park to ensure authenticity and personalization, guests should take a visit to the Fossil Beds homepage for more information and to look for free admission days.
Mesa Verde is a national park in southwest Colorado that contains cliff dwellings from the Ancestral Puebloans from the late 1190s. These aren’t just caves, but rather intricate villages that are still in place today due to the protection of its overhanging cliffs. Both self-guided walking tours and ranger-led tours are offered through the Mesa Verde website. For example, a tour for a ranger-guided excursion covering Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House (three of the most-visited cliff sites) are on sale for $20 per person. Visitors are blown away by the culture and history of these magnificent ancient villages still standing today.
Seattle, Washington has become the fastest-growing major city in the U.S. and is a hotspot for those looking to move or travel. Some of the most popular sights in Seattle include Snoqualmie Falls and Mt. Rainier. For those looking to dive a bit deeper into the culture of Seattle, guests and locals can undergo the Subterranean Seattle Walking History Tour, where participants discover Pioneer Square (The Emerald City’s original neighborhood) and learn about the history and events that have led to this city’s success. Tour guides limit groups to 22 people to ensure the best experience and will tell stories of the Klondike Gold Rush and the history of the indigenous people who once settled here. The tour only costs $19 per person, which is perfect for families or groups who were unaware of this experience and want to hop on board.
To escape homogenized experiences, travelers are seeking out experiential tours for a diverse experience. Increased popularity in adventure tourism has created “moments of relevance and authenticity in unexpected places.” It is imperative to continue providing travelers with these transformative experiences in order for them to connect with the culture surrounding them.