As an organizer of group travel, you want your fellow travelers to have a rich and memorable experience. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by integrating art—both man-made and natural—into the tour experience. Art and travel go hand-in-hand: it’s about connecting more deeply with a place, with yourself, and unlocking your own creative side and seeing the world through new eyes. Here are some ways you might weave art into your next travel experience.

Engage More Creatively at Museums

Here’s a surprising fact: according to American Alliance of Museums, American museums receive 850 million visitors each year. That’s more than people attending all major league sporting events and theme parks combined.

So, if you don’t have a museum on your itinerary, you might consider adding one. And yet, it’s easy for a museum stop to become a passive visit, without really engaging or inspiring the travelers. Larger museums can feel overwhelming, especially when you don’t have a lot of time.

And if your itinerary doesn’t have a museum visit included, look into potential opportunities for offering a visit to one during guests’ free time. There are often regional or specialty museums even in the smallest of towns (one of my quirky favorite ones is the Littleton History Museum in Littleton, New Hampshire—population 5,000).

You as the group leader can inspire your guests to have a more enriching time that bonds the group, just by creating an activity around the visit. Some ideas for engaging your group might be:

  • Have everyone take a photo of one work of art that struck them, and after coming back together, have them say why.
  • Buy some pencils and paper, and have your fellow travelers take a moment in an art gallery and sketch a work of art. Spending more time with a single work of art increasing the meaning and depth of the experience.
  • Do some of your own research into an artist’s past and the meaning of a single painting and hold a mini art history lesson before the guests’ visit; this will prime travelers to seek out a deeper level of information & engagement.
  • Time your visit with free docent-led tours. Many museums offer free tours, and hearing from the experts or passionate volunteers always makes a place come alive.

Explore a City Through Art using Photo Contests and More

Cities are frenetic, exuberant places filled with life teeming out onto the streets. There’s creativity and art everywhere you look. Not just in museums, but in the fashion you see, the street art, food and of course the diverse architecture. Exploring a city is a great chance for guests to get “artistic” by engaging with what they see beyond snapping a photo or dodging taxi cabs as they cross the street. Some artistic ways to engage with the city include:

  • Explore neighborhoods with street art. Most major cities across the globe have street artists using the walls of buildings as a canvas for some exceptional work. Some cities even have tour operators leading street art tours. You can use some of the engagement techniques above to also engage with street art.
  • Do a Color Walk. This idea comes from Beat generation author William S. Burroughs. The idea is simple: pick a color in advance, and as you walk, only look for that color. It transforms a mindless, passive stroll into something intentional, helping you notice the unexpected parts of a cityscape you might otherwise never see. Have guests report back on something unexpected they saw or have them take photos of each unexpected splash of color.
  • Hold a Photo Contest. Photography is another passive activity that can transform the way we see the world. Usually, a traveler pulls out their smartphone, snaps an eye-level pic, and moves on. It’s such a forgettable image. Make travelers more intentional by having them find new angles, use contrast and surprising foreground or background items to take a truly artistic image. Holding a contest for the best photo gives the traveler something to work for!

Engaging with Nature through Art

You’re entering a forest walk. A hike through a National Park. The artistic beauty of these environments is of a different nature than an art museum—it’s all around. If your guests are lucky enough to have time in the itinerary to enter a natural landscape, you can engage with an artistic, creative mindset in the space. Some ideas include:

  • Make “land art.” This is a concept in which you use found materials in an outdoor setting and bring them together to create a work of art out of the items. It might be stones, leaves, twigs, or anything else in the environment, as long as it’s appropriate for you to remove the items. One fun activity is making a souvenir from a pressed leaf, using wax paper and the iron in your hotel room to make it last.
  • Create intentional themes around the time outdoors. Engaging with the natural beauty of a landscape sometimes requires
  • Invoke all the senses. The more full-bodied an experience is, the more we’ll remember it. Before you enter the natural setting, play some soft music to get guests into a more contemplative mood. Ask them to smell everything they walk through, or touch and feel the materials: tree bark, hard stone, or the cool fresh water. Have them look closely at leaf patterns, or try to find as many variations of bird. If appropriate, have them take off their shoes and feel the green grass below their feet, it’s invigorating. The more you can direct your travelers’ attention and senses, the richer the experience will be.

Art provides a powerful medium to engage travelers on a deeper level. Whether in museums, on city streets, or deep in nature, these interactive experiences can be some of the best memories from a trip.

Mitch Bach is the co-founder of TripSchool, a learning organization that helps tour guides and other travel professionals grow their skills and pursue their travel career dreams. He is also a principle at Tourpreneur, a company that helps operators flatten the learning curve and increase profits in a supportive community.

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