Toronto

10 Unique City Tours Around the World

Posted May 5, 2014 by SmarterTravel.com

(Photo: Magic Bus)

See a completely different side of a city when you break away from the mob of tourists following the guide with the red umbrella. On these 10 unique city tours, you'll venture into the Bronx with an old-school rapper, see abandoned buildings in Portugal's second city, and go longboarding through Amsterdam's most famous park. You're sure to come home with a camera full of authentic experiences that most visitors miss.

 

(Photo: Bats Over Congress Avenue Bridge via Shutterstock)

Never Unpack Your Travel Items

Crowds gather from March through October on the Congress Avenue Bridge to see a natural spectacle that has earned the resident bat colony celebrity status in Austin. Each night at dusk, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from beneath the bridge, swirling like a black ribbon into the sky. For a unique perspective on the mass exodus, watch it from the water on a Congress Avenue Kayaks bat tour. With a small group of 10, you'll paddle under the bridge in sit-on-top kayaks. After encountering the bats, you can venture out on your own to see other sights on the water.

Details: The 90-minute kayak bat tour departs at sunset in season and is $30 for a two-person kayak.

Insider Tip: You can also watch the bats from the Four Seasons Hotel Austin's lobby lounge, which serves a "Batini" cocktail. Plan an August visit to coincide with the city's annual bat festival.

 

(Photo: Magic Bus San Francisco Tour)

1960s Summer of Love Tour, San Francisco, California

It's all peace, love, and bubble-spewing on this psychedelic hippie bus that takes you on a trip back to San Francisco's 1960s counterculture. The Magic Bus Tour stops at landmarks of the city's hippie movement; you can even join in a drum circle (this time without the purple haze). On the bus, a groovy guide/actor will share interesting stories and rock out with you to the music of the era. It's a multimedia adventure that evokes the decade's politics and attitudes through live action and video projections on the bus's retractable window screens. The tour hits Chinatown and the North Beach spot where Jack Kerouac hung out. You'll see Golden Gate Park and the crossroads of Haight and Ashbury streets, home of the Summer of Love, in a whole new light.

Details: The two-hour tour is $55 and starts at Union Square.

Insider Tip: Bring a jacket or sweater. It can be chilly at Golden Gate Park even if it's warm downtown at the tour's start.

 

(Photo: Rob Moody)

Downtown Yoga Tour, Asheville, North Carolina

Take your downward dog downtown in Asheville, North Carolina. On this Travelling Yogini Tour, you'll strike a pose and connect with your breath in several of the city's iconic spots. A yoga guide will start with beginner-level stretches and, as you move from Pritchard Park to the Flat Iron Building to the artsy Chicken Alley district, the poses will become more challenging. By the time you finish with a cooldown and meditation, you'll have heard about Asheville's history and architecture. Between flowing in and out of poses, you'll meet street performers, artists, and others who are out exploring the city.

Details: The 90-minute downtown tour is $20.

Insider Tip: Along the way, the yoga guide will point out funky boutiques and specialty shops, giving you interesting tidbits on the history and products so you can plan your apres-yoga shopping route.

 

(Photo: Berlinagenten)

Urban Home-Visit Tour, Berlin, Germany

Want an invitation to sit in a Berliner's flat and chat over coffee or beer? The Urban Living Tour, the ultimate insider's tour, will introduce you to three different Berliners in three different neighborhoods. You'll get to go inside their homes and spend an hour visiting and checking out their decor. The hosts you'll meet will depend on who is in town on the day you're visiting. It could be a set designer in an underground courtyard apartment or a photographer with an uber-luxe pad on a main thoroughfare built in the Stalin era. While you snoop around and see how they live, you'll hear about what drew them to the city and what they love about it.

Details: The 4.5-hour tour includes visits to three private apartments, drinks and sweets, sightseeing between the visits, transport, and a private guide. Prices vary based on how many people are taking the tour; see website for details.

Insider Tip: Keep an open mind and come with questions.

 

(Photo: Dominic Stevenson)

City Tour Led by Homeless Guide, London, England

See London through the eyes of someone who lives on the city's streets. Unseen Tours hires and professionally trains homeless and formerly homeless people to lead its walking tours of London Bridge, Camden, Shoreditch, and Convent Garden. See the stark contrast between historical landmarks and sites where the guides have slept, hear riveting personal stories, and discover tucked-away places few others ever experience. The tour ends at either a pub or a cafe, so you can carry on with your guide or group in a discussion that ebbs between the politics of street begging and the effects of gentrification on the East End.

Details: The tour runs $9 to $14 per hour and usually lasts about 90 minutes.

Insider Tip: On each tour, the company reserves two free spots for those who are either unable to pay or are accompanying someone as a caregiver. Wondering how much of the ticket sales goes back to the guide? About 80 percent. Unseen Tours was the winner for best tour operator for local experiences in the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2011.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

'Worst' Walking Tour, Porto, Portugal

This tour in Portugal's second-largest city is the antithesis of a tourist trap. Avoiding all of Porto's polished postcard-perfect sites, it takes visitors past decrepit homes and crumbling shops. Started by three out-of-work architects who stuck around after the country was hit hard by the recession, The Worst Tours will show you the not-for-tourists sites and guides will tell stories about the old markets and abandoned buildings, helping you understand what's behind Europe's economic crisis. Learn about Porto's architecture, history, politics, and urbanism from a few people who are "OK with not being popular or cool or the best in anything, least of all touring."

Details: Tours are two to three hours and are free.

Insider Tip: Let your guide know which parts of the city you've already visited and what your interests are, and he or she will create a route that shows you things you haven't seen.

 

(Photo: Urban Adventures)

Gwana Music Tour, Essaouira, Morocco

New this spring, the Gnawa Music Experience tour gives you a unique encounter with one of Morocco's off-the-charts popular trends: trance-like Gnawa music and its acrobatic dance moves. You'll be introduced to the addictive music's Afro-Moroccan culture and customs in the medina, where musicians will be jamming. Then, you'll step inside hidden domains typically inaccessible to visitors: You'll go into the home of a dancer to see him perform, watch a troupe master play a traditional lute-like instrument in his private quarters, and visit a temple where sacred rituals drive out evil spirits.

Details: The evening tour costs around $100 and lasts two to three hours.

Insider Tip: Both men and women should dress with respect, covering everything from the shoulders to the knees. At the end of the tour, your guide can recommend places to go dancing where you'll hear Gnawa music fused with Western and Latin music.

 

(Photo: TripAdvisor LLC)

Hip-Hop Tour, New York, New York

With a legendary hip-hop artist as your guide, Hush Tours will give you a truly entertaining experience in the Bronx and Harlem, the birthplace of the culture. Here, people on the street might recognize and give shout-outs to the Hush Tours guides—Grandmaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, and others—as they delve into four aspects of hip-hop culture: DJing, MCing, B-boy and B-girl dancing, and graffiti artistry. You'll see the important landmarks and check out where Biggie, Nas, and Jay-Z grew up on this fun tour.

Details: Tours range from two hours ($32) to four hours ($75).

Insider Tip: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. At one point on the tour, you'll learn hip-hop moves and try them out on the streets.

 

(Photo: LiveToronto)

Date-Night City Tour with a Photographer, Toronto, Canada

Nothing against snapping a selfie with your iPhone, but on LiveToronto's Date Night Tour, you'll get enviable pics (without your arm) for posting on Facebook or printing in a photo book. Depending on your interests (sports, architecture, music, etc.), your personal paparazzo will plan a walking route to hit Toronto's key sites and set up photo ops. As you explore downtown's icons and hidden gems, your photographer guide will share interesting details about each landmark while capturing everything from classic poses to silly shots. Choose your own adventure: You can include the Harbourfront, the base of the CN Tower, Osgoode Hall, Roundhouse Park, and others.

Details: The 60-minute private tour is $100 to $200 per couple and includes 50 fully edited digital photos, which will be delivered within 24 hours.

Insider Tip: Don't surprise your significant other with this date-night tour—there are too many things to consider beforehand (including hair, nails, and a second outfit or pair of shoes for another look). The company runs tours for families and corporate groups, too.

 

(Photo: Vondelsurfing)

Longboarding Tour, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

You won't find this longboard tour through Vondelpark in your guidebook or officially operated by any local tour company. But check Vayable.com and there it is: Vondelsurfing, offered by a "semi-professional amateur" longboarder named Milan V. In the new sharing economy, websites like Vayable.com connect you with a vetted local guide. Here, Milan V. puts you on a long skateboard in the middle of Amsterdam's most popular park, hands you a rope, and pulls you behind a fixie bicycle for a couple of hours. It's a chance to see the park like a true hipster Amsterdammer, says Milan V., who has hosted beginners as well as seasoned longboarders.

Details: The two-hour tour is $24 and includes all gear, a drink, and photo/video of your ride.

Insider Tip: Vondelsurfing is fun in pairs of two, so you can switch and watch how the other is doing.

You Might Also Like:

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Truly Unique City Tours Around the World.

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

The World's Top 10 Vertigo-Inducing Attractions

Posted April 3, 2008 by Zak Patten

If you're a traveler like me, your typical vacation will include a trip up to a scenic lookout where you're likely to have the best view of the place you're visiting. And if you're a big wuss like me, as soon as you get to the most scenic vantage point, your knees will start wobbling and you'll grip the handrail with vise-like intensity/strength, thinking, "I could've gotten this view from a postcard in the lobby!" For those of you who like the idea (if not necessarily the reality) of a great view, I've put together the following list of 10 attractions, each of which is extremely nosebleed-friendly.

10. The CN Tower

The CN Tower is 553 meters tall, which is a Canadian way of saying 1,815 feet off the ground. Technically, it's the "tallest free-standing structure on land," but that just means it's not a place where people live or work. Which is just fine by me, because I have absolutely no interest in living or working anyplace higher than my third-floor bedroom or fourth-floor office. The CN Tower was completed in 1973 and is used primarily for TV and radio broadcasts, as well as tourism. Fans of 1940s music will be dismayed to learn that there is no AM antenna on the Tower.

Vertigocntowersunsetweb
Overcompensate much?

9. The Jungfraujoch Railway Station

What do you get when you cross the Swiss Alps with Europe's love of passenger trains? The Jungfraujoch railway station, which is 11,333 feet above sea level. Okay, that's not much of a joke, but the Swiss aren't known for their sense of humor (kidding!). So once you've made this hair-raising train trip to the top of the world, what can you do besides gorging on Swiss chocolate and fondue? How about checking out an Ice Palace or a ski and snowboard park that's only open in the summer?

Vertigojungfraujochwebshopped_2
om nom nom

8. Mt. Kilimanjaro

For number eight, let's take this a notch higher. It's true that Mt. Kilimanjaro makes the Alps look puny. But with a summit of 19,340 feet, Africa's tallest peak is actually accessible enough for real people to climb, sans oxygen tanks. Of course that's not to say it's an easy task, especially if you're the type who favors the escalator to the stairs.

Vertigokilimanjaroweb_2shopped
Floor 5895: Neon hiking gear and ridiculous hats

7. London Eye

Coming back a little closer to earth, the London Eye is essentially a big ol' Ferris wheel. If that doesn't wow you, consider that the 443-foot-tall ride was the tallest of its kind when it opened in 2000. If you want to make your visit more upscale, you can purchase a glass of Champagne for an additional £30. I think I'll pass on the pricey drink. I'll be happy just to hold down my lunch while in one of the pods.

Vertigolondoneyewebkittie
OH NOES!

6. Singapore Flyer

With about 100 more vertical feet than the London Eye, The Singapore Flyer took the role of world's highest Ferris wheel when it opened this month. One of the coolest things about the Flyer is its taxi-driver promotion, which currently awards all cabbies a free ride. I guess the idea is they'll be so taken with their trip that they won't be able to stop talking up the attraction to their customers. I'm assuming they're not trying to recruit the drivers to be "pod pilots." Just one warning to those who do take the Flyer: Don't write your name in your cabin. They're not big fans of graffiti in Singapore.

Singaporenightshopped4
Never Forget: Michael P. Fay

5. The Top of the Rock

The Empire State Building is great, but it's soooo 20th century. For the latest in Big Apple views, you gotta hit the Top of the Rock. The "Rock" in question is Rockefeller Center, and while its 850-foot-high observation deck doesn't reach the Empire State Building's height, , this deck affords a much better view of the ESB than you'll get when you're standing on the building itself. Oh, and our sister site TripAdvisor's users rank the Top of the Rock number one of 1,296 New York City attractions. 'Nuff said.

Vertigotopoftherockweb
Hey, is that Tina Fey? Let's not forget her either.

4. La Paz

Just about any spot in La Paz, Bolivia, the world's highest capital city, can make the most grounded person feel as if his head is in the clouds. At 11,942 feet in elevation, La Paz is an attraction in itself. If you go, make sure you're prepared for the altitude. You can take a medicine such as Diamox, or just chew some coca leaves like the locals. La Paz's Museum of the Coca Plant is the place to learn more about the coca leaf and all its interesting uses.

Cocacat
im in ur bolivia sniffin ur cokez

3. The Edge

It might be in Melbourne, Australia, but there is nothing "Down Under" about The Edge, a glass cube that juts out of the Eureka Tower, which at 975 feet is the world's tallest residential building. The worst … er, best part of it all is that The Edge doesn't just sit there like all the other observation decks. No, you get in and it physically moves outward until you're hanging out with nothing between you and a long fall but some chintzy glass panel. 

Vertigoskydecktheedgeweb_2shopped
Hello, Hello. I'm at a place called Vertigo.

2. Taipei 101

The Taipei 101 is currently the world's tallest building at a height of 1,670 feet, though the Burj Dubai is set to overtake that record when it officially opens. At that height, I'm really not interested in which one is taller, but rather how the hell I can get down safely. What I think is coolest about the 101 is not just its height, but how big it is relative to the buildings around it. It's as if former NBA big man Manute Bol decided to show up and play pickup hoops with you and your friends. Basically, the Taipei 101 doesn't care about its neighboring skyscrapers—it's going to dunk on their asses.

Vertigotaipei101webshopped
Manute enlarged to show texture.

1. Insanity, the Ride

Which brings us to number one. Yes, Insanity, the Ride, at Las Vegas' Stratosphere, is not only the most vertigo-inducing attraction in the world, it's probably the most wetting-your-pants/barfing-your-guts-out one as well. The casino-hotel stands 1,149 feet above The Strip, which is what you'll be gaping down at as you are spun at three-Gs by a "massive mechanical arm" extended 64 feet out from the building. I can barely even look at the picture below without feeling queasy.

Manutebucket
Serving suggestion, some assembly required, ManuteBucketTM not included.


  • From:
  • To:
  • Depart:
  • Return:
  • Travelers:

Hotels, Rental Cars, Cruises, and Vacations

www.bookingbuddy.com