If you're in a new destination, you may want to tour the local food and wine spots. I'm with you. There's nothing like a great vineyard or cheese expedition. But if you want to have an unforgettable experience when you're on vacation, there are some tours out there dedicated to showing you a whole other side of wherever you are visiting.
So whether you are into candy or sloths, or perhaps a walk on the wild side (or a glimpse of the not-so-undead) these are tours that will bring a whole new level to your trip, and maybe just maybe make sure you have a more interesting and unique trip than you could've expected. There are tours that take you through unseen parts of cities, the areas tourists normally do not get to see — but want to see. There are also tours that show history or the behind the scenes of your favorite past times, like photography or distilleries. And, of course, there are always boozy tours. Whatever you are interested in, there's a way to get in just a bit deeper.
Fair warning: Some of these experiences aren't for everyone, but if they are the fun you are looking for, you'll never forget them!
1. Get A Behind-The-Scenes Look On Fortaleza Tours
For an unexpected glimpse of one of Latin America’s most thriving destinations, the Westin Playa Bonita takes travelers into the heart of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Casco Viejo, for a behind-the-scenes tour led by reformed ex-gang members from the local community, many of which have been involved in gangs since grade school. As part of Panama City’s gentrification efforts, the Fortaleza Tours (group rate is $10 per person, $20 per person for individuals not with a group) empower young locals by providing them with a forum to share their personal stories, earn money to support their families and ensure that the once-dangerous area remains a zona de paz (peaceful place).
Esperanza Social Venture Club is a local nonprofit organization that educates underprivileged youth in the local community as part of the gentrification of the once crime-filled Casco Viejo. Fortaleza Tours were created by one of ESVC’s students as a means to keep the reformed ex-gang members out of trouble and provide them with a safe and legal way to feed their families.
After travelers are led through the cobblestone streets while learning about the history of one of Panama’s oldest cities, they’re treated to traditional mojitos handmade by the guides at a pop-up bar cart on a colorful side street.
2. Get Messy At The La Tomatina Festival
Things are bound to get messy on this trip to the legendary La Tomatina festival (starts at $370) in Buñol, Spain! This four-day, make-your-own-way trip is based in Valencia and will transport you to Buñol for the famous Spanish tomato-throwing festival itself. Experience the 'world’s biggest food fight,’ while also checking out the historic city of Valencia with guided tours and some authentic paella.
3. Sip Bourbon At The Holladay Distillery
The Holladay Distillery is a fun group tour idea ($10/person and includes a sampling of products for guests who are 21+) in the Midwest. Founded in 1856 by "Stagecoach King" Ben Holladay on land first charted by Lewis and Clark in 1804. The oldest business in the Kansas City area and the oldest distillery west of the Mississippi still operating in its original location.
Started distilling bourbon on site last year for the first time in 30 years, and opened doors to the public for tours for the first time in 20 years. History! Modern Manufacturing! A gorgeous property in a quaint town! And alcohol! What group wouldn't love to check all of that out?
4. Watch 10 Million Bats At Sunset
Head to the Texas Hill Country River Region, a hidden gem untouched by time and home to the second largest bat population in the world that’s actually open to the public. Just an hour and a half scenic drive from San Antonio, visitors can book a bat tour ($12 for adults, $10 for kids over 5) and stake their claim at the Frio Bat Cave to watch as over 10 million bats take flight from the caves for their evening hunt. Tours take place at sunset, adding additional beauty to an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
5. Ride A Party Tram Through Munich
Tired of party buses? Switch it up with a party tram. Starting from $1,400 and for groups of 20 - 100+ people, this 3-hour tour of Munich comes with a tram, tour guide, and your choice of refreshments: go full-on Oktoberfest style with jugs of German beer or keep it classy with Mediterranean or Asian cuisine. A perfectly wacky tour for weddings, birthday parties, company events, you name it.
6. Learn About New Orleans' History... Drunk
Explore the dark side of New Orleans (from $25 per person) in the infamous French Quarter. Learn about traditional burial rituals, and why the vaults are above ground. Hear what pirates, prostitutes ,and convicted felons have to do with the founding of New Orleans. And, goes without saying, stop at a bar or two and try out new drinks.
7. Find Your Spirit Animal On The Sloth Encounter Tour
Would you say it’s an animal known for moving slow, constantly noshing or sleeping between 15 and 20 hours a day? Clearly, I'm talking about sloths. Groups visiting Wild Florida in Osceola County can take the Sloth Encounter tour and have the opportunity take a rare #SLOTHIE with the park’s two-toed sloths, George and Anna (price per person for a sloth encounter is $30. It’s the same price for the porcupine and lemur encounters). If sloths aren’t a group favorite, the park also allows guests to get up close and personal with African Crested Porcupines or Ring Tail Lemurs.
8. Play Photographer For The Day With Lux Voyage
Become reporters for the day. You’ll be escorted on a Paris walking tour by a local photographer. "All the while she will be giving you tips helping you to discover Paris through your own eyes ($675 for up to four guests); going a but deeper than you might on a standard tour," says Virgi Schiffino, founder of Lux Voyage, a private travel concierge that designs tailor-made luxury itineraries globally. "Afterwards you’ll go to the photographer’s studio located on a houseboat on the river Seine, where will you develop your own photos and see them come to life on your picture book." How cool is that?
9. Discover Ancient Secrets On A Crypts And Catacombs Tour
You may expect to see the ancient Roman ruins or the medieval churches when in Rome (and you should, they are amazing!), but if you want to go a bit darker, City Wonders boasts an amazing and unique tour of the crypts and catacombs of Rome (starts at $79). This tour will include ancient secrets such as a pagan shrine, a bone chapel and subterranean catacombs. Wear comfortable shoes though, you'll be doing A LOT of walking and climbing stairs, but it's well worth it.
When you travel, sometimes it just has to be more than about sitting on the beach and where we eat dinner. Wacky tours like these will be the memories that stick around.