Approach the corner. Open the map. Consult street signs. Look east. Look west. Stride confidently 3 blocks north. Meekly retreat 2 blocks south.
Arrival in a new place = discombobulation. In big cities I orient myself by taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Colorful double-decker buses cruise around town. The almost-always friendly tour guides offer information about the sights and you can hop off and hop on (clever) to your heart’s content for one, low daily price. It’s a can’t-miss travel bargain.
But what do you do in smaller cities? I’ve found that guided walking tours are offered in most towns. They’re inexpensive and provide information particular to your destination. The walking around part helps to mitigate your disorientation.
When I say “particular” I actually mean peculiar. For example, many small cities (Providence, Austin, Williamsburg) offer ghost tours. I recently took one in St. Pete, Florida. Our guide, dressed in an Elvira-esque black dress, was as excited about architecture as she was the supernatural, and provided unique insight into the rich history of the area’s buildings, taking the time to point out stunning Mediterranean Revival and Craftsman homes as well as the locations of gruesome murders.
Earlier on that trip we detoured through Covington, Georgia. Because the town was not burned to the ground by General Sherman on his March to the Sea (he knew many of the residents), many large, plantation-era mansions still stand, making it popular with Hollywood. The current hit teen drama, The Vampire Diaries, is filmed there so we took the Mystic Falls Tour (Covington’s fictional identity in the series) to indulge my daughter. It was quite campy and I lost track of who got staked where by the 3rd or 4th location. But my daughter was mesmerized and dragged me to Scoops, hoping to catch a cast member eating ice cream. The Walking Dead is also filmed nearby and our tour guide’s husband Travis has made appearances in the series as a zombie – that was the highlight for me.
Are you a fan of walking tours? Taken any particularly peculiar ones?