Savanah, Georgia is one of the most haunted cities in America, and naturally, there are ghost tours which traverse every corner of the city searching for the ghosts of little girls who haunt attics, to the phantoms of pirates still ready to shanghai patrons and carry them off to sea. When I was a kid, and my family decided to stop for a few days in Savanah, my ghost-story obsessed mom took my sister and me on a walking tour that took us all over the city, from the haunted house that provided the setting for the Pulitzer Prize-Winning novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, to a drunken-ghost possessed graveyard. The tour culminated in a special story told in the back room of a haunted restaurant, where the guide recanted the story of the Boo Hag, a spirit that causes sleep paralysis. The whole time he told the story, I couldn’t help but check behind me every minute or so, suspecting that a costume-clad performer would jump out and grab me at any moment. Luckily, the performer popped out on the other side of the room, and spared my jittery self a sleepless night. Since then, I was captivated with tours, and love going on any kind to this day.
When you think of the phrase, “explore what’s there in your own backyard”, what do you think? Is it just the small fenced-in area behind your house? Is it your neighborhood, or is it your own city? Exploring what a city has to offer is one of the best ways to see what’s going on, whether it’s in your own city or in a city you’re visiting, and walking tours give you the opportunity to take in all the sites one by one. Customers, usually accompanied by a guide, go from one point of interest to another, typically learning cultural heritage and history, or whatever that specific tour has to offer, but more on that later.
The walking tour circuit is an every growing part of the tourism industry, and also one of the cheapest ways to travel around town. For example, Sandemans New Europe Tours allows for guided and non-guided walking tours around various European cities, which generates business over time by having people explore on their own time, or with a guide, attracting thousands to visit nonconventional sites in those areas. In fact, many of their tours are free, having customers map out their own trips. This independent model raised tourism about 45% in 2014, and the number is rising.
You ought to be thinking, Europe is far away and expensive, but this is only an example. I thought I would hit you all with some hard numbers. Your own town, or closest, has a lot to offer. Another example would the various tours offered here in Columbus, Ohio (where we’re based). A fan favorite I’ve been hearing about (and dying to try) is the Breakfast Tour, where a guide take you to all the famous breakfast joints offered around the city. After the Breakfast Tour, burn off some of those calories at the Short North Gallery Hop, which takes place on the first Saturday of every month, where patrons go from gallery to gallery in the art district, to see any and all local art and maybe the artists who create them. And if there’s still time, the Segway Tour can wrap up the day as you wheel around downtown. These are just three examples of walking (or wheeling) tours offered in Columbus, and with a trip to Google, many more tours can be found, here and everywhere. Most are free, or have a small entry fee, but it beats a flight to Europe, or even a road trip cross-country. Go and see what’s in your own backyard, or city in this case, and I promise you might be pleasantly surprised.