Sure, there’s some fun to be had just roaming a new city on your own, wandering into whatever you happen to see. But that method has its downsides too. You might miss the best things or get stuck in massive crowds around tourist landmarks. So if you’re looking for a more curated experience, you’ll want to try an organized tour. Start with some of these top-rated tours on Yelp.
10. Trilogy Excursions: Sail the Hawaiian Waters
Take your choice of snorkeling or whale-watching from Hulopo’e Bay on Lana’i. (Courtesy: Trilogy Excurions)
You don’t go to Hawaii to stay on land all day. With a fleet of six catamarans, Trilogy Excursions offers sailing tours leaving from Maui and traveling to all the premier snorkeling destinations. It’s one of the only ways tourists can visit the pristine Hulopo’e Bay on Lana’i — though only on weekdays. Couples can also opt for a romantic sunset or dinner sail. Or, take a whale-watching trip. Prices range from $55 for kids to $200 for adults, depending on the trip and time of year.
9. Austin Eats Food Tours: Eat Your Way Through Texas
Gorge on all the Austin food you can handle with this tour. (Photo: Austin Eats Food Tours/Facebook)
Almost everyone knows that Austin has great food, but not too many people know where exactly to find it. That’s why you sign up for one of the city’s top food tours. Austin Eats Food Tours offers three classic trips most weekends, but also customizes private tours for groups of eight or more. The Sunday South Congress Walking Tour is the company’s most popular, starting with a cinnamon bun and breakfast before hitting up the burger bar and taco bar, and ending with a slice of the best pizza in town. You might also want to try the food truck or BBQ tour. Prices range from $65 to $80, and includes tips.
Related: No Taco Left Behind in Austin
8. DeeTours of Santa Barbara: Winning Wines
This tour of four wineries in the Santa Inez Valley is a big hit. (Photo: DeeTours of Santa Barbara/Facebook)
DeeTours is named for its founder — and, if you’re lucky enough, your tour leader. While the company offers city tours around Santa Barbara, its most popular trips are its wine country adventures. For about $135/person, the wine tour is an all-day trip that visits four local wineries in the Santa Inez Valley, a up-and-coming wine region. The package also includes a picnic lunch and an olive oil tasting. You’ll even get to stop in the cute Danish community of Solvang.
7. Confederacy of Cruisers Bicycle Tours: The Big Easy by Bike
Bike around New Orleans and reward yourself by drinking a Hurricane. (Photo: Jeff F./Yelp)
New Orleans is full of so much history that it’d be impossible to get to it all in one trip — unless you travel around on two wheels. The Confederacy of Cruisers leads groups by bike, with your cycling cruisers prepared and waiting for you. Try the most popular trip, the Creole New Orleans Bike Tour, which travels about six miles in and around the French Quarter and ends with a drink at a local bar. If you want more drinks (or food), try the cocktails or the culinary tour. All the trips are designed so even beginner bikers should feel comfortable. Prices range from $49 for the most basic tour to $90 for a bike and kayak trip.
6. Skyline Eco-Adventures Zipline: Maui From Above
Get a bird’s-eye view of Maui by ziplining. (Photo: Skyline Eco-Adventures)
Started in 2002, when most people didn’t even know what a zipline was yet, Skyline Eco-Adventures Zipline lets people see all the wild beauty of Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island from a unique vantage point. The most popular tour is the $150 four-hour Ka’anapali trip through the west Maui mountains. Or try the zip n’ dip tour, which ends with a zipline right into a clear mountain pool. All tours include hiking (except for the zipline-bike tour) and some driving in an four-wheel vehicle, and then ziplining back down through the trees and across magnificent vistas.
5. Savor Seattle Food Tours: Navigate the Foodie Maze
You can get a lot of seafood and coffee with a two-hour tour of Pike Place in Seattle. (Courtesy: Savor Seattle)
With all the clam chowder, fresh fish, trendy donuts, and artisan coffee, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the delicious options in Seattle. That’s when it’s time to sign up for a food tour with Savor Seattle. Go on the two-hour walking tour of Pike Place to get a sense of which things at this popular tourist attraction are worth your time. The Gourmet Seattle tour lets you eat your way through town, while the chocolate trip focus on, well, chocolate. Looking for something a little more involved? Try the three-day San Juan Islands Gourmet Kayak Expedition. If you don’t fill up during your tour, don’t worry. It comes with a discount card that gives you 10-15% off at the retailers, so you can keep eating the rest of your visit.
4. Flyin Hawaiian Zipline: The Longest and Best Views of Maui
Drive, then zipline, then take an ATV on Maui. (Courtesy: Flyin Hawaiian Zipline)
With the longest zipline rides on Maui, Flyin Hawaiian Zipline shows off the best panoramic views of the North and South shores. You start by taking a short drive into Waikapu Valley, then zipline your way through the Maui mountains — while stopping along the way to learn about the history of the island — and then you’ll finish up with an ATV ride back to the base. You’ll ultimately zipline over two miles, with the longest line whisking you across 3,600 feet. The whole thing takes about four to five hours and costs $185/person.
3. Catalina Zipline Eco-Tour: Just a Boat Ride Away
Travel through Catalina’s Descanso Canyon via zipline. (Photo: Kate G./Yelp)
Catalina Island, about 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, is famous for its natural beauty, wildlife, and the roaming bison. To get a full view from above try the Catalina Zipline Eco-Tour. The company also puts on a number of boat tours and hiking trips, but the zipline tour is a quick and fun way to travel through Descanso Canyon. Along the way, the much-loved guides share information about the unique island. Tours cost about $115 to $125/person and cover five different ziplines hundreds of feet above the canyon floor, before ending at the beach.
2. Free Tours by Foot: Worth More Than a Few Pennies
You can pay what you want with this high-rated tour of D.C. (Photo: DC by Foot/Facebook)
There’s lots to learn and see in D.C., but a thorough tour might cost more than your travel budget can afford. That’s where Free Tours by Foot comes in. The company is, essentially, a group of guides who offer their service via a pay-what-you-want model. There’s no upfront cost, so at the end you pay what you thought the tour was worth — and, with knowledgeable and funny guides, it’ll be worth plenty. The most popular trips are the Lincoln Assassination tour and the Capitol Hill & Library of Congress tour, but you can also try food tours, ghost tours, or the secrets and scandals tour.
1. San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour: Beauty Hidden Right in Front of You
Visitors and locals alike love this San Francisco tour. (Photo: Mark Y./Yelp)
With all tours led by Rick Evans, an architecture historian, who started the tours when he was working on a book about San Francisco’s buildings, you know that your two-hours will be informative and entertaining. The tours cost $40 and don’t cover too much ground, but you’ll learn all the secrets of San Francisco’s oldest buildings and the hidden public places you never knew about. While the tours are popular with out-of-towners, you’ll also find plenty of Bay Area natives learning from Rick. He also offers neighborhood tours in Nob Hill, North Beach, and Chinatown. Make reservations ahead of time.
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