On a recent vacation in New York City, we thought we would try out SideTour (www.sidetour.com), an online marketplace for unusual, offbeat experiences and activities. Originally designed not for tourists but for locals who want to discover secret treasures in their own neighborhood, the company has now begun to expand to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Acquired by Groupon in mid-2013, SideTour continues to gain momentum and expand its repertoire while continuing to keep group size between 5-12 participants on average and costs within the $25-85 price range. These are not cookie-cutter offers and even more customization can be provided by some of the “hosts” who offer “side tours”.
Competing with other sites, SideTour’s website claims to focus on events led by experts who have been screened for experience, personality, and expertise. In New York you can get together to dine at a chef’s home, take private or semi-private cooking classes, see art collections after the museum is closed, and sketch from museum collections onsite, just to list a few of the imaginative selections online. We signed up for five tours including sushi and dumpling classes, sketching at a museum, and a tour of the Met emphasizing gossip about the particular art being viewed. The fifth side tour was cancelled two weeks in advance for lack of additional participants. Although I read online that refunds were slow to be credited, we did not have that problem!
We did notice that tours which had been given repeatedly, seemed to be more polished in terms of preparation and information. We tried a couple of “newbies” and enjoyed them too, even though this time next year they will have undoubtedly improved. SideTour was fun and different. I highly recommend that you check out the offerings before planning a trip to one of the SideTour cities!