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Mystery tour ideas

Joslyn Castle, Omaha CVB

Mystery tours: an incredible concept that perhaps exists only in the travel world. Where else do you find customers paying up front for an unknown product?

The popularity of bank mystery tours says a lot about how tantalizing the idea of a surprise can be and, more importantly, the immense trust that bank travelers have in their leaders. As a result, those beloved bank directors know they can often sell out a mystery trip more quickly and easily than a trip with a detailed itinerary to an exotic location.

Both large and small destinations cheer on the mystery tour idea as it allows them to showcase their hidden treasures. On mystery tours, groups experience venues in big cities they might never otherwise see. In smaller destinations, they get red-carpet treatment at extraordinary attractions.

Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha has deep ethnic roots, which make it a great place to experience Twelve Countries Without a Passport.

“That tour name describes the diverse and authentic experiences groups can experience,” said Deborah Ward, director of public relations for the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Our German American Society celebrates Oktoberfest any time of the year,” Ward said. “Costumed folk dancers with group participation and, of course, some song and beer guarantees fun. And our family-owned, Lithuanian bakery shows the incredible process of their eight-layered torte.”

The historic Joslyn Castle represents Scottish culture as traditional dancers perform for visitors and discuss the area’s Scottish culture. At the Renaissance Mansion, cooking demonstrations and a smorgasbord of food showcase the Swedish heritage.

At the Bohemian Café, a Czech landmark since 1924, lunch features pork and dumplings and desserts that might be a mystery to the typical home cook.

“You will learn the process of making a ‘kolache,’ a scrumptious pastry with a jelly-type filling,” said Ward.

Ethnic experiences from China, France, Greece and Mexico and more can be included in this worldwide experience that requires no overseas travel.

Rock Hill/York County, South Carolina
A four-day mystery tour in Rock Hill/York County promises to excite all the senses.
On day one, the Hear the Sounds tour features the Catawba Indian tribe, known as “the people of the river.”

“As they were the first inhabitants here, the tribe welcomes newcomers with a friendship dance that tells a story,” said Sonja Burris, communications manager for the Rock Hill/York County CVB. “Groups are privy to a pottery demonstration, followed by a traditional meal.”

Day two features the See the Sights tour in Historic Brattonsville, a 775-acre Revolutionary War site that today is a working farm.

“The story you learn follows three generations in the 17th and 18th centuries. Costumed interpreters and rare breeds of farm animals are part of the program,” said Burris.

Groups eat lunch at Glencarin Garden, where 3,500 azaleas and the new Veterans Garden guarantee spectacular views. In the evening, NarroWay Productions, known as  Carolina’s Broadway of Christian Entertainment, offers dinner and a show.

Hold on to your hat on day three, when Feel the Thrill takes amusement park lovers to Carowinds Theme Park.

“Over 650 rides, including the Intimidator, the longest and fastest roller coaster in the southeast, are the entertainment. Later, groups can zipline and take bridge walks at Camp Canaan, an island on the Catawba River,” said Burris.

On day four, groups head for Charlotte, North Carolina, to Smell the Rubber, a full-throttle experience at the NASCAR Hall of Fame that includes lunch in the Queen City.