Have you always always wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Eiffel Tower or see how “Good Morning America” is produced? No, you don’t have to have inside connections. A group tour can bring you up close and personal to sites and scenes you could only imagine.
Here’s a sampling of some of the insider-only, VIP events you can experience if you take part in a group tour from companies like Trafalgar, Tauck and Adventures by Disney.
You know the iconic Eiffel Tower, stretching 1,063 feet into the Paris sky. But, who knew there’s a former French military bunker hidden under the tower at Champ de Mars park? You’ll get a personal tour with Adventures by Disney’s England & France itinerary and visit the tower’s engine room, which runs its original elevators.
You also can stroll among the world’s most iconic artworks, including the Mona Lisa, during a private tour of the Louvre. And, have your own viewing of Notre Dame Cathedral, where you can climb the 387 steps up the bell tower and hear tales of the cathedral’s creation. Be sure to check out the gargoyles!
Insight into Italy
Photo courtesy of Tauck
You won’t have to wrestle with crowds during an after-hours guided tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel with Tauck’s tour, A Week in … Venice, Florence & Rome. You’ll view the frescoes that Michelangelo painted in the early 1500s on the soaring ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. You’ll also visit the museum’s gallery of Flemish tapestries; the Gallery of Maps, with 40 maps frescoed on the walls; and view the stunning Gallery of Candelabra.
As you travel outside of Florence, you’ll have an exclusive tour of the ancient Badia di Passignano monastery in the Chianti Classico region, featuring a wine cellar tour, a lunch pairing local foods and wines, and an olive oil tasting.
Southern cooking and jazz
Photo courtesy of Tauck
What can be more Southern than comfort food and jazz? With Tauck’s New Orleans & Mississippi River Plantation Country tour, you’ll be immersed in the culture of the Deep South. The tour includes private events such as a jazz experience at the historic Preservation Hall as well as a culinary demonstration and lunch at the New Orleans School of Cooking. You’ll also take a street car tour, experiencing the sights and sounds of Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue.
Later, you’ll head to Nottoway Plantation & Resort in White Castle, Louisiana, a sugarcane plantation developed in the 1850s and site of the largest antebellum mansion in the South. Make a reservation at the Mansion Restaurant, which is open 7 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For lighter fare, pop into Le Café.
Behind the scenes at “Good Morning America”
Photo courtesy of Adventures by Disney
You don’t need to be a celebrity or a newsmaker to gain VIP access to “Good Morning America’s” studio with Adventures by Disney’s New York City Long Weekend tour. You’ll watch the cameras roll and visit the control booth for an insider’s look at how this popular morning show is produced. Get tickets for the family to see “Frozen: The Broadway Musical” through Disney’s New York City Long Weekend tour.
Later, you can take a private, backstage tour of the magnificent New Amsterdam Theatre, the longest-operating theater on Broadway, which opened its doors in 1903. The walls feature a wide range of characters from such favorites as Shakespeare’s plays, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and “Aesop’s Fables.”
Dine like a local
With Trafalgar’s Be My Guest program, you’ll be able to eat dinner at the impressive homes of local residents. If you’re traveling to New Zealand, you can get an inside glimpse into the Maori culture by visiting the marae, or communal meeting ground, of the Tamaki family. There you’ll watch a Maori war dance and dine on an authentic Maori meal that’s been cooked in the ground. Or, if you’re visiting the Touraine wine region of France, you can visit with Beatrice at her 17th-century French château and farm, sampling homemade goat cheese and other local dishes while sipping local wines.
Tour companies generally hire local guides to accompany you on your travels, bringing unique insights into the heritage, culture and sights of each location, which you might not be able to experience if you’re traveling independently.
Depending on the tour you choose and the company you pick, you might be welcomed by special dining opportunities, such as a gourmet dinner and classical concert in a castle or a private screening at Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco. You’ll also have access to the best rooms at every hotel during your trip.
Book your tour
Take advantage of the money-saving benefits of NEA membership, such as 10% off Trafalgar tours. Group travel gives you the chance to relax and unwind as you leave the trip planning to those who know a city or region inside and out.