Woodie Guthrie was on to something when he penned "This Land Is Your Land" in 1940 – there's really a lot to see in the United States from sea to shining sea. And recently, many Americans have been getting reacquainted with the sites and cities from California to New York, flocking to private tours to dig deeper into hip neighborhoods, local favorites and the kind of history that hasn't always made it into your high school textbook. 

Thanks to a slew of factors –  like the explosion of outdoor recreation and the travel restrictions that have changed up vacation plans around the world in 2020 – domestic travel is having a serious moment. And many of those microtrends have also driven a fresh yen for private tours and bespoke travel experiences that let visitors get the inside scoop from locals in destinations from Rocky Mountains National Park to Memphis, Tennessee.

To meet that demand, companies like Travel Curious (one of Lonely Planet Experiences' newest partners) have curated thousands of guides who know cities such as Atlanta and Santa Fe like the back of their hands. And the content of those tours is especially in tune with what travelers are thinking about right now – like getting outside, learning more about Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous history, and what gives cities their own unique flavor.

If you're also feeling eager to roam and ramble your land and learn something new about your own hometown or a city that's been on your bucket list for a while, private tours are the perfect chance to get off on the right foot. And we've pulled together a list of 10 unique experiences in the US that are too good to miss.

Private Excursion to Blue Ridge Mountains

The Linn Cove Viaduct during an Autumn sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

When Guthrie sang about ribbons of highway under endless skyways and shimmering golden valleys, it's hard not to picture the famous Blue Ridge Parkway winding through the mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina. Get to know this storied byway, where humans have traveled along the spine of the Smokies for thousands of years.

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel in Asheville or meet you at Trade and Lore coffee shop for a day of learning about the Iroquois, Shawnee and Cherokee history of the Blue Ridge, as well as the fur trappers, colonizers and revolutionaries who arrived later. You'll get to see Mount Mitchell – the highest point east of the Mississippi River – as well as the picturesque towns that dot the region like Blowing Rock, Black Rock, and Swannanoa. And you'll have a chance to hike, too, if you choose, in some of the most picturesque country in the United States.

Book now

Private Hike to Hollywood Sign, via Three Peaks

The Hollywood sign, an historic landmark itself.

Since 1923, the Hollywood sign has been one of the most iconic sites in LA – alternately celebrated with sweeping aerial pan shots and explosive destruction in endless films, and even a fictional graduation-eve campout in the season 3 finale of Beverly Hills 90210. But how do you actually get up there? Your local guide knows the way, and will lead you up to the sign itself from Lake Hollywood Drive along the spine of Burbank Peak, Cahuenga Peak, and Mt. Lee in Los Angeles' beloved Griffith Park. You'll have a chance to take in splendid views of the Santa Monica mountains, see plaques honoring Aileen Getty and Hugh Hefner, and snap plenty of photos of Los Angeles from the flip side. 

Book now

Private Walking Tour of Dallas

There's way more to Dallas than big hair and bigger belt buckles – this rich melting pot of a city has far-reaching Native American history, tells the story of European settlers and generations of ranchers, saw the nation's history altered by the JFK assassination, and is full of bustling music venues, restaurants, bars and, of course, a mind-boggling number of cowboy boot shops per capita. It's a lot to take in, but your guide has all the deets – including where to finish your tour with the best Texas barbecue.

First, though, you'll start your three hour tour at the John Neely Bryan cabin, once home to the founder of Dallas, which is in Founders Plaza just across the street from Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was fatally wounded. Next up, you'll stroll to the Dallas West End Historic District, a historic neighborhood full of shops, restaurants and pretty streets. A visit to Klyde Warren Park will give you a unique vantage point from which to take in the city – it's on top of one of Dallas' famous looping, sometime Dr. Seuss-like freeways. Your guide will regale you with stories of Bonnie and Clyde at the Belo Mansion before heading to the Dallas Arts District, home to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

Book now

Private Excursion to Muir Woods and Sausalito

Hiking trails through giant redwoods in Muir forest near San Francisco, California, USA

Whether you know them from Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, Alfred Hitchock's Vertigo (though technically that was filmed in Big Basin), or an enviable Instagram post, the giant redwoods just north of San Francisco are bucket-list worthy for good reason. This five hour tour makes it easy to experience not only this ancient stand of old-growth trees, but also the picturesque Marin headlands that surround them, and the charming town of Sausalito. Your guide will pick you up at your hotel and drive you across the Bay to the Muir Woods National Monument (entry included).

You'll have plenty of time to take in the ferns and massive conifers before dipping into Sausalito for lunch, and chances to take in the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from a different vantage point than you'll get in the Presidio. Your guide will show you the charming Richardson Bay houseboats that are part of Sausalito's arty history before returning you downtown, where suddenly the buildings will look a lot shorter than they did that morning.

Book now

Private Walking Tour of Denver

Denver city skyline photographed before sunrise with Pikes Peak Behind

Arty, outdoorsy Denver has become a popular destination – and place to live – for good reason. Locals and visitors alike love the abundance of craft beer, history, colorful neighborhoods and tasty restaurants in the Mile High City, and you can get the scoop on some of Denver's best offerings on this three-hour walking tour. Your guide will show you a slice of old Denver – the classic gold-domed Colorado State Capitol, the gold-rush era mansion of Titanic heroine Molly Brown, the US Mint, and the glimmering Union Station right downtown. But you'll also get to find out what's happening in contemporary Denver, with stops to the Denver Art Museum, the famous Big Blue Bear sculpture at the Convention Center, the home of the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, and a fun local hideaway at the end of your tour where you can get a snack and a drink and tips from your guide on what to see and do on your own now you have the lay of the land.

Book now

Private Walking Tour of Charming Charleston

Colourful facades of rainbow row in Charleston.

Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, and visitors there can connect with four hundred years of stories. Your three hour walking tour starts with Rainbow Row, the candy colored stretch of Georgian row houses first constructed in 1730 that are still one of the most popular places in the city for photographers to score a snap. Next, you'll take a sobering stop at the the Old Slave Mart Museum to learn about the men, women, and children who were bought and sold here until the market closed in 1856. From there, you'll stroll through some of Charleston's best outdoor attractions like Joe Riley Waterfront Park, and the Historic Charleston City Market. Your tour also includes a visit to the only still-practicing French Huguenot Church in the US, as well as plenty of tips on what to explore once you part ways with your guide – with as much food for thought as there is southern hospitality in the low country. 

Book now

Private Walking Tour of Hamilton's New York

It's been a tough year for Broadway, but you don't need theater tickets to step into Alexander Hamilton's New York. Find out the real history behind the hit from a local guide who knows all about "the room where it happened" and more. You'll have a chance to see City Hall Park where slaves were executed and liberty poles once stood in defiance of the British crown, and where the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to George Washington and the Continental Army on July 9, 1776. The tour will also take you to George Washington’s pew in St Paul’s Chapel, Alexander Hamilton’s grave at Trinity Church, and the Federal Hall National Memorial where the Bill of Rights was written. It's not quite Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but this tour is its own kind of time travel, and a chance to bring one of Broadway's most popular musicals to life.

Book now

Private Walking Tour of Nashville

October 8, 2017: Neon signs light the strip along Broadway at night in Nashville.

Whether you're hoping to pay homage to Dolly Parton, walk the line from the Ryman Auditorium to the Tennessee State Capitol, or scope out which of the Broadway honkey tonks have the best vibe, this walking tour of Nashville is a perfect introduction to the city's storied music history. Your guide will tell you about a century's worth of icons, from Louis Armstrong, John Philip Sousa and Nat King Cole to Keb’ Mo’, The Black Keys, and Jack White. Along the way you'll have a chance to try Nashville brews, have a snack, and stroll through Bicentennial Capital Mall, too. Last but not least, you'll part ways at the Johnny Cash Museum (tickets included) where you can learn about one of the Grand Ol' Opry's true greats.

Book now

Excursion to Olympic Mountain National Park

A path through the Hoh Rain Forest is filled with old temperate trees covered in green and brown moss.

The Pacific coast is unlike any place on earth – and the Olympic Mountain National Park in particular is exemplary of this unique, diverse ecosystem. Indeed, this remote peninsula full of old-growth forests and sandy beaches tumbled with tree-sized driftwood overlooking the craggy remnants of old coastline has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. It can be hard to know where to begin – or how to reach Olympic Mountain National Park from Seattle, which involves a long winding drive and plenty of time to take in the scenery. That's exactly what makes this excursion ideal for teaming up with a guide, who will meet you at 7:30 in the morning at your hotel to start the drive to Port Angeles with breakfast along the way. First up, you'll ascend Hurricane Ridge, which affords sweeping landscapes of the whole park and the glaciers tucked away in its midst. You'll drive through parts of the park frequented by wildlife before stopping for a local lunch and wine to fortify you for a stop at Lake Crescent and a light hike to Marymere Falls before returning to Seattle.

Book now

Private Walking Tour of Savannah

Forsyth Park Fountain during the early evening.

Step into Savannah, Georgia's atmospheric historic quarter and take a deep dive with your guide into the city's Black history from the the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the modern day, and how African Americans shaped the this place from its architecture to its culture. You'll hear stories about famous Savannahians like Juliette Gordon Low – founder of the Girl Scouts of America – and the city's haunted hotels and mansions, before dipping into one of Savannah's bustling restaurants or bars for a bite to eat and a drink. 

Book now

Explore related stories