Want a Better Walking Tour? Go Quirky

A “walking tour” in New Holstein, Wisconsin

How many of us have signed up for a walking tour only to find ourselves wandering around distracted, wondering about all of the weird things that the tour guide overlooks? Turns out, the quirks are what makes a tour more authentic, according to Preservation Nation, the blog over at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They’re blogging from Chicago this week at the National Main Streets Conference, and posted about a lecture given by Anthony Rubano of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. In it, Rubano says that a good tour should incorporate the unexpected:

…[I]t’s not just your downtown commercial buildings you should be highlighting. Waters towers, gas stations, grain elevators, or a two-story outhouse (no kidding) that are sites of interest. “If it is quirky, it is good and should be added to your walking tour,” [Rubano says]. Even those advertising slogans and murals of decades past that are still clinging to the sides of today’s buildings, called “ghost signs,” also have a nostalgic appeal to residents and visitors alike.

Anthony’s presentation was about leading walking tours in Springfield, Illinois and a majority of his images were from Illinois communities. But the ideas and program can be used by a Main Street community anywhere. People seek authenticity; you do not find walking tours of big-box stores or a new suburban shopping strip. Those who already have this interest in your downtown and its history will learn more with a successful walking tour, and more importantly, will spend more time and money in your downtown.

A smart, and seemingly obvious thought, but one we’re more than happy to pass along. Have you taken a great walking tour that’s captured the quirks of a place? 

Read More: For a recap of our tour coverage, visit our Tour Guide posts. 

Photo: Via Preservation Nation

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