What's New

What’s New: This Week’s Latest Experiences

Looking for your next summer adventure? We’ve got you covered. Every week, SideTour is finding the most unique people in your city and connecting you with awesome underground happenings. Check out a few recently added SideTour experiences, and as always, see all of our one-of-a-kind excursions on our homepage.

New York                                                     

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Explore the Lavish Homes and History of Millionaire’s Mile 

Discover the decadent architecture of a renowned section of this midtown Manhattan neighborhood.

Chicago

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Pick Up the Secrets to Making Mole at a Oaxacan Cooking Party

Learn how to make traditional mole sauces while enjoying Oaxacan cuisine and cocktails.

Philly

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Uncover the Life of Ben Franklin in Old City

Navigate through Old City to explore the life of the Founding Father and uncover the era in which he lived.

DC

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Refine Your Chocolate Palate at a Blind Sweets Tasting 

Discover how to differentiate taste profiles of single-origin chocolates sourced from around the world.

How To

How To Book a Private SideTour for Your Group

SideTour experiences are a great way to meet new people with similar interests (taxidermy, anyone?), whether you go by yourself, with a date or with some friends. But our awesome events—even those without upcoming dates—can also be booked for exclusively for your own personal crew. It’s a unique and memorable way to celebrate a birthday, plan a bachelorette party or simply just a cool new way to break out of the same bar routine with your friends.

Finding and scheduling your event is no sweat: On the SideTour homepage, select the tab “For Private Groups.”

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Browse by category (Meet, Eat, Drink, Explore, Learn, etc.) or sort by group size (from just two or up to eight or more) and find the awesome experience that suits your group’s fancy.

private group categories

Once you’ve found the experience you want to try, click “Request a Date.” You’ll be taken to a new private request page, which allows you to list your estimated group size, a few dates and times and add any additional comments.

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Send your request, and we’ll act as liaison between you and the host to find the perfect day and time for your group. So grab some friends, select an awesome experience and let your adventure begin. It’s as easy as multi-course artisanal pies.

Washington, D.C.

This Week in History: The Smithsonian was Founded

 

The Smithsonian Institution Building, dating from the 1850’s.

The Smithsonian Institution Building, dating from the 1850’s.

Credit: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Much like the country itself, this all-American institution owes it beginnings to England. It all began with a bequest from British scientist James Smithson (who, oddly enough, never visited the United States). In his will from 1829, Smithson stipulated that should his nephew pass away without heirs, his fortune would be left “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

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Host Handbook

Top 3 Tips for Sharing Your Experiences

Elementary school taught us that sharing is a good practice, but it’s also sage advice for social media. Our platform is all about letting our hosts share their unique expertise with others, but a key element for having your SideTour take off is self-promotion. Even if you’re not a social media guru, there are some basic tips you can follow that will go a long way in spreading the word.

Take Philly host and taxidermist Beth Beverly as an example. Beth hosts a SideTour to discover the bygone art of taxidermy at her workshop. We launched her experience on our site, and soon after, Beth followed some easy guidelines for promoting across her own channels, and it led to some awesome results.

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1. Keep People in the Know

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Philadelphia

Ideal Philadelphia Day with Storyteller Denise Valentine

In her SideTour, acclaimed storyteller and folk artist Denise Valentine doesn’t just want you to hear about the role African Americans played in Philly’s history (and, indeed, the country)—she wants you to feel it. Her passion for the subject is apparent in her animated speech, her active Twitter feed and now, in her ideal way to spend a day in Philly.

9:00AM: Get a café breakfast to go I’ve been looking for a chance to sit down for a morning bite Trolley Car Café in East Falls, but I always get my food to go so I can move to my next stop. It’s a converted old bathhouse, with its own fresh herb garden and quaint outdoor seating.

9:30AM: Savor a good book I head to a favorite reading spot on Benjamin Franklin Parkway to enjoy my meal and my current book, “Makeda” by Randall Robinson. In between pages, I can take in magnificent views of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Main Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, both designed by African-American architect Julian Abel.

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Photo: Some rights reserved by Kansas Sebastian

12:00PM Grab a quick lunch After a leisurely morning I take a short walk down Arch Street. I usually grab a bite in Chinatown or at the historic Reading Terminal Market, which offers a dizzying array of places to eat with an atmosphere of hospitality and entertainment. You’ll find standard Philly fare here: cheese steaks, soft pretzels and apple dumplings baked by Amish farmers, as well as exotic cuisine from around the world.

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Photo: All rights reserved by Morton Fox

12:30PM Visit with history, part 1 The next stop is the African American Museum of Philadelphia. It’s one of my favorite spots in Philly, and the starting location of my SideTour. Currently, you can enjoy “Come See About Me,” which boasts the Mary Wilson Supremes collection of stunning dresses and features an examination of the impact of the Supremes on the 1960s. A must-visit is the core exhibition, “Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776 to 1876.”

1:30PM Visit with history, part 2 I continue the museum exploration with a trip to the National Museum of American Jewish History, which I visited for the first time earlier this year to see “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges.” A current special exhibit, “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” is a celebration of the famed children’s book author who was the first to feature an African-American protagonist in a modern full-color picture book.

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Photo: Denise Valentine

2:30PM Visit with history, part 3 Once I’ve had my fill of being indoors, I take a short walk to the President’s House and Slavery Memorial at Independence National Historic Park. Our first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, occupied the house that once stood here when Philadelphia served as a temporary capital. The Slavery Memorial remembers the nine enslaved Africans that Washington brought with him, 10 years after Pennsylvania’s Act of Gradual Abolition.

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Photo: Denise Valentine

 

3:00PM Sit and tell stories Next I’ll head to Washington Square, also know as Congo Square, to meet with folks and chat. It’s a former potter’s field where Revolutionary War soldiers and victims of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic are buried. Africans called it Congo Square because it was the one place they were allowed to congregate to speak their languages, eat traditional foods, dance and sing. It was also where they were held in bondage to be shipped to points further south.

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Photo: All rights reserved by Justin Murphy

5:30PM Jazz it up at happy hour A great place to wind down after a busy day is Warmdaddy’s on Columbus Blvd. On Friday evenings from 5:00PM to 7:00PM, radio station WDAS-FM broadcasts live from the bar.

Join Denise for her walk through the African-American history of Philadelphia with SideTour.

Chicago

Bacon, the Beachfront, and Karaoke: 12 Hours in Chicago with Shuhei Yamamoto

By day, Shuhei Yamamoto is a marketing guru, managing social media for the national education non-profit Teach For America. By night, he lets loose playing shows across Chicago with his indie rock band Pet Lions. His perfect summer day in the city touches upon all the best things in life: bacon, the beach and karaoke.

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Photo: All rights reserved Chicago Magazine 

12:00PM: Three words: Country Fried Bacon

I’m actually cheating a little bit by starting in Evanston, the first suburb north of Chicago. Home to Northwestern University, Evanston is a picturesque town with plenty to explore, but the true gem here is amazingly named Wiener and Still Champion. I was introduced to this greasy hot dog joint by our band’s drummer while we were recording at a nearby studio, and—don’t get me wrong —the hot dogs are delicious, but the highlight is the country fried bacon. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Bacon that’s breaded and fried, which is literally the only thing that can be done to improve bacon. And of course, to ensure that it’s the least healthy food you’ve ever consumed, it’s served with hot sauce.

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Photo: All rights reserved Wiener and Still Champion

1:30PM: Recover at the beach

Drag your now-comatose body to the train station and take it south into Chicago to get to the vast Montrose Beach in the Uptown neighborhood. You’ll still be in country-fried-bacon-recovery mode, so depending on the type of person you are, you’ll either 1) attempt to work off the three million calories you just ate at one of the public volleyball courts or soccer fields, or 2) just lay there for a while. I would choose option #2 and I would recommend doing so at the Montrose Dog Beach, where you can watch a bunch of pups splashing around in the water and having the time of their lives.

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Photo: Montrose Beach Wikimedia

4:00PM: A bike store/coffee shop

Bring a book to Heritage Bicycles General Store in Lakeview, a super cool handcrafted bicycle store that doubles as a neighborhood coffee shop. Reenergize with some caffeine to get ready for the evening. I live nearby so I occasionally bring my laptop over and work from Heritage, trying my best to fit in with the actual coffee-drinking bicyclists there (I am a tea-drinking public-commuter).

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Photo: All rights reserved Melissa Salvatore, The Architect’s Newspaper

6:00PM: A 19th century bar

Take the Ashland bus all the way down to the Noble Square neighborhood. Tucked into the corner of a residential street you’ll find the Chipp Inn, a cozy tavern that opened back in 1897. It’s still pretty old-fashioned—it doesn’t even have a website. Grab a cheap beer and play some pool until you’re ready for dinner.

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Photo: All rights reserved David Murray, Huffington Post

7:30PM: Chef’s choice sushi

Just a quick ride away is Kai Zan, a sushi restaurant in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Opened last year, Kai Zan started as a tiny 22-seat hole-in-the-wall but has recently expanded to triple its original size, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a seat. There is technically a menu, but it’d be a mistake to not order the chef’s choice course menu, or omakase. It’s not just the best sushi in Chicago—it’s probably the best meal I’ve had in my six years living here. Don’t forget to buy some alcohol on the way here—it’s a BYOB restaurant.

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Photo: All rights reserved Time Out Chicago

10:00PM: Dive bar karaoke

Now that you’ve got some liquid courage, it’s time to call a cab and head back north to Alice’s Lounge in the Avondale neighborhood for karaoke. The first time I walked in here, there were literally two people there, excluding the bartender and the old man setting up the karaoke machine. Two hours later, the place was packed while some dude belted out Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta.” The three best things about Alice’s:
1) There are no MC’s who perform in between every song, which means you aren’t waiting three hours after you sign up to sing.
2) The song list is relatively up-to-date. Brand new radio hits might not be on there, but unlike most karaoke bars where the most recent song on the list is “Baby One More Time,” Alice’s actually has songs from the past year.
3) Since Avondale is not known for its nightlife, if someone is at Alice’s, then they’re there to sing karaoke. Most of the crowd is an active participant in the festivities.
Now excuse me while I perform “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” to a room full of strangers.

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Photo: Shuhei Yamamoto

Looking for more Chicago summertime adventures? Boost your grilling skills, explore the architecture of the city’s bridges and more.

New York

An Ideal Day in NYC: 12 Hours with “Spanish Rob”

Those in the know seek out “Spanish Rob,” as he’s known around town, for his expertise in horology. Essentially, he’s a guru and connoisseur of high-end watches, obsessed with the art and science of luxury timepieces. He’s also an NYC nightlife ringleader, known for curating dinners, co-hosting media events and coordinating the social club WRNY, or “We Run New York”. Here’s how this city insider would spend his perfect 12 hours.

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Photo: Spanish Rob

11:00AM Brunch in Alphabet City A friend of mine owns Poco on Avenue B and 3rd Street, and her husband is the chef there. He won the Food Network show “Chopped” a few years ago, meaning that the food here is always top quality. They have the best lobster mac and cheese (shown) and braised pulled pork sandwiches. But it’s hard to go wrong here as any entrée comes with unlimited Bloody Mary’s, mimosas or sangria (red or white) served by the pitcher. During peak times—or if you’re coming with an entourage of 25—make a reservation in advance.

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Photo: Poco Restaurant & Bar Facebook page

2:00PM Gallivant Around Town Skipping Club, a flash mob of avid skippers, is hosted by fellow WRNYer Michelle Joni and meets at different NYC locations every Thursday. Join up and you’ll find yourself skipping through Central Park, Hell’s Kitchen or even Coney Island, entertaining and spreading joy to your fellow New Yorkers. This week’s skip featured a guest appearance by the Guinness World Record holder for fastest skipper.

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Photo: Skipping Club Facebook page

4:00PM Go Antiquing, Manhattan Style At the New York headquarters of Antiquorum, the largest auction house specializing in high-end timepieces, you’ll get a public viewing of rare watches available for sale. Visiting is a must for any watch lover (like me), and sometimes you can even sit in on a live auction.

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Photo: All rights reserved by antiquorumauctioneers

5:00PM Happy Hour Brews On the up-and-coming Avenue C you’ll find ABC Beer Co., a shop that’s half craft beer, half bar. They have 12 rotating taps of unique brews to appeal to every type of beer drinker. Tell the bartenders your particular taste (I’m partial to red Irish ales), and they’ll find something delicious for you to try.

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Photo: ABCBeer.co

7:00PM Meaty Meal My new favorite BBQ brisket joint is Mighty Quinn’s, in the center of the East Village on 2nd Ave. It has a quick line and cafeteria-style dining, boasting simple meals with complex flavors. Just the brisket and fries are plenty for a meal.

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Photo: Some rights reserved by Dan Nguyen @ New York City

9:00PM Dance the Night Away My top spot for drinks, Sweet & Vicious, caters to all cocktail genres and is located in the axis of Soho/Bowery/LES. Every other month, my best friend and I host a networking event there called Obliterati to connect people in different social circles across various media scenes. Grab the signature frozen margarita in a jar—or as we call it, a “jargarita”—and hang out in the beautiful backyard area. As the night progresses and the tequila starts to set in, hit the dance floor inside while some of the best NYC DJ’s spin. There’s never a cover, and the party never disappoints.

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Photo: All rights reserved by Eddie Vega

New York

Peppergrass: Foods You Can Forage in NYC

A picnic in the park takes on a whole new meaning when you forage for your vittles. Given the warm weather, we’ve been showcasing Wild Man Steve Brill’s favorite food finds that are just ripe for the picking at a city park near you. Up this week to enrich your taste buds: Poor Man’s Pepper, a variety of peppergrass.

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How to find it You’ll spot this common weed in sunny, disturbed habitats along roadsides or thriving in sandy soil from spring to fall. The mature plant boasts several branches with alternating single leaves and seed stalks, along with intermittent flat, circular seedpods.

How to eat it Use the spicy leaves, flowers and seedpods for zesty salads, soups, sauces and casseroles. You can also grind up the green seedpods to make superb wild mustard by pulverizing them in a blender with vinegar, miso, garlic, turmeric and salt.

What to “serve” with it For a full meal of foraged foods, be sure to also hunt for yellow wood sorrelchicken mushroomslamb’s quartersburdockjuneberries and mulberries—the first six edibles on Steve’s list. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Join Steve on his SideTour or download his app, Wild Edibles (for iOS and Android).

Washington, D.C.

The Best of the Lesser-Known Museums in DC

For the DC museum buff, The Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum and the National Gallery are can’t-miss attractions. But once you’ve seen the same permanent collection for the umpteenth time, you’ll likely want to expand your horizons. These five museums have quieter reputations but are sure to intrigue, enlighten and inspire you.

National Postal Museum One of the smaller members of the Smithsonian, the National Postal Museum showcases the inside story on all things mail and is housed in a formerly active post office. It illuminates how mail gets delivered and traces its history from the Pony Express to Airmail and more. In addition, it features the world’s largest collection of stamps, including Amelia Earhart’s personal collection. (A famed aviatrix and a stamp collector—who knew?)

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Photo: Some rights reserved by NCinDC

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New York

Central Park Events This Week

For thousands of visitors and locals, Central Park is the summertime destination. You could join the flock at Sheep’s Meadow or the crowd at Summer Stage, but if you’re looking for something more intimate and unique, sign up for one of these SideTour experiences.

Roam at Dusk Sometimes the most interesting secrets are hidden in the shadows. On this sunset tour held next Thursday evening, you’ll learn tidbits about the Park’s landmarks and its lesser-known crannies, from famous film and TV settings to a secret romantic rock garden.

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What We Do

SideTour brings you unique things to do, amazing tours and unforgettable experiences to help you enjoy your city in a whole new way.

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