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Even as a inveterate independent traveler, I'm not afraid to admit: I love me a good tour. Back when I lived in Edinburgh, many an afternoon was spent poking around its musty underground vaults, and many a twilight was spooked with a group hearing tales of Burke and Hare murders and the ghosts that haunt Old Town's famous wynds and closes. It was a great way to get to know the history of my newly adopted city and meet some fellow locals and travelers. If a tour combines a novel approach to the tried-and-true territory– i.e. not just a photo safari bus around town – even better.
With that in mind, three tours in Los Angeles are primed to change how visitors and local Angelenos view their city. And we have some exclusive discounts.
Bikes and Hikes LA
It's a shame to experience SoCal's glorious weather from behind a windshield. Instead, pound the pavement and public trails with the city's only hike/bike tour outfit, the gay-owned, WeHo-based Bikes and Hikes (www.BikesAndHikesLA.com) for a whole new perspective. In such a car town, hitting the streets or using your feet can be revelatory, not to mention a fun and eco-friendly way to explore. Calories burned? This being LA, we can't argue with that. Tour options range from a two-hour guided sunset hike up the Hollywood Hills ($40) to a three-hour home tour of Beverly Hills ($79) and six-hour signature offerings LA in a Day ($134) – a 32-mile round trip that includes the Sunset Strip, Bel Air, beaches and movie studios – and Bike and Sail ($175), where riders board a boat in Marina Del Rey for a breezy jaunt up to Santa Monica. All tours include rentals and are guided with varying degrees of fitness levels; customized itineraries available upon request. Call 888-836-3710 to book and save 15 percent using code SHERMANS through July 15, 2011.
Rolling with the Paparazzi
Expanding off their popular Running from the Paparazzi tour in which participants jog/walk a four-mile route through Hollywood celeb hotspots, Off 'N Running tours' (www.OffNRunningTours.com) newest offering flips the script, this time placing you in the paps' shoes as you hunt for LiLo's latest “shopping” spree. In groups of up to three people, Rolling with the Paparazzi participants join real-life pap Rick Mendoza as he rides round town, taking in tips and tracking down celebs. Completely unscripted – think of this as less of a typical tour and more a take your tourist to work day – each three-hour experience is a uniquely different, authentic window into the big business of star-powered photos. And unlike their other fitness-centric tours, since you'll be using a car, no running ability necessary. Britney umbrella dodging skills recommended. Call 310-246-1418 or book online; $150 per person or $400 for group of three. Book by May 27, 2011 and save $10 per person using code SHERMANS.
SunGay Brunch Tour
Having fought the good, gossipy fight since Prop 8 hit back in late '08, Out & About Tours (www.OutAndAbout-Tours.com) has remained the big gay go-to for LA's secret (and not-so-secret) homo history, educational but above all entertaining. Now, their SunGay Brunch Tour ($85) invites you to toast the past, literally. The luxury mini-bus tour starts in West Hollywood with appetizers and mimosas before embarking on a three-hour chat 'n' chew that includes a proper brunch at Buttermilk Truck in Downtown LA, cocktails at LA's last piano bar The Other Side, dessert at The Flying Leap Cafe, plus plenty of sightseeing through Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Hollywood, returning just in time for happy hour margaritas at Fiesta. Check online for schedule and to book.