Following my own advice, I recently took a four day weekend and visited New York City. Right before I left, I read the news that Detour, a GPS guided walking tour app, had been acquired by Bose and was available for free. I downloaded it and all of the New York City tours it offered and gave it a try.
Imagine walking around Central Park with the former City Parks Commissioner, a tour of Harlem guided by acclaimed Chef Marcus Samuelsson, visiting Broadway with Tony Award-winning actor Joel Grey, and strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. This app offered all of these in a well-designed and easy to use interface.
In addition to New York, the app offers tours in numerous cities: Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo, to name a few. On the app’s home page, there are categories with listed tours such as “Iconic Places,” “Notable Voices,” and “Savoring Cities.”
Once you select a tour, it gives you directions to the starting point. I was traveling alone, so I didn’t try the “Sync with friends” option which requires you to either link to Facebook or create an account. The narrator of the tour provides verbal cues of where to go while the app shows pictures of your route. Because the app uses your GPS, it detects if you have wandered off course and will alert you. If you linger at a spot after the narration runs out, the app plays music until you move on. If you arrive at the next tour stop and the app hasn’t caught up to you, you can manually move ahead. At each stop, the app will have synchronized photos. At several stops on the tours, you are invited inside and they narrator tells you that you should just mention that you are with “Detour” if any of the employees stop you.
I did five tours in New York with Detour. The app tracks them all in a timeline where you can see how far you walked, how long you were on the tour, and how many steps it took. It also shows a map with your GPS track.
I thought the content was excellent. The narrators provided many personal flourishes while also providing historical overviews, current information, and fascinating trivia. The interface is easy to use and the GPS navigation was helpful the few times I went off in the wrong direction. My only gripe with the app is that on the Broadway tour, navigating required frequent violations of jaywalking laws. The other tours directed me to safe crosswalks. Given that the app and all tours are currently free, I would encourage you to download this app and go out for a walk!