My husband and I figured out an easy and super fun way to get our kids interested in history and I’m going to let you in on our secret. History tours are hiding inside ghost tours. Every time we vacation in a new city, a quick GOOGLE search leads us to the local Ghost Walking Tour. (So many towns have them!) The kids believed they were going on a ghost hunt, but we knew that valuable history lessons would sneak into their growing brains, too.
Here are five great reasons that ghost tours are just historical and educational tours in disguise:
1. It’s a History Tour and Not that Scary Ghost Tour
Ghost Walking Tours are NOT like Haunted Houses. Tours are rarely scary enough to frighten children. Anything younger than age eight might become restless and fidgety, but 10 and up are prime ages for a ghost tour adventures. Older teens may think that the tour guides are corny, but most can’t deny being entertained. You’ll find more violence and scary images on television, movies or video games than what will be on a Ghost Walking Tour. Most of these stories recount historical drama of jealousy, civil wars, money, or political gain. It’s educational because you may hear words like apothecary, mortsafe or swashbuckler.
2. History and Ghost Tours are Interactive Shows
Ghost Walking Tours get you and your family out of your comfort zone and it’s so much better than sitting in front of a screen. As you’re walking, your family travels back in time to learn about the city, its rich history and the fascinating people that lived there. A great tour guide can transport you to the open-air markets, have you imagine a stolen kiss, an abandoned hospital or pirates stealing booty. On one tour, we had an awesome guide that stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and asked the group, “Can you see her?” and pointed to my fair-skinned and uber quiet daughter, Sophie. She giggled and then he managed a look of shock and said, “Did you hear her?” It relaxed the rest of the group and she loves telling that story to her friends.
3. Exercise and Fresh Air While on Tour
When you go on history tours that are hiding in ghost tours, you walk. You hike through a new city to each point of interest. You stand, lean against a wall or sit on ledges while your guide explains the building’s history woven into a spooky tale. You’re out in the open, not confined or feeling claustrophobic inside tight rooms. You’re getting your blood pumping from exciting stories, climbing steep hills or carefully navigating around headstones. You and your family are getting exercise. Ghost tours are more strenuous than a game of mini-golf or bumper cars but oh-so thrilling!
4. Ghost Tours Make a City Come Alive with History
Your kids might not notice the architecture of a building when you zip by in a car, but when you slow down to a stroll, you have opportunities to point out structures that they may have missed. When you’re on a history tour pretending to be a ghost tour, you notice other things like buildings’ arches or columns. When my kids were younger, they were learning about three different types of columns in Roman Architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. While on the Chattanooga ghost tour, they searched for those columns and took pictures to show their teachers. When you’re strolling, you can also notice colorful stained glass and ask why the bricks look different depending on where they were made. Take a minute to point out streets made from oyster shells or gargoyles perched on buildings to scare away bad guys and evil spirits.
5. Family Time, Imagination and Brain Power
You don’t have to travel far to experience a history tour hiding in a ghost tour. Become a tourist in your own city. Give you kids a chance to explore their hometown in an interesting and fun way. Hand them a city map and have them point out the roads you’re walking on during your tour. They’ll learn critical thinking and practical uses for maps and understanding geography. Your family can have an educational adventure with an extra kick of adrenaline peppered into your interactive tour. Based on our family’s experiences, historical tours hiding out in ghost tours almost always leads to great family discussions later.
Before you go:
Tour Guides Love Questions – Don’t hesitate to ask! There’s nothing worse than a walking tour full of zombies. Guides love interaction on a tour other than a few chuckles or nodding heads. Push aside your nervous laughter and ask when the hospital was built, what was the most popular industry of the time period or if they ever found the missing gold. If the guide can see what interests your group, then they can expand and oftentimes will go off script.
Wear Comfortable Shoes – You’re often walking in the oldest part of the city which has broken sidewalks, trees exposing their roots and tight squeezes in between buildings. You’ll need steady shoes to navigate narrow steps and uneven bricks.
Pack a poncho (or a sweater) and Bug Spray – When you’re outside hunting for ghosts and history, you never know what drizzling weather will pop up or give you a spine-tingling chill. Every great ghost story begins with, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and since the tour won’t be over until you circle back to the original meeting place, it’s better to be prepared, than miserable. Dusk and early evening is the perfect time for little mosquito bloodsuckers to come out, especially when you’re standing underneath street lamps.
Call Ahead – Make sure you know how long the tour will be. We’ve been on several that are at least two hours. While you have them on the phone, ask if there will be any topics that would be unsuitable for little ones. A common theme in a lot of tours is that a few of these characters are unsavory. Topics that could be mentioned, but are often breezed over, are alcohol or bootlegging, theft, murder or prostitution.
Tips – Tips aren’t required but they are so appreciated. As you’re walking, chat with your guides in between tour stops. You’ll often find that they give tours because they love it. Many times, your guides are either retired, history buffs, practicing speaking skills for theater or just love meeting new people. They’re guides because they love it, not because there’s a ton of money in it. If you have an energetic and entertaining tour guide, please tip.
A Few of Our Family’s Favorites:
Chattanooga, Tennessee – https://chattanoogaghosttours.com/
Asheville, North Carolina – http://www.hauntedasheville.com/
Charleston, South Carolina – https://bulldogtours.com/ghost-tours/
New Orleans, Louisiana – https://www.graylineneworleans.com/all/tours/ghosts-spirits-tour
Amelia Island / Fernandina Beach, Florida – http://www.ameliaislandghosttours.com/
PS: Read how moms can’t be scared in Reshae’s awesome post here.