Priscilla was born in Bristol, England, in 1967. She toiled in public transportation until the 1980s, when she begrudgingly entered early retirement. She spent some of it in Liverpool and some in Flitwick, but eventually succumbed to the promise of greener pastures in the US—she moved to Kansas in 1993 and eventually settled in Tennessee.
Priscilla is the double-decker bus that Rufus, the owner of Nashville Double Decker, loads up with guests before touring the city. The idea for a bus-tour company came to him before his second deployment with the Tennessee Army National Guard on a visit to Nashville. He took a trolley tour that left him disappointed. The tour didn’t cross any of the city’s bridges, and he couldn’t enjoy some of Nashville’s best views thanks to the trolley’s closed top. So while Rufus was still overseas, he convinced a friend to drive Priscilla across the country from Washington, and now she shows guests the sites around Nashville.
Native-born Chattanoogans Carlton Thomas and Ginnie Harris infuse their walking tours with insights into their city’s cultural and architectural history. The pair's tours hone in on downtown and riverfront locales that have made their impressions on the city throughout its history. As small groups gather, Carlton and Ginnie may take them strolling past the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant and the Carnegie library, or they may engage in long-distance staring contests with tugboat captains while crossing one of the world’s longest bridges on foot. Tours depart through the evening hours, giving groups the chance to snag photos of the sun as it sinks beneath Lookout Mountain.
Crazy Dash's organizers transform familiar city streets into playgrounds – or digital adventure games, as they put it. Teams sign up and, using their smart phones, follow a predetermined course along avenues and boulevards, taking in key sights from the city as they go. Along the course, they encounter ten or more checkpoints, where they answer challenge questions or snap selfies of a silly task such as singing in the street, sneaking through a fountain's spray, or making eye contact with a stranger.
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When Franklin On Foot founder and guide Margie Thessin discusses the Civil War’s impact on Franklin, she shuns dry textbook summaries. Instead, she gathers groups before historic homes and battle sites, and she explains, “The war happened here. The people who lived here, this war was their 9/11. This was their Pearl Harbor.” Suddenly, she sees sets of eyes light up, as minds make the leap from musty tomes and texts to the people who lived—and fought and died—where they now stand 150 years ago.
To make history relevant, Thessin humanizes it, honing in on the famous and lesser-known people who shaped Franklin and the struggles they faced to do so. In that spirit, she seeks out guides who are not only passionate about history, but also possess a natural knack for storytelling.
In keeping with her commitment to orchestrate vivid tours, Thessin conducts them by foot or by bike. “You get so much from a place by walking it instead of looking out a window of a bus—you may as well fly at 32,000 feet,” she says.