I’ll admit it – I get plenty bored on weekends. Though we often spend our weekends in Canmore, we still end up doing the same old. Then I got tipped off about the new Mystery Town Tours. It’s an active, phone-driven experience that leads groups on an adventure through town. But there’s a twist! It takes elements from scavenger hunts, the Amazing Race, plus those locked escape rooms. You get to investigate and explore Canmore as you never have before.
How it works
After hearing about the tour, I went to their website and signed up online. It suggested I download their app, which I did. Fortunately, you have the choice of using your app or going by text. We went with text.
Using your phone as your guide, you’re sent a series of themed riddles. Each clue leads you on a short walk to find a hidden word or solve a puzzle, discovering Canmore’s little-known wonders along the way.
All you need is a group of two or more people, your cellphones and thinking caps. Tours are available in different lengths – from 90 minutes to a full afternoon. For competitive types there’s the option to race against a leaderboard, which naturally, we took.
Who should do Mystery Town Tours?
This kind of challenge is ideal for novelty seekers or peeps interested in local history – though (thank god) it’s light on boring old folks history. Families are welcome, but you have to be mindful of their interest level. Parents tend to get really into it and some kids could lose interest after a few clues.
Definitely elementary-aged children could do the shorter 60-90 minute tour (Smuggler’s Blues). The three hour tour we did (Unchained Melody) was perfect for our posse of 12-year-olds. You need a minimum of two people, so it’s a great date activity, too. Bikes and strollers can totally handle the course.
I also thought Mystery Town Tours would make for a cool corporate event. You totally have to work together to solve the clues, making it just the thing for team building. They can even customize tours for larger corporate groups. (I asked.) Just request that when you make your booking inquiry.
What we liked about it
The beauty of this kind of excursion is its flexibility. You can do it at anytime or any day. With most tours and escape room type experiences, you’re locked into a fixed time. So if the weather is less than desirable on the day you planned to do your Mystery Town Tour, you can do it later.
Also, it was an entirely different kind of touristy activity than I’m used to. That was refreshing. Nothing was forced on us. None of the shops pressured us to buy. None of the dining establishments seemed put out when we sat at their tables and didn’t order anything. (Though we could have – the tour lets you take a break so you can eat or have a beer.) Everyone knew what we were up to and were totally gracious.
At the end of three hours (we took the longer tour), we got to see and explore things we likely wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. It’s killing me not to share with you these best kept secrets in town, but if I do, it’ll spoil the fun. More importantly, it might give you a time advantage and I’m pretty proud of our score.
Where else in Canada can you do Mystery Town Tours?
There are tours currently operating in Victoria, B.C. and soon they’re expanding to Calgary. In a few weeks, Fort MacMurray, Banff and Vancouver will be offered to the rooster. At the moment, two tours are offered to the public in Canmore.
Initially, I thought it would be all about the race. And it was to some extent, but it also become more about enjoying the shops and eateries in Canmore. I do regret not taking the option to stop the clock and enjoy a bite at the quaint spots we were sent to. Learn from my mistake and enjoy your optional break time (pausing doesn’t affect your time score).
In preparation, you need to wear decent outdoor clothing and comfortable shoes. On the longer tour you’ll cover 6 km. The Huz’s comment: I guess this shows you really can walk everywhere in Canmore.
After we finished, I texted the tour’s creator Andrew Nickerson to thank him for the experience. Apparently I told him the same three words EVERYONE says after the tour: So much fun!
Would you try a Mystery Town Tour? What’s your favourite group activity to do in Canmore?