Dylan David started his small tours company — Dylan’s Tours — about 13 years ago with a teeny tiny investment: a flyer he hung in an SF hostel that cost him just 25 cents.
He began by giving tours out of his own car, an “old soccer mom minivan.” Over the years, he’s grown the business into a multi-minibus operation that offers intimate small group tours through San Francisco, Sausalito, Muir Woods and Alcatraz.
With his 6-hour “Famous Tour,” Dylan aims to give a comprehensive overview of the city to groups of no more than 15 people. He said the small group size gives the tours a personal feel.
“When you’ve done your job right, you’ve become friends with the guests and the guests have become friends with each other,” he said. “That’s how you know you’ve given a great tour.”
Tours are led by San Francisco natives who, like Dylan, were born and raised in the Bay.
“They definitely know the ins and outs of the city, and have information that only a local would know — not something you’d find in a guidebook or wikipedia page,” Dylan said.
“They talk about experiences that people can relate to — ‘This is where I grew up, and this is the house party I went to or the park we used to drink at,’ whatever it might be. It’s more authentic, it’s less contrived.”
Dylan said finding the local tour guides is the most challenging part of the business.
“We’re like baby pigeons. You know we exist, but you never see us,” he said.
Dylan was inspired to start the tour company after catching the travel bug himself. He backpacked around Europe after college, and has since visited more than 50 countries. His own trips left him wanting to help travellers to San Francisco make the most out of their visit.
“There are different types of tourists,” he said. “You’ve got the one that just shows up in San Francisco and they’re just happy to be part of the herd where it’s like ‘just hop on this bus.’
“Then there are the ones who really want to experience it as a local, who really want to get the most out of their experience when they come.
“I’m really trying to get that person who is being herded around to let themselves experience the smaller group setting, because a lot of them probably don’t know better, they just think, ‘This is what you do.’”
By the end of the month, Dylan hopes to add a new product that will allow travellers to get an even more intimate experience of the city. The company already offers electric bike tours (self-guided or with a guide), and Dylan hopes to soon add a biking + picnic option.
“We just bought the deli next to our bike shop, and by January we’ll be specializing in picnics to go on our bikes.”
Dylan’s personal favorite spot in the city for a picnic is Crissy Field, but he said he hopes the new feature will be useful for travellers who want to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy a picnic on the other side.
For more info on Dylan’s tours and to stay up to date on the launch of their picnic package, head over to www.dylanstours.com. If you need more ideas on the perfect picnic spot in San Francisco, or for help booking a tour, ask your Scout.