Uncommon tourism
One-on-one tours of top museums, private tastings at world-class restaurants - how sightseeing was meant to be.
By Kate Bonamici, FORTUNE writer

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) -- You're in New York for a business trip and you have a free evening, or maybe a few hours of freedom one afternoon.

As tempting as pay-per-view and room service may be, wouldn't it be better to get out and actually experience something?

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Indigo cooking experience for a NYC law firm.

That's the idea behind Indigo Experiences, which specializes in planning once-in-a-lifetime experiences for corporate outings, gifts, and travelers.

"Everybody has the same desire to have a fuller life, more interesting experiences and things to talk about," says founder Holly Arnowitz, who launched Indigo after spending years in marketing for Turner, CNN and Major League Baseball.

Faced with her own desire to expand her worldview and appreciate more of what her hometown had to offer, Arnowitz began thinking about what she'd like to know more about, and realized that what she wanted was guidance.

"I'll spend the money when it really is worth it," she says, but "I didn't want to go to a museum and just walk around."

She ended up solving that problem for others.

Indigo excels at setting up customized museum tours - think cocktails at the Guggenheim after it has closed for the night or a one-on-one tour of the Museum of Modern Art.

Pop singer Shakira, a repeat customer, received a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a birthday present, where she explored the Byzantine collection with a curator.

About 40 percent of the company's current clients are business travelers, but the number is growing fast, according to Arnowitz, who understands the frustrations inherent in business travel.

"I traveled a lot for work, especially internationally," she says. "You're in Hong Kong, and you think, 'Okay, I don't know what to do.' The concierge doesn't have an imagination, and you sort of feel like 'I was there but I wasn't really there.'"

Another big source of clients: Corporations. Several law firms work regularly with Indigo to plan team outings (in New York and California) as well as networking events.

With just a few days notice last week, Arnowitz arranged for senior executives from Nike to gather in the private room at Café Gray in the Time Warner Center for a wine tasting dinner with a sommelier. Upon returning to Portland, the participants received bottles of the wine they had sampled "to extend the experience."

The options are limitless: past events have included private fashion shows over cocktails at Barneys, walking tours of Harlem with a local police detective who loves to show off the neighborhood, and private painting lessons from artists.

Indigo is currently testing a program with Starwood Hotels that will offer customized experiences as part of weekend getaway packages. And going forward the company, which now regularly plans events in New York and L.A., is going to start exploring the worlds of theater, opera and dance.

Now get out there and do something!

Prices start at about $100 per person for group events and $500 for solo outings.

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