As much as I like to research before a trip, you’d think I would start with the most obvious place: the local visitors’ bureau. Foolishly, the thought never crossed my mind, until I contacted the Mansfield, Ohio Convention & Visitors Bureau to find out about touring a haunted prison.
When I got in touch in January, the prison was closed for the season, but Jodie, the Group Tour/Media Director, invited me to get in touch closer to my travel date. Meanwhile, she sent me a packet of information that included information on things to do in Mansfield that I would have never found otherwise. I eagerly began sketching out an itinerary and let the months pass before reconnecting with Jodie this May.
Then the emails began in earnest.
Jodie asked me what things I wanted to see and do while I was in town. I gave her my list and she set about making it happen. I wanted to tour the prison. She provided us with tickets. There’s a driving tour we want to take. (I’m not going to divulge much about it now. I’ll blog about it soon.) She sent me maps and suggested places to stop along the way. She set us up in a hotel for the night, with a gift certificate to the fanciest restaurant in town for dinner. She even offered to help me set up an interview with the owner of the Bissman Building – another haunted building in Mansfield that only allows ghost hunters in on four dates a year. I wanted to take her up on the offer, but didn’t want to inconvenience the owner on a holiday weekend. Still, I was impressed that she was willing to do that for me. She made me feel like a VIP.
In essence, I feel like I built a relationship with Jodie and am more excited than ever to be traveling to Mansfield for the weekend. I have all kinds of insider knowledge and free goodies just from contacting her. I know already that I haven’t allowed enough time for our visit. We may have to go back this fall. If we do, I’ll contact Jodie again and ask for her help in setting up that Bissman interview, and letting me know of any current events I shouldn’t miss.
Through Jodie, I’ve learned a valuable travel lesson: get in touch with the tourism offices. They’re fantastic!
Have you ever worked with a Tourism/Visitors’ Bureau? How was your experience?
I’d say Jodie’s exceptional, but nevertheless you can waste a trip by not pinpointing the ‘must sees’ beforehand.
I was chatting to the (initially) friendly staff in an Irish tourist office once until I suggested that the local tourist attraction, a friendly dolphin, was a fake made of rubber. The temperature suddenly dropped several degrees 🙂
Yikes. That made me laugh, though. Sorry you didn’t encounter a Jodie. I think she would have laughed, too. 🙂
Great tip! Most people (myself included) would probably never even think about visiting a tourism office and rely either on Google or friends/family for attraction recommendations. I would imagine though, that for larger, more popular tourist destinations, the tourism office wouldn’t be quite so eager to be this hospitable? Or maybe I’m just being cynical. 😉
I think there’s a difference between a Welcome/Visitor’s Center that you visit in a town and contacting them before a trip to help you plan it. I think sometimes the people manning Visitor’s centers are volunteers. But I’ve still found them to be helpful. This was the first time I contacted a Visitors Bureau to help plan my trip ahead of time. I’ll definitely do it again. It could turn out, though, that Jodie was the exception. In which case, I got lucky. 🙂
The first time I visited a local tourism office, I scored free event passes so yep, will definitely do that again! 😀
I have found tourism bureaus wonderful to work with.