Face it: You’ve probably already forgotten what the inside of a hotel looks like — as a budget-savvy traveler, you likely book, and maybe offer, a guest bedroom, bungalow, or even spare castle through Airbnb, a global marketplace for unique accommodations hosted by locals. Well, prepare to take the next step toward travel immersion, as Airbnb officially launches its Experiences program in Seattle this week, and Portland later this month.
Airbnb unveiled Experiences in a dozen cities last fall as part of Airbnb Trips, and entrepreneurial spirits already host more than 800 interactive activities worldwide.
“We’re trying to transform not just where you stay but also what you’re doing,” said Laura Spanjian, public policy director for our region. “Eventually we’d like to transform someone’s experience from the moment they leave the door to the moment they return home.”
Experiences are another way for hosts to share their view of Seattle while earning some extra income.
“Not to take anything away from the main attractions like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, but you may do all that then stay an extra day to do something unique, or you may come back,” she said. “Economically, it’s better for a city.”
Airbnb takes 20 percent of a host’s fee (except for social impact Experiences), and doesn’t demand that Experiences be exclusive to its service. So the “Progressive Dinner,” hosted by a founder of culinary tour company The Pretty Fork, for example, can also be found on The Pretty Fork's website, even for a lower price. But with millions of guests, Airbnb offers a platform unlike any other for attracting attention to your expertise.
Read on for an overview of the inaugural 9 Experiences in Seattle, then get involved at airbnb.com/experiences.
- Seas the Day!: No, you don’t get to pick a crab from a viewing-tank for your eggs benedict, but you do get to enjoy a before-hours breakfast in the Seattle Aquarium’s underwater dome with Jim Wharton, Director of Conservation and Education. Chat with a diver then explore the popular attraction without any crowds blocking your shark selfie.
- Sushi in Seattle: Host Fumiko, a Japanese chef who studied at Tokyo Sushi Academy, takes a-fish-ianados shopping at the local seafood market, then to her kitchen to teach you how to prepare sushi vinegar and rolls. You might not get a job offer at Sushi Kashiba at the end, but you’ll surely be equipped to impress your next dinner guests.
- Rowing Urban Waterways: Most of us don’t get closer to Guinness World Record holders than reading a book, but host Jordan has been honored for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, and will be happy to row with you or for you, if you’d rather sit back, sip and snack, and soak in an uncommon side of Seattle.
- Progressive Dinner: Host Joey, Pretty Fork co-founder, guides you to 9 courses and 3 drink pairings spread across three restaurants in a single neighborhood, which won’t be revealed until shortly before you embark. A beefed-up “trust the chef” tasting menu for diners with insatiable curiosity to match their appetites.
- Meditative Mountain Hike: Zen-seekers leave the city for host Michelle’s guided meditation, a 4-mile silent hike, and a picnic debrief amongst the evergreens of majestic Cougar Mountain Regional Park. Not for the workaholic who can’t silence a cell phone.
- Eat, Paint, and Play: Ride the ferry to host Pattie’s Vashon Island hilltop sanctuary and art studio, fill your belly with goods sourced from the island’s many artisan producers, and learn to let loose textures and colors on a postcard that will then be mailed to you. Tap into a new hobby and maybe you’ll be the next Etsy superstar.
- Sailing for Freedom: Host Derek will tell you about his unique mobile home — the sailboat you’re taking for a ride — and even let you drive as he navigates Seattle’s network of lakes and bridges. Go for a swim, drink at a lakeside bar, and decide if you, too, should leave it all behind and take to the open waters.
- Restore a Seattle Park: Wander Cheasty Greenspace, a 43-acre wooded park in Rainier Valley, where you’ll pull on gloves and pull up invasive weeds, plant native trees (seasonally), and prepare Seattle’s first mountain-bike trails before tasting your way through Georgetown Brewing’s line-up at its tasting room. It’s fresh air and activism for the nature-loving do-gooder.
- Bloody Mary Judge: Stick with host Shelley, founder of The Drunken Tomato, and you’ll learn to officially judge this ubiquitous brunch cocktail at three different Capitol Hill bars. Next time you complain there’s not enough bacon in your Bloody, your brunch buddies will have to respect your authority.