It only launched in testing stages on June 25th, but Google’s new “City Tours” application—in which your Google Map offers multi-day itineraries in destinations around the globe—has the potential to become something great. But right now it’s mostly useless.
I did a test-run with Buenos Aires, a city I toured with many a visitor during the years I lived there. The computer churned out a three-day schedule that suggested stops at cultural centers, like the Museo de la Ciudad (Day One, Stop One, 9:04 a.m.; suggested lingering time: 60 minutes); landmarks, like the Casa Rosada presidential palace (Day One, Stop Three, 11:12 a.m.; suggested lingering time: 60 minutes); attractions, like the Recoleta Cemetery (below); and about 12 other museums. It even told me the walking time between each spot.
But, uh, what about the Obelisque? And where am I to eat? Plus, the day’s activities are grouped geographically so that you can walk—fine, but since cities are often segmented into museum and shopping and park districts, your Google go-round can get monotonous (on your third day in Buenos Aires, Google says, you should visit five museums in a row. Yikes!).
New York City fared better, offering me a wider range of attractions (St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, etc.). And the Google City Tour in Charlottesville, Va. (several downtown galleries, the UVa observatory, Monticello) wasn’t bad at all—but it omitted Ash Lawn-Highland (right), James Monroe’s gem of a historic home, all the Albemarle County wineries, and forgot to mention, crucially, that you’ll need a car. Walk “103 minutes” up a mountain to Jefferson’s place? No, thanks!
So, it needs some tweaks. But we’ll keep you up-to-date about this exciting new app’s progress.
Catesby Holmes is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.