Erik and Amy Hormann felt that as a young, entrepreneurial couple, they needed some justification for buying a bright red 1971 Volkswagen Van—as if owning a bright red 1971 Volkswagen Van wasn’t justification alone. With so many on-the-go services on the rise in cities like San Francisco, the options and opportunities seemed endless. And it was with their love for their home city that Vantigo was born. A playful combination of “ven conmigo,” meaning “come with me,” and the nature of their vehicle, the name Vantigo fully embodies Hormanns’ decision to turn the van into a one-of-a-kind San Francisco tour service.
With a beautifully refurbished ’70s van (who they named Lillie) the Hormanns started their business with a San Francisco 7×7 City Tour, which hits 14 of the city’s finest spots and hidden gems that appeal to visitors and locals alike. One of the favorite stops on the uniquely Hormann tour is the Legion of Honor; a beautiful museum tucked away in the woods offering spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean and back at the city skyline. And, with vistas in mind, a close second favorite is Twin Peaks. Just a fraction of locals have never made it to the top to check out the absolute best city views. Home to unprecedented lookouts as well as the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly, it’s must-see in San Francisco and thus a beloved stop on the Hormanns’ city tour.
The tour is truly all-encompassing. Amy explains, “We believe in exploiting all of the five senses in order to have the most personal tour experience possible. See, touch, smell, hear, taste—you use all of those on a Vantigo tour.” While taking in the sights, you’ll get to enjoy the taste and aroma of quintessential San Francisco sourdough and some freshly made sweets from Ghirardelli Square as “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” plays in the background.
In addition to the city tour—which you can personalize with the Hormann’s help—Vantigo offers a Brew Tour of a few of San Francisco favorites, including a lunch stop at Lagunitas. The Wine Tour is also an option depending on the season, and they’re also hoping to get their Oyster Tour going soon as well. The trips are easily customizable, and the charter service option lets you take complete control. Whether you live in the area or are looking to make a visit extra special, Vantigo can make your day or night in the city a treat with a private drive to and from your destination.
Lillie’s most memorable charter so far was with Path, a local Bay Area startup. “A couple of weeks ago, Path approached us about featuring Lillie in a video shoot. We were ecstatic and filled Lillie to the max with Path employees, a camera crew and hit the streets of San Francisco. After charging up and down hills for a couple of hours, we ended the shoot with a bonfire on Ocean Beach. It was Lillie’s first time on a professional video shoot, and she rocked it.”
What obviously makes this San Francisco tour special is Lillie the van. The VW van is iconic and is still an attention-grabber in areas like Haight Ashbury for its historical and cultural relevance in the hearts of so many Californians. But in the case of the Hormanns, it’s their trailblazer mentality, their unfailing organizational abilities and their adoration of San Francisco that truly seal the deal.
Up and running for just over a month, 7×7 Vantigo tours can be reserved online where charter services and specialty tours can be organized with Amy and Erik personally. Tours start at $60 a person, for up to seven passengers, and run for four to five hours at different hours of the day.
Golden Gate and interior images by Andon Espeseth, Presidio and Taylor St images courtesy of Vantigo