Day 1 (Saturday)
Arrive San Francisco
To reach our hotel from San Francisco International Airport, collect your luggage and proceed outside the terminal, following the signs for Ground Transportation.
- Taxis to downtown San Francisco cost approximately $40 and take about 35 minutes depending on traffic.
- Shared ride vans such as Super Shuttle and Go Lorries are about $17 per person but take longer than a taxi (perhaps 1 hour) since they drop customers at several hotels.
- Another option is the BART train (Bay Area Rapid Transit), which costs less than $9 per person. To take BART, don’t exit the terminal from Baggage Claim, but instead look for the signs directing you to BART. Buy a ticket from the vending machine in the BART station (choose a ticket to the xxxx station). Insert the ticket in the turnstile and be sure to collect it again since you need to use it at the exit. All trains that depart from the airport go to downtown San Francisco. When you exit the station at xxxx downtown, our hotel is xxxxxx.
Your reservation at the hotel is in your name. Once you check in, feel free to begin exploring the city. Some choices for lunch and sightseeing in the neighborhood include xxxxx
Please join your Tour Director and travel companions for a Welcome Reception at 6:00 pm, where you can get acquainted over a complimentary glass of wine, beer or a soft drink and have all of your questions answered. The front desk will be able to tell you where the reception will be held. During the reception your Tour Director will give you ideas for nearby restaurants for dinner.
This tour also includes: Alcatraz Island Ticket (a $31 face value ticket)
Day 2 (Sunday)
San Francisco and Muir Woods
This morning enjoy a guided city tour which includes a variety of sightseeing stops and short walks to give you a comprehensive view of the City by the Bay. You will actually get out of the shuttle at each of these place:
- guided walk down the Crooked Street (Lombard Street)
- visit to Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill
- visit to the Cable Car Museum
- guided walk through Chinatown
- visit to the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square
- visit to the Palace of Fine Arts
- visit to the Golden Gate Bridge.
You will see many other sights from the shuttle, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Nob Hill, cable cars, Pacific Heights, the Presidio, etc. We’ll arrive for lunch time in the quaint waterfront town of Sausalito, which is filled with shops and restaurants. After lunch, continue on to Muir Woods National Monument to stroll among coast redwoods, the world’s tallest trees. There are various short and longer walks, but we’ll give you about 90 minutes in the park. That is longer than other local tours provide, and in fact, other multi-day tours of the California coast don’t even include Muir Woods!
Return to the city with a 30 minute ferry cruise on San Francisco Bay, with great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Enjoy a free evening–You might want to visit restaurants and shops in famous areas of the city such as Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach (Little Italy), or Haight Ashbury.
This tour also includes: Alcatraz Island Ticket (a $31 face value ticket)
Day 3 (Monday)
America’s most famous wine producing region is Napa Valley, just north of San Francisco. We’ll travel across the Golden Gate Bridge and then through beautiful portions of Marin and Sonoma counties on our way to Napa. Learn about how wine is made and “Wine Tasting 101” as we visit four wineries today, and have an included picnic lunch.
Try a variety of wines such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and stroll among the vines in this beautiful agricultural valley. (To accommodate differing interest levels in drinking wine, we have included the cost to taste wine at two of the wineries. If you would like to taste at the others, an additional charge of $10-$15 can be paid directly to the wineries.)
At the end of the afternoon we’ll return to San Francisco on a ferry cruise from the town of Larkspur. An unusual aspect of this cruise is that it passes directly in front of the famous San Quentin Penitentiary. For dinner tonight you have another chance to explore the restaurant scene in San Francisco—your Tour Director will be happy to help you choose.
Day 4 (Tuesday)
Yosemite National Park
Today we will visit Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. We’ll drive across the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge and catch the Amtrak train in the town of Emeryville, home to Pixar Animation Studios.
Riding Amtrak is a great way to travel to Yosemite since the train has plenty of room to spread out, walk around, sleep or enjoy some food in the café car. We’ll follow along San Francisco Bay through the university town of Berkeley; Richmond (where World War II liberty ships were built), then along the beautiful Sacramento River past Martinez (hometown of Joe diMaggio and birthplace of the martini), and on into California’s San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s largest agricultural production regions. In fact, about half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States are grown here!
Our shuttle bus will meet us when we leave the train, and we’ll drive into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, location of the famous California Gold Rush of 1849.
Once we enter Yosemite National Park, we’ll see famous rock formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan. In season, there’s plenty of water flowing over Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls. We’ll give you time to have lunch or take a short walk, then a highlight experience is a 2-hour tour of Yosemite Valley on an open-air tram so you have a totally unobstructed view of the spectacular scenery. A park ranger leads this tour, and provides interesting information about the geology, wildlife (including bears), and history of the park. We can’t guarantee you’ll see bears or deer, but it does happen regularly. The tour includes a stop at Tunnel View where you’ll see the most famous image of Yosemite Valley.
We conclude this day by returning by shuttle to the Amtrak train, the train ride (have some dinner in the café car), and a shuttle transfer back to our hotel.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
Monterey, Carmel and the 17 Mile Drive
We’ll check out of our San Francisco hotel this morning (luggage service included) and head over to the Pacific Ocean. The coastline south of San Francisco is a hidden world, just minutes from bustling Silicon Valley but with just a few houses overlooking the ocean and agricultural fields. We’ll pass through Santa Cruz, famous for its laid-back surfer culture, and arrive in the beautiful seaside town Carmel for lunch time and a chance to visit some of the many art galleries for which the town is famous. You might even walk down to the beach, which some people consider to be the most beautiful in California.
After lunch, visit the 17 Mile Scenic Drive, where the coastline competes with famous golf courses and spectacular mansions for oohs and aahs. We’ll stop at The Lone Cypress tree, which seems to stand courageously on a rocky outcropping on the edge of the surf, and the Pebble Beach Golf Course, where you can see the most famous hole in the world of golf, the 18th green.
We’ll continue on to Monterey, made famous by local author John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. Originally lined with sardine canneries, today Cannery Row is a visitor destination with many good restaurants and shops. We’ll check in to our hotel for a free evening.
Day 6 (Thursday)
Salinas Valley and the Central Coast
Salinas Valley figures prominently in many of John Steinbeck’s stories and novels, such as East of Eden and Of Mice and Men. It is also known as the “salad bowl of America” because of the large amounts of lettuce and other vegetables grown here—even in mid-summer we’ll see workers harvesting crops as we drive through the valley. It’s a fascinating process—teams of workers assisted by machines that continuously move through the fields. Once we see the vegetables picked, it’s only 48 hours until they’re in supermarkets across the U.S. and Canada.
Mid-day, we will take a guided tour of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst’s grandiose “Hearst Castle”, lavishly decorated with Mr. Hearst’s collection of European art. The estate was designed by noted architect Julia Morgan (the first female architect in California) to bring to mind a European hilltop town, with a “cathedral” (the main house) surrounded by other houses and gardens. We’ll have a guided tour of the major public rooms of the main house, followed by free time to enjoy the spectacular gardens and views. The Hearst family still has a working cattle ranch here, and you might want to try Hearst Ranch beef during lunch time at the cafeteria in the visitors center.
After lunch, we will visit a beachside colony of northern elephant seals with close-up viewing opportunities, and then have time to visit the quaint village of Cambria.
We’ll overnight in Pismo Beach (or adjacent Shell Beach), in a hotel on bluffs directly overlooking the ocean. Relax and watch the sun set over the Pacific. Perhaps have a walk along the beach, or stroll down to the fishing pier. The Pacific Ocean is cold year-round, but this would be a good opportunity to dip your toes!
Day 7 (Friday)
Solvang, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles
Continuing southward along the Central Coast, this morning we’ll visit Solvang, a charming town founded in the early 20th century by settlers from Denmark, which is filled with Danish bakeries and craft shops. Many of the shops specialize in hand-made lace. Perhaps pose for a photo with the statue of Hans Christian Andersen.
At lunch time we’ll visit Santa Barbara, known as “America’s Riviera” because of its lush landscape, mild climate and Mediterranean architecture. Many celebrities have made Santa Barbara their home. Your Tour Director will lead you on a guided tour inside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, often considered the most beautiful public building in America. Historical murals, Tunisian tiles and Moorish wrought iron light fixtures are just some of the highlights of the building, and the views from the observation tower are unsurpassed. Then, free time for lunch at the many restaurants in the State Street shopping area.
We’ll continue on to Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States.
Day 8 (Saturday)
Excursion to San Diego
Today we’ll travel southward to San Diego, California’s second largest city, known for its great weather and beautiful location on San Diego Bay. Along the way we’ll visit Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of the 21 historic Spanish missions from the 18th century, and home to gorgeous gardens and architecture. There are more structures remaining at Mission San Juan Capistrano than at most of the others, including the ruins of the Great Stone Church, which was destroyed in an earthquake just six years after it opened in 1806. The famous “swallows of Capistrano” nest in the ruins.
Our San Diego city tour will include views of the historic ships at the Maritime Museum and a stop to view the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway, which served until 1992. Since San Diego is home to the U.S. Navy surface fleet, a submarine base, and the Seabees, we are sure to see many active naval vessels, including nuclear powered aircraft carriers. We’ll cross the Coronado Bridge high above San Diego Bay and visit the wealthy community on Coronado Island, including a drive past the famous Del Coronado Hotel that was featured in the film Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. Returning to San Diego, we’ll have some free time in Old Town, where California’s Spanish heritage comes alive with colorful shops, restaurants and free museums.
As an alternative, you might choose to stay in Los Angeles for the day and visit Disneyland or Universal Studios (ticket price not included).
Before dinner time tonight, let’s join together for a farewell reception at the hotel to toast to a great week!
Day 9 (Thursday)
Hollywood Sightseeing and Departure
This morning we’ll have a short visit to Hollywood, the heart of the film industry. View the Hollywood sign, find your favorite stars on the Walk of Fame, and explore the celebrities’ footprints in the cement at the Chinese Theater. Lunch time will be at the historic LA Farmer’s Market, founded in the 1930s. This isn’t like other farmers markets you’ve visited. While it is possible to buy fresh produce, most of the vendors are selling hot foods, from every cuisine imaginable. This is a popular destination for locals as well as visitors. Adjacent to the Farmers Market is the Grove, a modern outdoor shopping mall that has a festive atmosphere.
After lunch we’ll drive to Los Angeles International Airport, arriving at about 1:00pm. Please do not schedule any flights before 3:00pm. Have a safe journey home, and thank you for traveling with Tours of California!