Just as a kaleidoscope provides ever-changing views of patterns and colors, so does this incredible journey through spectacular northern California. The graceful, red lines of the Golden Gate Bridge that sweeps over the brilliant shimmering blue of San Francisco Bay is just the beginning of your adventure. Stroll through the natural beauty of redwood forests and drink in the vibrant colors of Napa Valley while sipping delicious wines. Travel by rail through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to see some of North America’s most spectacular scenery and cruise on Lake Tahoe, one of the world’s most scenic alpine lakes. This incredible vacation will provide memories to last a lifetime!
Sunday, September 22 (Dinner): Today we board our flight bound for San Francisco. Perched atop hills at the entrance to one of the Pacific’s largest natural harbors, the city has a diverse past. Originally, a Spanish mission and pueblo, it later came under Mexican rule until 1846 when the U.S. flag was raised in the public square. With the discovery of gold, San Francisco quickly became a cosmopolitan city with a rough frontier edge.
Upon arrival we will check into the Argonaut Hotel for two nights. Housed within Fisherman’s Wharf historic Haslett Warehouse building, the Argonaut Hotel merits a term like iconic both for its past and its present. A recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award for 18 consecutive years, this boutique hotel boasts a location just as noteworthy. Enjoy all of the beauty and excitement of the City by The Bay, just steps from your front door! Tonight we will have a wonderful dinner with fabulous views at the popular Franciscan Restaurant.
Monday, September 23 (Breakfast): Our day begins with a guided tour of San Francisco. Our local guide will provide a complete overview of the city including some iconic sites. We’ll see North America’s oldest Chinatown, the colorful Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the panoramic views from the top of Twin Peaks, the Presidio, and Golden Gate Park – one of the city’s premier public spaces. Our highlight will be a stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, where we’ll have an opportunity to explore the visitor center and take the perfect photograph.
Then it’s time to explore the many restaurants, shopping, and activities available at the festive Pier 39. Be sure to check out the sea lions that have taken up residence here! Our afternoon will be filled with stories, history, and images of The Rock – Alcatraz. Our tour of Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the first U.S. built fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary, and the 18-month occupation by Native Americans. Dinner is on your own so you can try one of the great restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf or in Ghirardelli Square. You may also want to take the cable car, which stops next to our hotel, to one of San Francisco’s many unique neighborhoods.
Tuesday, September 24 (Breakfast, Dinner): Today we will visit Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, a beautiful grove of old growth redwoods. Wander through the 1,000-year-old towering giants and stop at the interpretive displays to learn about redwood ecology and the cultural history of the area. Afterward, we continue into the northern tip of Napa Valley to the charming village of Calistoga. Here you will have free time to stroll along the quaint streets of this laid-back, bohemian Wine Country town and have lunch before we visit a local winery for a wine tasting. We’ll continue further into the beautiful tapestry that is Napa Valley Wine Country. In the town of Napa, we will check into the lovely Hilton Garden Inn Napa for two nights. There’s time to relax and refresh before we enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.
Wednesday, September 25 (Breakfast, Lunch): This morning we will take a tour of The Culinary Institute of America, one of the world’s most unique and enriching schools for food and wine education. We’ll have time to browse through the Spice Islands Market Place, stocked with a variety of cookware, kitchen tools and more than 1,700 cookbook titles, many autographed by the author. You will also discover hard-to-find spices and local Napa Valley specialties.
Next, we’re on our way to V. Sattui Winery, a beautiful and popular family-owned vineyard. Enjoy a winery tour, wine tasting, and gourmet picnic lunch (complete with wine, of course) under the shade of massive oak trees or inside one of their barrel rooms. We return to the hotel for some free time to rest and relax. This evening, enjoy strolling through downtown Napa where you will find many fine restaurants featuring delicious California cuisine and wine.
Thursday, September 26 (Breakfast, Box Lunch): A short drive brings us to Sacramento where we’ll board Amtrak’s California Zephyr. Sit back and relax as our rail journey takes us through the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. Enjoy dramatic views of wildflower meadows, glistening Donner Lake, and perhaps even a dusting of snow on the evergreens. Our excursion ends in the charming mountain town of Truckee, California. This Old West-style town has morphed into an artistic hub, with historical sites and appealing boutiques and galleries for you to explore.
We continue on to nearby Lake Tahoe, California and check into the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel for three nights. Our hotel is situated amongst world-class dining, gaming, shopping and entertainment. The evening is free for you to explore the area and have dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants. Then perhaps you’d like to try your luck at one of the local casinos.
Friday, September 27 (Breakfast, Lunch): Today we head out on the water for a 2-hour narrated, cruise on Lake Tahoe. Enjoy beautiful views of one of the most magnificent mountain lakes in the world! Surrounded by towering peaks and fed by sparkling streams, this pristine lake is the centerpiece of an awe-inspiring landscape that offers picture-perfect scenery at every turn. Afterward, we will enjoy lunch as a group at a local restaurant before having the remainder of the day to explore South Lake Tahoe
Saturday, September 28 (Breakfast, Dinner): Today we will visit historic Virginia City. Established in 1859, Virginia City was once the richest mining town in the world! The building of San Francisco was largely financed by the gold and silver discovered here. Today’s Virginia City is
remarkably similar to the way it was during its heyday and is known as the “World’s Liveliest Ghost Town.” We will start at The Way It Was Museum to view mining artifacts, rare photos, and maps from the area. Then you’ll have plenty of time to have lunch in a local saloon, try your luck at an old-fashioned slot machine, or shop in the town’s great stores. Our next stop is the National Automobile Museum. Explore the collection of late Bill Harrah that includes vintage, classic, special interest, rare, one-of-a-kind wonders, and dynamic race cars. Later this afternoon, we return to the hotel to relax before gathering for dinner.
Sunday, September 29 (Breakfast): Enjoy a full breakfast at the hotel before we travel to Reno, Nevada for our return flight home. We’ll be taking with us warm memories of wonderful experiences, beautiful scenery and new friends made along the way!