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Historic Mendocino: A Colorful Coastal Village

Program Number: 6463RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/21/2012 - 10/26/2012;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Mendocino, California
Price starting at: $855.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 1 Brunch, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Fat; Low Salt    

Bordered on three sides by grassy meadows and the breaking surf of the Pacific Ocean, free of billboards, traffic lights and box stores, Mendocino remains an unspoiled village closely tied to California’s colorful early history. Experience the area’s stunning beauty and Victorian past on streets lined with old wooden buildings, water towers and fragrant gardens. Delve into Mendocino’s human and natural history through lectures and expert-led field trips.


• During an expert-led walk on the Mendocino Headlands and MacKerricher State Park, learn about the region’s often-dangerous logging history.
• Visit the beautifully restored and historically significant Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens with its remarkable diversity of plants.
• Explore the renowned Mendocino Art Center perched above the Pacific Ocean, and relish class sessions with the center’s resident artists.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile and standing up to a half-hour; some uneven terrain.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.


Perched on a scenic headland surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Mendocino is a thriving artist colony and a popular weekend getaway for residents of San Francisco, 200 miles south. Once the location of the TV series, “Murder, She Wrote,” the town has several parks and nature reserves that offer panoramic views and good birdwatching.

Beautifully renovated Victorian hotel on the National Historic Register.
Meals and Lodgings
   Mendocino Hotel
  Mendocino, CA 5 nights
 Mendocino Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The hotel is listed on the National Register. It is a restored Victorian decorated with many beautiful antiques.
  Contact info: 45080 Main Street
Mendocino, CA 95460 USA
phone: 707-937-0511
  Room amenities: TV, hair dryers, phones, room service. Garden setting.
  Facility amenities: The Participants are housed in the garden suites, lovely garden setting. Hotel has full service restaurant and bar. Lobby has fireplace and ocean views.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: Please call the hotel. The hotel is usually fully booked on weekends.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Please call the hotel. The hotel is usually fully booked on weekends.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:00 p.m. hotel check in time. 4:00-5:00 p.m. meet in hotel lobby for Road Scholar registration. You will be staying at Mendocino Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 10:30 a.m. after brunch. Room checkout time is 12:00 p.m. You will be staying at Mendocino Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Hotel has free parking.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Mendocino, CA
  Nearest city or town:  San Francisco
  Nearest highway: Hwy. 101
  Nearest airport:  SFO
  From End of Program
  Location: Mendocino, CA
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

San Francisco


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Airport Express
phone: 707-837-8700


Per Person/One Way:


$30 to Sonoma County Airport, then Mendocino Transit to Mendocino $20
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


total travel time approx. 8 hours-Mendocino Transit phone: 800-696-4682 


This is a difficult trip involving two commercial shuttles-Airport Express to Sonoma County Airport and Mendocino Transit from there to Mendocino. Cost for both is $50. Please call for schedule times. If arriving on the Sunday the program begins cannot make connections to arrive in Mendocino until approx. 7 p.m. Recommend renting a car at SFO.


Oakland Airport


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Airport Express
phone: 707-837-8700


Per Person/One Way:


$30 from Oakland Airport to Sonoma County Airport, $20 from Sonoma County Airport to Mendocino
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


approx. 7 hours in transit Mendocino Transit phone: 800-696-4682 


This is a difficult trip as it involves taking Airport Express to Sonoma County Airport, then changing to Mendocino Transit to travel to Mendocino. If arriving on the Sunday the program begins cannot make connections to arrive in Mendocino until approx. 7 p.m. Recommend renting a car at SFO.

Driving Directions
  From the north Take Hwy. 101 south to Willits. Exit on Hwy. 20. Go west to Hwy. 1. South on Hwy. 1 to Mendocino.
  From the south From SFO take Hwy. 101 north to Cloverdale. Exit on Hwy 128 and go west to Hwy. 1. North on Hwy. 1 to Mendocino.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival in Mendocino, wine/cider social, dinner and orientation program
(Sunday, October 21)
 Arrive To: Check into the Mendocino Hotel and register for program. The town was founded in 1850 as a logging community, and was originally named Meiggsville after Henry Meiggs. Many of its early settlers were New Englanders, as was true with many older Northern California towns. Its economy declined after 1940, and it became a somewhat isolated village until discovered by the region's art community. Since 1987 it has been the site of the Mendocino Music Festival, a classically-based but musically diverse series of concerts that is held annually in a huge circus type performance tent on the town's Main Street in the Mendocino Headlands State Park.
 Dinner: Wine/cider social in the hotel meeting room. Plated dinner is served in the Garden Room. The Mendocino Hotel is the only remaining Hotel from a time when Mendocino was a booming port for the logging trade. The original structure of the Hotel, dating to 1878, remains today and encompasses the lobby, the lobby bar, the dining room, the kitchen and upstairs rooms. The Hotel itself speaks much about the town and its history. It originally opened as The Temperance House in a time when the town was burgeoning with 20,000 people (as compared to 1,000 today). It was considered, according to current Hotel management, as “the one bastion of good Christian morals in a town of loggers.” Mendocino was reportedly home to 19 saloons during the logging industry’s heyday, and there was no shortage of pool halls and “fast houses” in town, either.
 Evening: We spend an evening getting acquainted and learning about our program in the hotel meeting room.
Accommodations: Mendocino Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: We visit the Ford House Museum, learn about the area's natural history, enjoy a walk on the Mendocino Headlands and learn about the Chinese in Mendocino
(Monday, October 22)
 Breakfast: We have a full buffet breakfast in the hotel's Garden Room.
 Morning: We visit the Ford House Museum & Visitor's Center across the street from the hotel for a presentation on local history and film of Big River State Park. Jerome B. Ford, superintendent of the town's first sawmill and one of the founders of Mendocino, had the house built for his bride, Martha, in 1854. The Ford House offers both historic and current information about the area, with a broad selection of brochures, books, and cards. A number of videos are available upon request, with topics ranging from the steam whistle logging era of the early Twentieth Century to the amazing story of gray whale migration. 7,400 acres of the Big River watershed were purchased in March 2002 in a campaign of national scope, and this land will shortly become California’s newest state park. In the meantime, it is attached to the Mendocino Headlands State Park as the Big River Unit. A logging road follows the river for many miles, making for a pleasant walk or bike ride. Return to hotel for class on natural history of the area with director of local nature center.
 Lunch: Our lunch is served in the Garden Room.
 Afternoon: We join a museum docent for a walk on the Mendocino Headlands to discuss the significance of "dog hole" ports and lumbering along the northern California coast. The Headlands Park features grass-covered headlands and a beach, with access from the mouth of the Big River south of town. Trails are popular with hikers and joggers. In winter, the park provides a site for whale watching. Each dog-hole port was unique which was why schooner captains often sailed back and forth to the same ports to load. The mariners were often forced to load right among the rocks and cliffs in the treacherous surf. A former schooner master said, “You couldn’t use a deepwater skipper for that kind of work. He would die of fright. Sailing right up to the cliffs–you’ve got to get used to it. A deepwaterman never did.”
 Dinner: We are served a plated dinner in the Garden Room.
 Evening: Our evening program is a lecture by an instructor from the local college who talks about her family's history which includes the history of the Chinese in Mendocino and the foundation of one of the original Chinese temples in California. Dedicated to the Chinese god of war - a Taoist symbol of integrity and loyalty, the Temple of Kwan Tai offers living evidence of Mendocino's 19th Century Chinese community. Four generations of its founders' descendents have preserved this original Taoist temple, a site now recognized as California Registered Historic Landmark No. 927.
Accommodations: Mendocino Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: We visit Kelley House Museum, learn about the Woodland Wildlife Center, visit the Kwan Tai Temple and hear from the woman who played Bonnie Blue Bell in "Gone With the Wind"
(Tuesday, October 23)
 Breakfast: A full buffet breakfast in the Garden Room.
 Morning: We visit Kelley House Museum, 1/2 block from hotel. The Kelley House Museum is an historic home built in 1861, which offers exhibits on the cultural heritage of the Mendocino Coast. It interprets Mendocino's logging and shipping industries and the unique Victorian architecture for which the town is recognized as a National Historic Preservation District. The setting is enhanced by a pond and gardens. We learn more about the area history, including a visit to the town archives with the museum director.
 Lunch: We enjoy lunch served in the Garden Room.
 Afternoon: Ronnie James found her calling when she received a phone call from veterinarian Jan Dietrich. Dr. Dietrich knew Ronnie had volunteered at the Raptor Center in Davis, CA and wanted to know if she could provide a home for a Great Horned Owl that he had saved. Giving shelter to wildlife is not as easy as it would seem. An ordinary citizen is not allowed to keep wildlife unless he or she has federal and state licenses. And the only way to keep wildlife that cannot be returned to the wild is to have additional federal and state licenses as a wildlife educator. Ronnie pursued all of these licenses, and Woodlands Wildlife was born. Ronnie joins us for a fascinating presentation about her work and the Woodlands Wildlife Center. We walk a few blocks from the hotel for a guided visit to the Temple of Kwan Tai.
 Dinner: We are served a plated dinner in the Garden Room.
 Evening: Enjoy a free evening to relax and visit with new friends.
Accommodations: Mendocino Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Our field trip takes us to Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse, Mendocino Botanical Gardens, MacKerricher State Park and the Pygmy Forest
(Wednesday, October 24)
 Breakfast: A fluu buffet breakfast in the Garden Room.
 Morning: We board the motor coach for field trip to Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse, Mendocino Botanical Gardens and Fort Bragg. The Mendocino coast was home to hundreds of sawmills. The demand for lumber became even greater after the 1906 earthquake and conflagration in San Francisco, and that same year Congress appropriated $50,000 for a lighthouse on Point Cabrillo. Construction on the station, which was considered one of the most desirable assignments in the district due to its proximity to supplies and a school, began in 1908. The combination lighthouse and fog signal building resembles a small church with a 47-foot octagonal tower attached to the eastern end of the small one-and-a-half-story fog signal building. Two eighteen-horsepower engines housed in the building ran an air compressor that powered twin sirens protruding from the western end of the roof. A third-order Fresnel lens, manufactured in England by Chance Brothers, was installed in the lantern room. To produce a white flash every ten seconds, the four-sided lens was made to revolve three times every two minutes, using a weight suspended in the tower. Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, the only public garden to front directly on the Pacific Coast, was founded in 1961 by retired nurseryman Ernest Schoefer and his wife,Betty. Ernest's keen eye spotted the ample supply of water augmented by the mild coastal climate and quality soil essential to acid-loving plants like Rhododendrons.The Grand Opening of the Garden was in 1966. By 1992, the Gardens had been purchased with grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and transferred to the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District.
 Lunch: In prehistoric days, the area now known as Fort Bragg was home to the Native American Indians, most of whom belonged to the Pomo tribe. They were hunter-gatherers who lived close to the land and sea along the northern coast of California. In the summer of 1857, First Lieutenant Horatio G. Gibson, then serving at the Presidio in San Francisco, established a military post on the Mendocino Indian Reservation approximately one and one-half miles north of the Noyo River. He named the camp for his former commanding officer Captain Braxton Bragg, who later became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. The official date of the establishment of the fort was June 11, 1857. Its purpose was to maintain order on the reservation.By 1867 the reservation and military outpost at Fort Bragg were abandoned. By 1869 small lumber mills were being built at the mouth of every creek. Ranches were settled. By 1873 Fort Bragg had an established lumber port at Noyo. Fort Bragg was incorporated in 1889. We enjoy a picnic lunch at MacKerricher State Park. MacKerricher State Park offers a variety of habitats; beach, bluff, headland, dune, forest and wetland. Tidepools are along the shore. Seals live on the rocks off the park’s Mendocino coast. More than 90 species of birds visit or live near Cleone Lake, a formal tidal lagoon. During winter and spring, the nearby headland provides a good lookout for whale watching.
 Afternoon: After lunch we take a walk along the park's boardwalk with a knowledgeable local instructor. We have a chance to observe the harbor seals, grey whales depending on the season and many species of shore and pellagic birds. We board the motor coach and continue our field trip to view the Pygmy Forest with our instructor.The Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park is truly Lilliputian. Sixty-year-old cypress trees are but a few feet tall and measure a half-inch in diameter. Our walk takes us along a nature trail, built upon an elevated wooden walkway, looping through the Pygmy Forest. The Pygmy Forest is truly unique with mature, cone-bearing cypress and pine trees the may stand six inches to eight feet tall.
 Dinner: We are served a plated dinner in the Garden Room.
 Evening: We watch the 1956 American Comedy movie "The Russians Are Coming!" which was filmed in Mendocino.. Based on the Nathaniel Benchley juvenile novel, The Off-Islanders, it was adapted for the screen by William Rose. The movie tells the Cold War story of the comedic chaos which ensues when the Soviet submarine, Спрут (Sprut, Squid), accidentally runs aground near a small New England town.
Accommodations: Mendocino Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: We spend the morning at the famed Mendocino Art Center with artist-guided studio viisits, then visit the much photographed Presbyterian Church. Our day concludes with a musical program.
(Thursday, October 25)
 Breakfast: Full buffet breakfast in the Garden Room.
 Morning: We will visit Mendocino Art Center, 4 blocks from hotel. The Center's director will give us an Introduction to its history followed by classes with resident artists.The Mendocino Art Center is a very special place overlooking the ocean from the top of the headlands. We have been a haven for professional artists and all levels of students since 1959. Today the Art Center is still a retreat away from the stress and clamor of the workaday world, where the soul can breath, the imagination takes wing, creativity realizes itself—and new acquaintances turn into friendships. The Mendocino Art Center is an educational, exhibition, and resource center for the visual and performing arts located 150 miles north of San Francisco in the quiet coastal village of Mendocino. The Art Center has earned national and international reputations which attract an impressive selection of renowned faculty members, yet has remained small enough for productive dialogues between students and teachers, professional artists and beginners.
 Lunch: We return to the hotel for Lunch served in the Garden Room.
 Afternoon: We walk to the historic Presbyterian Church, 3 blocks from hotel. A church docent tells us about the church, its role in films and its interestng bell pull. In 1854, the first Protestant services in this infant village on Big River were conducted in the gangmill cookhouse of the Mendocino Lumber Company. Then, as now, the attendance was a blend of religious persuasions. The first ministers to conduct worship services were Methodists. Almost four years passed before other visiting ministers came – Baptist and Congregational. In 1858, realizing that the small congregation needed a permanent Sanctuary for worship, Jerome B. Ford and William Heeser were elected to collect subscriptions to build the first church in Mendocino, a small building on the northeast corner of Lansing and Ukiah Streets, across from the future location of the Masonic Temple. The present Sanctuary, started on October 7, 1867, was built of local redwood for a cost of $10,000. Half of this sum, as well as the land the church was built on, was donated by Jerome B. Ford. The new building was dedicated on July 5, 1868, with a sermon preached by the Reverend Dr. Laurentine Hamilton (for whom Mt. Hamilton is named), pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland. Architects S.C. Bugbee and Son of San Francisco designed the English Gothic edifice that faced the ocean on the Old Coast Road coming up from the river flats. This thoroughfare has now passed from use, but when the church was built, it was the main entrance from Big River crossing into town. That is why the church now seems to turn its back on Main Street. .
 Dinner: A plated dinner is served in the Garden Room.
 Evening: We enjoy our final evening together with musical entertainment in hotel meeting room or a visit to Mendocino Theater to attend a production (dependent on theater schedule.)
Accommodations: Mendocino Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: A class on the Pomo Indians and a farewell brunch and program wrap-up
(Friday, October 26)
 Breakfast: A light breakfast snack is available in the Garden Room.
 Morning: Our final class is an exploration of the culture of the local Pomo Indians with examples of thsir crafts and customs. The word 'Pomo' which some believe is derived from Poma, the name of a particular village, was given to these people by anthropologists at the turn of the century. Because of similarities of their basketry and culture, anthropologists conveniently saw them as one group. Actually, there are more than 70 different tribes within what is known as Pomo country as well as 7 different languages, but only 3 are still spoken.
 Brunch: Our farewell buffet brunch is served in the Garden Room and we review the program highlights and say our goodbys. Please check out of the hotel by noon.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Brunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Mendocino, CA General Overview
There are many shops, art galleries and restaurants in the village. Everything is easily accessible on foot. There are several state parks with miles of sandy beaches within a 15 mile radius. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

What’s included in this Road Scholar program?

Except for the occasional meal on some programs, Road Scholar programs are all-inclusive. That means there are no extra “options,” no passing the hat for tips and no surprises. From lectures and field trips to gratuities and accommodations – the price you pay up front is the price you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

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