Road Scholar : Home
Signature City San Francisco: City By The Bay

Program Number: 21052RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/22/2015 - 3/27/2015; 4/17/2016 - 4/22/2016; 5/29/2016 - 6/3/2016; 6/26/2016 - 7/1/2016; 7/24/2016 - 7/29/2016; 8/14/2016 - 8/19/2016; 9/11/2016 - 9/16/2016; 10/16/2016 - 10/21/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: San Francisco, California
Price starting at: $1,299.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Signature Cities Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 12; 5 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Gluten Free; Low Salt; Low Fat; Vegetarian    

From global cuisine to Alcatraz — experience the best of the “City by the Bay.” Walk through Chinatown’s 150-year-old food market for a sensory journey past fresh produce, steaming poultry and buckets of swimming fish. Enjoy a private coach excursion, see the highlights of the city, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf.


• Discover Alcatraz Island, most famous for the federal penitentiary, and also home to the first lighthouse on the West Coast, a military garrison, and a Native American occupation.
• Join a local historian for a look into San Francisco’s devastating fire of 1906 and learn how the city was rebuilt.
• Learn about San Francisco's unique architecture from a local expert followed by a docent-led visit to a Victorian home.

Activity Particulars

The program is designed to minimize walking up San Francisco's many hills. However, walks of up to a mile a day may still involve inclines and declines, stairs, and standing on sidewalks that may not always be even. Some use of public transportation.

Use of public transportation with some transfers.

Date Specific Information

4-17-2016, 6-26-2016, 8-14-2016, 10-16-2016

This date is an ACTIVE activity level.

5-29-2016, 7-24-2016, 9-11-2016

This date is a MODERATE activity level.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

San Francisco

A stunning city with a colorful past and vibrant present, San Francisco offers legendary landmarks — the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars and elegant Victorian homes — along with spectacular cityscapes and views of bay and bridges.

Comfortable hotel in downtown San Francisco.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Marie McNaughton

Marie Thomas McNaughton has been a writer, photographer, speaker, and business communications professional since 1980, when she received her B.A. in English from the University of San Francisco. She received her M.A. in humanities from San Francisco State University in 2006, and enjoys studying the "long nineteenth century" in England, France, and the United States. Marie has published her work in numerous magazines and newspapers, and she enjoys leading public lectures and writing workshops.
James Dalessandro

James Dalessandro has written more than 20 feature film and television scripts, including the movie adaptation of his best selling novel, “1906,” for Warner Brothers, and the Hallmark movie, “Citizen Jane,” based on his true crime book. He is the writer and director of the award- winning documentary film, “The Damnedest Finest Ruins,” and the writer and executive producer of, “Petrosino,” an upcoming 10-hour mini series based on his Playboy article and upcoming book. He is the principal Road Scholar lecturer in his adopted home of San Francisco where he screens, “The Damnedest Finest Ruins,” and lectures on subjects ranging from the founding of San Francisco the Transcontinental Railroad, Old Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge to the history of its artists: Mark Twain, Jack London, Isadora Duncan and the Beat Generation.
Marie McNaughton

Marie McNaughton is an independent, interdisciplinary scholar whose devotion to art, architecture, history, literature and music was fired by childhood visits to the museums, public spaces, and culture of San Francisco. She has been a professional writer, editor, photographer, and all-around critic of society and culture since the 1980s. She earned a B.A. in English from the University of San Francisco and an M.A. in Humanities from San Francisco State University, where she regularly lectures on cultural production as a means of understanding the human condition. Practiced in exhibit development, interpretation and curation, she has worked with such diverse institutions as the San Francisco Zoological Society, Sonoma County Environmental Discovery Center, San Francisco Police Department, California Homicide Inspectors Association, and the Cotati Historical Society & Museum, of which she is currently president.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel Carlton
  San Francisco, CA 5 nights
 Hotel Carlton
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: The historic 161-room Hotel Carlton in San Francisco's Lower Nob Hill neighborhood offers an international ambiance with outstanding guest service and eclectic and exotic touches from around the world that celebrate the joy of travel. Located near City Hall, the Federal building and the Theater District, this San Francisco hotel is located in a residential neighborhood just five blocks from Union Square and two blocks from the California Street cable car. It is one block away from Polk Street with many eclectic shops and restaurants. The hotel features an international vintage style that offers an eclectic and relaxing haven accentuated by exotic travel photographs. The charming public spaces showcase a cross-cultural design that incorporates one-of-a-kind objects and fascinating treasures. Hotel Carlton is a non-smoking hotel.
  Contact info: 1075 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109 USA
phone: 415-673-0242
  Room amenities: * Phone with voice mail/data port * Complimentary wireless Internet access throughout the hotel * Cable TV * Clock/radio/CD player that is MP3 compatible * Electronic locks * Hair dryer * In room safe * Coffee maker * Iron/board * Operable windows * Ceiling fan in all rooms
  Facility amenities: * Nightly complimentary wine reception * Saha Restaurant serves Arabic Fusion Cuisine - breakfast and dinner * Concierge services for your stay in San Francisco * Bellman services * Pet friendly hotel offering pet bed made of organic material * Daily newspaper in lobby * Laundry/valet service * Valet parking - $35 plus 14% tax per night * Meeting space accommodates up to 50 people * Complimentary wireless Internet access throughout the hotel * High-speed Internet access at computer stations in lobby (fees apply)
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Call hotel for rate. Additional nights are based on availability. The hotel will offer a 15% discount on its best available rate unless it is sold out. Contact Dana Silverstein at 415-292-1182 to make a reservation.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call hotel for rate. Additional nights are based on availability. The hotel will offer a 15% discount on its best available rate unless it is sold out. Contact Dana Silverstein at 415-292-1182 to make a reservation.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Program registration is from 3:30-4:30PM. Orientation begins at 4:30PM followed by dinner at 6:00PM. Introductions are after dinner. You will be staying at Hotel Carlton that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 11:00AM after the final morning lecture. Please arrange your travel plans so you can join us for the final class on closing day. You will be staying at Hotel Carlton the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. On the enclosed Personal Information Form (PIF), you are asked to list any food allergies or intolerances. In addition, please include any foods (i.e. fish, beef, poultry entrees) that you do not or are unable to consume. In lieu of the regular meal plan, you will receive a vegetarian entree. In order to accommodate your request, we must have this information three weeks in advance (no exceptions). There will be no changes to the menu once the program has started. Also indicate to us, on your PIF, the name of your roommate/ traveling companion and if you are traveling with other individuals and wish to be assigned a room near them. Photo ID
  Parking availability:
Hotel valet parking: $35 + tax daily. Closest self-park: 1101 Sutter St. Parking Garage--415-447-3931--open 6:30am until midnight every day; half block from hotel. Daily parking rate: $20; in/out privileges: $28. Oversized cars: $30 daily/$33 in/out.
To Start of Program
  Location:  San Francisco, CA
  Nearest city or town:  San Francisco
  Nearest highway: US101/US80 are the closest highways to the hotel.
  Nearest airport:  San Francisco International Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: San Francisco, CA
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

San Francisco


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Super Shuttle
phone: 800-258-3826


Per Person/One Way:


Call Super Shuttle for current rates.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


30-45 minutes 




14 miles




From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Super Shuttle
phone: 800-258-3826
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Call Super Shuttle for current rates.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


About 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic 




20 miles

Driving Directions
  East / East Bay via Bay Bridge Take I-80 W toward San Francisco * Take the Civic Center Exit onto 9th Street * Bear right after Market and 9th Street becomes Larkin Street * Turn right at Bush St * Turn right at Hyde St * Turn right at Sutter St * The Hotel Carlton is located on your left. * Note: There is a $6 toll to cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.
  North / via Golden Gate Bridge Take Highway 101 South over the Golden Gate Bridge * Exit Lombard Street * Turn right onto Van Ness Avenue * Turn left onto Bush Street * Turn right onto Hyde Street * Turn right onto Sutter Street * The Hotel Carlton is located on your left. Note: There is a $7 toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco
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: Registration/ Orientation/ Introductions
(Sunday, March 22)
 Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 3:00 p.m.

Program Registration: 3:00-4:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table (either in the lobby or the Summit Room) to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Orientation: 4:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilites, and answer any questions you may have.

Indicated times are approximate; program activities and schedules may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own.

 Dinner: In the hotel’s Saha Restaurant on the main floor. Menus are designed to offer balanced, healthy choices. This evening, enjoy a plated, 3-course dinner plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.
 Evening: Take the rest of the evening getting to know your fellow participants and discovering what you share beyond a love of lifelong learning. Get a good night's sleep for the full day tomorrow.
Accommodations: Hotel Carlton
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Highlights of San Francisco/ Chinatown/ Barbary Coast/ Wells Fargo Museum/ Cable Car Ride/ San Francisco History
(Monday, March 23)

Note: Approximate three hour motorcoach excursion through San Francisco includes stops for bathroom breaks and photo ops. After bus trip, four block walk over slightly inclined sidewalks. After lunch, approximate half mile walk through Chinatown and the Barbary Coast on sidewalks, which may be uneven in spots. Terrain includes flat surfaces, inclines, declines, and stairs. After the museum, five block walk to the cable car over flat sidewalks. After cable car, four block declined walk to hotel.

 Breakfast: In Saha Restaurant, enjoy a tasty plated breakfast with choices from a select menu of eggs, breakfast meats, fruit, breads and pastries, yogurt, juices, coffee, tea, milk, and water.
 Morning: Get to know San Francisco. You will board a private motorcoach and learn about "The City by the Bay" as a local expert narrates. At the end of the ride, the bus will drop you off at the Chinatown Gates. Have your picture taken and then walk through the hustle and bustle of Grant Street, the heart of Chinatown.
 Lunch: We will have a Dim Sum (several small plates) lunch together in a mouthwatering Chinese restaurant. Hot tea and water are included; other beverages are available for purchase. Sik fan! (Let’s eat!)
 Afternoon: We head out after lunch for an expert-led walking exploration through the Barbary Coast and Chinatown. In San Francisco's early days after the 1849 Gold Rush, the Barbary Coast was the seedy “anything goes” red-light district. Now, its narrow streets are a walker's paradise, filled with fascinating architecture. Chinatown is the oldest Chinese settlement in North America and one of the largest outside Asia. As we stroll crowded streets, your senses will be enlivened by the mix of residents, tourists, sights, sounds, and scents -- an experience you won’t forget!

Your exploration of the area concludes at the Wells Fargo Museum where you will be given a docent-led visit. Located in Wells Fargo's world headquarters, the museum brings San Francisco in the 1800s to life. You will experience an authentic Concord Stagecoach used by Wells Fargo in the 1860s, a working telegraph where you can send a message to another Wells Fargo museum, works of art by noted Western artists, and real gold from California gold country region.

From stagecoach to cable car: The trip back to the hotel will be via one of San Francisco's iconic cable cars, which have rumbled through the city streets since 1873.

 Dinner: In the hotel’s Saha Restaurant. Enjoy a plated, 3-course dinner plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.
 Evening: Engage in San Francisco's colorful history through a slide-illustrated lecture peppered with fascinating anecdotes about the characters that made San Francisco the city that it is. Learn about the tumultuous beginnings of "Baghdad-by-the-Bay."
Accommodations: Hotel Carlton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: de Young Fine Arts Museum/ Japanese Tea Garden/ Tree Fern Dell/ Conservatory of Flowers/ Victorian Architecture
(Tuesday, March 24)

Note: Walk three mildly inclined blocks to catch public bus. Disembark from bus, walk several blocks over flat sidewalks. Reverse trip in the afternoon. After lunch, walk five minutes on flat sidewalks for self-guided walk through gardens, also on flat sidewalks. Walk to Conservatory of Flowers through Tree Fern Dell takes about 20 minutes and traverses over flat pavement and an unpaved trail. Docent visits of the de Young Museum and Conservatory of Flowers involve standing for up to an hour.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel
 Morning: This morning we will have a docent-led visit of the permanent collection of the de Young Fine Arts Museum. Founded in 1895 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum has been a destination for millions of residents and visitors to the region for over 100 years. In 2005, the de Young Museum re-opened in a state-of-the-art facility that integrates art, architecture and the natural landscape. The museum showcases collections of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, Textile arts, and art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

Wheelchairs are available in the musuem. When you arrive, let the front desk know and one will be checked out for you.

 Lunch: Gift cards provided for lunch in the de Young Cafe.
 Afternoon: After lunch, we visit the Japanese Tea Garden for a self-guided exploration. The tea garden features an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden. Cherry blossom trees bloom in the spring.

We will tiptoe through Tree Fern Dell on our way to the Conservatory of Flowers. As we make our way through the dell, you will feel we have stepped back in time. Giant fern leaves dot the path.

The Conservatory of Flowers is a Victorian wood-and-glass greenhouse in Golden Gate Park, filled with exotic tropical plants and flowers. A docent-led visit will provide in-depth background on the sea of greenery that surrounds you.

The Conservatory of Flowers is wheelchair accessible. They have two non-motorized wheelchairs in the ticket booth, which visitors may use (*at their own risk) if not already in use.

 Dinner: We will eat out at a popular diner near the hotel. You may order your meal and a non-alcoholic drink of your choice from the restaurant menu; other beverages available for purchase. Water is included.
 Evening: The Damnedest Finest Ruins is a documentary about the 1906 earthquake and its aftermath. Discussion will follow viewing of film. Much of the film focuses on Nob Hill which you will explore tomorrow morning.
Accommodations: Hotel Carlton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Nob Hill/ Grace Cathedral/ Cable Car Museum/ Ferry Building/ Alcatraz/ Fisherman's Wharf/ The Damnedest Finest Ruins
(Wednesday, March 25)

Note: Approximate 90 minute walking exploration of Nob Hill over flat paved sidewalks. After lunch, approximate 15 minute ferry ride to and from Alcatraz. At Alcatraz, tram available for those who choose not to traverse the steep walk to the penitentiary. Paved sidewalks may be uneven. Extra long staircase to enter prison yard (optional exploration). Optional 20 minute walk on flat pavement through Fisherman's Wharf to dinner destination. You may take the streetcar if you choose not to walk.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel
 Morning: This morning, we take a narrated walking exploration of historic Nob Hill beginning with Grace Cathedral which started as Grace Chapel in 1849, the year of the Gold Rush. By 1906, the third Grace Cathedral had been built and then consequently destroyed by the earthquake on April 18. The railroad baron/banker Crocker family gave their ruined Nob Hill property for a diocesan cathedral. Work began on the present structure in 1928. Designed in French Gothic, it was completed in 1964 as the third largest Episcopal cathedral in the nation.

Nob Hill was settled in the late 19th century. Because of the views and its central position, the hill became a magnet for the rich and wealthy. Leland Stanford, Collis Potter Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker—the Big Four of the Central Pacific Railroad—all had mansions on Nob Hill which were all destroyed during the 1906 earthquake. After the earthquake, many wealthy families moved to Pacific Heights. The only remaining mansion was James Flood’s house which is now the Pacific-Union Club, a men’s social club.

The Fairmont Hotel was newly built when the earthquake hit in 1906. It survived the earthquake relatively unscathed but succumbed to the fire. When it came time to rebuild, Julia Morgan, the first woman to graduate from the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, was chosen as the architect.

Board a private motorcoach to the Cable Car Museum which is located in a historic cable car barn and powerhouse. The museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.

We reboard the bus to for a narrated excursion through the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, along the Embarcadero. When it opened in 1898, the Ferry Building became the transportation hub of San Francisco. Today, there are offices on the upper level while the main level is a foodie paradise.

 Lunch: This meal had been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.
 Afternoon: Alcatraz – “The Rock” -- has been a Civil War fortress, federal prison, bird sanctuary, first lighthouse on the West Coast, and birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement, as well as the most infamous Federal penitentiary. Upon arrival at the Alcatraz dock for our field trip, we will be greeted by a National Park Service ranger who will give a brief orientation including information on any special activities available that day. The remainder of this field trip will be a self guided exploration you can follow according to your own interests, at your own pace. Park Service staff offer free programs to visitors throughout the day on topics such as escapes, military history, American Indian occupation, natural history, and more. There are numerous exhibits to see as well as a complimentary cell house audio tour covering the penitentiary era (1934-1963).

We will rendezvous with the group leader at an appointed time at the dock to take the ferry back to San Francisco. We will make our way to dinner along the historic Fisherman's Wharf, a cornucopia of shops, restaurants, a fishing fleet, steaming crab stalls, and street performers.

 Dinner: At a colorful restaurant in historic Fisherman's Wharf, enjoy a plated 3-course meal plus complimentary coffee, tea, and water; other beverages available for purchase.
 Evening: On your own to do what interests you most.
Accommodations: Hotel Carlton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Victorian Architecture/ Alamo Square/ Fisk Mansion/ Free Time/ Beach Blanket Babylon
(Thursday, March 26)

Note: Private motorcoach to Alamo Square for approximate one hour walking exploration involving moderate inclines and declines over paved sidewalks. Docent-led visit through the Fisk Mansion involving one hour of standing and long staircase to 2nd floor. In the evening, public transportation involves walking one block to bus stop, transferring from one bus to a second bus, and then walking one block to restaurant and theater which are next door to each other. After performance, taxis back to hotel.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel
 Morning: Learn from a local expert about San Francisco’s iconic Victorian architecture, followed by a narrated walking exploration of historic Alamo Square where you will see some of the most beautiful homes in the city, including the row of "Painted Ladies" with the city skyline in the background.

Fisk Mansion. You will have the very unique opportunity to see one of San Francisco's beautiful old mansions which is privately owned and not open to the public. Learn the history of the house from the current owners followed by a tea service in the unusual second story ballroom which affords dramatic views of San Francisco.

 Lunch: This meal had been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.
 Afternoon: Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunties. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.
 Dinner: Enjoy authentic Italian fare in the San Francisco neighborhood of North Beach, settled by Italian laborers after the 1906 earthquake. Your meal includes soup, green salad, choice of entree, dessert, coffee, one glass of house wine, and water; other beverages available for purchase. Mangia, mangia!
 Evening: Beach Blanket Babylon, the longest running revue in musical theater history, is a true San Francisco treat. Get ready to laugh, sing, tap your toes and clap your hands to the zaniest show around!
Accommodations: Hotel Carlton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Final Morning/ Departure
(Friday, March 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel
 Morning: Enjoy a final lecture expanding your knowledge of San Francisco as well as providing a recap of the program.

Our program will conclude by 11:00AM. On this final day, you will truly appreciate why Tony Bennett and millions of other visitors leave their hearts in San Francisco.

We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at Best wishes for all your journeys!

Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  San Francisco, CA San Francisco Visitor's Bureau
Visit this website to get information on events happening in San Francisco while you are here. The hotel is located very near the theater district. 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.

Suggested Reading List


Author: James Dalessandro

Description: Every disaster has a backstory, none more thrilling than this one. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning tale of political corruption, vendettas, romance, rescue—and murder—is based on recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Told by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Victorian-era city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battle—fought even as the city burns—that pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens, and a lone federal prosecutor. With the appeal and texture of The Alienist, Carter Beats the Devil, and the novels of E. L. Doctrow, James Dalessandro weaves unforgettable characters and actual events into a compelling epic. Movie rights to the novel have been bought by Barry Levinson/SpringCreek Productions/Warner Brothers. The movie will enter pre-production soon.

California, A History

Author: Kevin Starr

Description: A lively short history in the excellent Modern Library Chronicles series, written by a renowned historian.

Eyewitness Guide: San Francisco and Northern California.

Author: Eyewitness Guides

Description: This superb guide features color photography, dozens of excellent local maps, and a synopsis of San Francisco and Northern California's attractions. Handsome, convenient and up-to-date, this is the guide to carry.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Author: Joan Didion

Description: A classic collection of essays on the 60s cultural climate, first published in 1968. In the acclaimed title essay, Didion vividly describes the landscape, mood and culture of 60s San Francisco.

The Haight-Ashbury: A History

Author: Charles Perry

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