Train Tracks Across the Sierra: Sacramento to Reno and Return
Discover the rugged Sierra Nevada by train and enjoy expert-led excursions to museums, forts and historic sites as you learn the story behind the railroad’s remarkable impact.
Rating (5)
Program No. 12085RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
Check-In, Registration, Wine Social, Orientation
Sacramento, CA
Hyatt Regency Sacramento

Activity note: Hotel check in is available from 3:00 PM.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00-5:00 PM. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule, along with other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the front desk when you check in. Our Group Leader will host an informal wine social in the Vines Café before dinner, beginning at 5:30 PM.

Dinner: At the hotel in the Vines Café, enjoy a plated welcome dinner and get to know your fellow Road Scholars.

Evening: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes. We will also discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, 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. After orientation, continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

State Capitol, CA Railroad Museum, Old Town, Pioneer Life
Sacramento, CA
Hyatt Regency Sacramento

Activity note: Standing up to 1 hour at the State Capitol, 45 minutes at Sutter's Fort, and up to 2 hours at the Railroad Museum. Walking up to a half mile with some uneven cobblestoned streets in Old Town, and up to 1.5 miles at the Capitol.

Breakfast: In the Vines Café, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as eggs, breakfast meats, breads/pastries and fruit. Beverages such as juice, coffee, tea, water will be provided.

Morning: We’ll board our motor coach and head over to the Capitol building for a field trip, guided by our local instructor. The California State Capitol was constructed between 1861 and 1874, and its neoclassical style has earned a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Afterwards, our field trip will continue with a drive through Sacramento’s historic Old Town, as our guide provides educational commentary and points out historic buildings such as the Crocker Art Museum and Stanford Mansion.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll stop for a plated lunch with a choice of entrée and dessert, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: We’ll travel by bus to Historic Sutter's Fort, a local stronghold of pioneer memories. California's history comes to life at this pivotal location that has been perfectly restored to its true 1846 appearance. Next, we head to the California State Railroad Museum, dedicated to the Transcontinental and Sacramento Valley Railroads and their heritage in Old Sacramento. We will be met by a local expert who is eager to walk us through this unparalleled display of locomotive history. The 100,000-square-foot museum is the finest and most visited of its kind in North America, displaying 21 restored locomotives and cars, 1,000 fantastic toy trains, all-new exhibits highlighting the human face of the railroad, and the "Last Spike." After our guided exploration, browse the museum on your own, or choose to spend some time walking along the historic streets of Old Town. After our full day we’ll return to our hotel with time to relax and freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: In the Vines Café at our hotel.

Evening: A talented historic reenactor as "Widow Chambers" will pay us a visit at the hotel, bringing pioneer history to life from her unique point of view.

Train Via Sierra to Reno, Legacy of the Donner Party
Reno, NV
Whitney Peak Hotel

Activity note: Boarding the train requires climbing a narrow, steep flight of 12 stairs. Train ride is approximately five hours.

Breakfast: In the Vines Café.

Morning: After we check out of our hotel, we'll head to the Amtrak Depot to board the Superliner “California Zephyr.” Welcome aboard for our railway adventure to Reno, Nevada! This Superliner affords the utmost in train travel, along with some of California's most spectacular scenery.

Lunch: On the train, use your voucher ($15 value) in either the dining car or snack bar.

Afternoon: We’ll arrive in Reno at the newly renovated train depot and check into our hotel. After checking in, we’ll have time to relax before dinner in “The Biggest Little City in the World.”

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a plated dinner with salad, choice of entrée, and dessert, plus coffee, tea (hot or iced), water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In our meeting room at the hotel, we’re joined by a local historian and author who will recall the story of the Donner Party. A large group of pioneers led by brothers George and Jacob Donner left Springfield, Illinois, for California in the spring of 1846. They took what was supposed to be a shorter route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains but experienced many delays and were finally trapped by heavy snow. The story of what happened to the Donner Party, (including who survived and how) is one of the most chilling chronicles of the way west.

Virginia City & Truckee Railroad, Nevada State Museum
Reno, NV
Whitney Peak Hotel

Activity note: Standing up to 1.5 hours at the Nevada State Museum. Walking up to half a mile. Time on coach is approximately 2.5 hours throughout the day.

Breakfast: In our hotel meeting room, we'll enjoy a breakfast buffet offering choices such as eggs, breakfast meats, pancakes, and fruit. Beverages such as juice, coffee, tea, water will be provided.

Morning: We’ll board our motor coach for historic Virginia City. In its heyday, Virginia City was one of the most important cities in the western U.S., a place where people from all over the world found fortune and glory, drawn by the gold and silver buried in nearby mountains. With a museum docent, we’ll learn the fascinating story of Virginia City’s historic Fourth Ward School, “the last school of its kind still standing in North America.” This 1876 Victorian structure still contains the same wooden desks occupied by children and teachers from 1876 to 1936. Next, we travel back in time to the bonanza days as we board the historic Virginia Truckee Railroad to take a spin around what used to be the richest city in the world. We will learn about the Bonanza Kings, the mine owners who played an important role in shaping America’s economy. Keep an eye out for exposed veins of silver ore and pass Gold Hill, where gold and silver strikes began in 1859. Our train ride will be fully narrated by our charming conductor who will make this historic train route come to life. Back in Virginia City we'll have some free time to explore on our own. Virginia City is also where Mark Twain took his pen name and began his writing career. Stop by Piper's Opera House, where stars such as John Philip Sousa and Al Jolson once took the stage.

Lunch: At a nearby restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal with several menu options plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Our next stop is the Nevada State Museum, where we’ll have time for a docent-led tour as well as time on our own to explore. The museum’s building was originally constructed in 1870 as the U.S. Mint; in just 23 years, it produced more than $49,000,000 in coins. Today, we’ll see exhibits that include "The Chinese Experience," and "Coin Press No. 1," plus a collection of Washoe Native American baskets, and the dining service from the battleship USS Nevada. The dining ware was made from silver mined at nearby Tonopah and gold from Goldfield. The museum also features Nevada's wildlife, particularly coyotes, mountain lions, golden eagles, badgers, and black bears.

Dinner: This meal has 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.

Evening: At leisure. You might enjoy a stroll along the Truckee River Walk or take in a concert or show at one of the city’s theaters.

Coach to Sacramento, Donner Memorial State Park
Sacramento, CA
Hyatt Regency Sacramento

Activity note: Walking up to a half mile and standing for one hour at Donner Memorial State Park. Coach time is approximately 4 hours throughout the day.

Breakfast: In our hotel meeting room, we'll enjoy a breakfast buffet offering choices such as oatmeal, cereal, muffins, and fruit. Beverages such as juice, coffee, tea, water will be provided.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board our motor coach for the return trip to Sacramento. We’ll travel along the north shore of Lake Tahoe, a stunning Alpine lake with clear, azure-blue waters and the second deepest lake in North America. Its name is actually a derivative of “Dao w a ga,” which, in the language of the Native American Washoe people, originally meant “edge of lake.” After a number of name changes, “Lake Tahoe” has appeared on official maps since 1945.

Lunch: At a restaurant on the shores of Lake Tahoe, we’ll have salad or sandwiches plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Aboard our motor coach, we’ll head for Donner Memorial State Park to learn more about the dramatic story of the Donner Party. Then, we’ll follow the old highway over Donner Summit as we contemplate the experience of 19th century pioneers crossing the formidable Sierra Mountains through this precarious notch. We’ll arrive back at our original Sacramento hotel with time to relax before dinner.

Dinner: Aboard the Delta King, a permanently moored 1920s riverboat that is now a popular restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal with a choice of entrée, side salad, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You may linger on the Delta King and imagine traveling between Sacramento and San Francisco by boat, as many did through the first half of the 20th century.

Wrap-Up Presentation, Program Concludes
Sacramento, CA

Activity note: Hotel check-out is by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: In the Vines Café.

Morning: Our Group Leader will conduct a wrap-up session with farewells before departure. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning 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 www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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