City Walks: Exploring San Francisco’s Neighborhoods
Hike and learn about the vibrant and diverse neighborhoods of San Francisco with experts who live here, discovering lesser known sites, history, monuments and cuisine.
Program No. 20588RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
11 meals
5 B 3 L 3 D
Getting There
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Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San Francisco, CA
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

Activity note: Hotel check-in is available starting at 3:00PM.

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in the lobby 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.

Dinner: In the dining room at the hotel, we’ll gather for a 3-course dinner including your choice of coffee, tea, water.

Evening: 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 responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Indicated times are approximate. Program activities, schedules, and personnel 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. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night's sleep for the day ahead.

Union & Portsmouth Squares, Chinatown, Coit Tower, No. Beach
San Francisco, CA
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

Activity note: Walking 3 miles during the day. Climb to top of Telegraph Hill for Coit Tower involves a gain of about 300 feet, some steps, inclined paved walkway.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the daily breakfast buffet includes hard boiled eggs, sausage, waffles, hot and cold cereals, bagels and cream cheese, English and sweet muffins, croissants, assorted fruit, juices, water.

Morning: We’ll take public transportation to Union Square. With the Group Leader, we’ll learn about the history of the area as we walk through the square and on to Portsmouth Square, the birthplace of San Francisco. Then, making our way to Chinatown we will sample a variety of different teas at one of many tea shops in the area.

Lunch: At a popular Chinese restaurant, we’ll have “Dim Sum” — a variety of dishes with small individual portions. Tea and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Chinatown with a local expert, walking through alleys, temples, Chinese herbal medicine shops, and unusual food markets in America’s oldest and largest Chinatown. Learn about the history and personal stories that have made this amazing place what it is today. We continue our walk from Chinatown through North Beach, home to early Italian fishermen as well as the so-called Beatniks of the 1950s. Learn how the neighborhood has evolved over the last century and scope out restaurants along the way. Then take a brisk walk up from Washington Square up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower and enjoy the approaching sunset. You can reach the observation deck by elevator for 360-degree views of the city, the bay, and the Golden Gate.

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. You might enjoy one of the many fine Italian restaurants in North Beach.

Evening: At leisure. For those participants who wish to return to the hotel with the Group Leader via public transportation, an appointed time and meeting spot will be arranged.

Pacific Heights, Presidio, Marina, Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco, CA
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles, climbing stairways, getting on/off a cable car; forested trails and hills at Presidio Park.

Breakfast: At the hotel

Morning: To begin today’s field trip, we’ll take public transportation to Pacific Heights and walk through Billionaire’s Row with a local expert. We’ll continue walking to the Presidio, one of the oldest sections of San Francisco. For many years this wonderful urban park area was the center of military activity in the city. Now open to the public for all to enjoy, the group leader will take you through noted artist Andy Goldworthy’s “Wood Line,” a trail of eucalyptus trunks lining the trail of a eucalyptus grove. You will also see a newly reforested area of Monterey cypress trees.

Lunch: At El Polin Spring, we'll have boxed lunches with a sandwich, salad, fruit, and fruit drink. This was the first populated portion of the Presidio where civilians lived, making it one of the first neighborhood in San Francisco.

Afternoon: The Presidio’s chief archeologist and chief biologist will give a presentation on the excavation findings at El Polin Spring and the effort to bring the area back to its original state. Next, the group leader will take us to to see another Andy Goldsworthy work of art, “Spire.” Be inspired by this sculpture of 37 Monterey cypress tree trunks. Then, overlooking the San Francisco National Cemetery take in breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. We continue our walk into the Marina District, a neighborhood bordering San Francisco Bay. After the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco hosted the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition. Many temporary buildings were constructed for the expo, including the Palace of Fine Arts. When the fair was over, all the buildings came down except the palace. Today, residents along the main street have enviable views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, sailboats, cargo ships. Via public transportation, we’ll head to explore Ghiradelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf with the Group Leader. In 1893, Domingo Ghiradelli converted a woolen mill into a chocolate factory. In the 1960s, the factory moved and the square was slated to be torn down and replaced with an apartment building. A private citizen bought the square and converted the space to a restaurant and retail complex, the first of its kind in the country. Fisherman’s Wharf was established by Italian immigrants shortly after the Gold Rush as they fished the waters of San Francisco Bay. Although now a major tourist attraction, there is still a fleet of active fishing boats berthed in the area. The Group Leader will focus on the history of the wharf, showing us a floating national park, fishing vessels, and the Fishermen’s and Seamen’s Memorial Chapel.

Dinner: At a family-owned Fisherman's Wharf restaurant popular with locals, our plated 3-course meal includes a choice of soup or salad, choice of entrée, and dessert. Beverage choices include coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll return to the hotel via the famous Hyde Street cable car. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

Haight-Ashbury & Golden Gate Park Walk, Free Time
San Francisco, CA
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles, mostly level with some slight inclines.

Breakfast: At the hotel

Morning: This morning’s field trip takes us into the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood that began as Victorian era resort site subsequently developed for the merchant class, whose gingerbread homes still grace its streets. While there are many reminders of the 1960s counter-culture revolution, “The Haight” today is very different from the hippie enclave that sprang up in the neighborhood around the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets. With the Group Leader, we’ll get acquainted with its colorful history, architecture, and contemporary ambience characterized as much by boutiques, bookstores, and cafés as vintage clothing stores and hipster hang-outs. Our field trip continues as we walk to Golden Gate Park. Larger than New York's Central Park, it once consisted of sand dunes, but is now covered with more than 75,000 trees and home to a small bison herd (in an enclosed field) since 1891. This ultimate haven away from urban chaos was deeded to the people in 1870 out of the prescient notion that San Franciscans would one day feel overcrowded. We’ll also stroll through the 5-acre Japanese Tea Garden to learn about its icons and the family that lived there. After the tea garden, we will go to the Harmon Observation Tower of the de Young Fine Arts Museum. At nine stories high, we will have the opportunity to see many views of San Francisco with the Group Leader showing us points of interest.

Lunch: In the de Young Café with the park as a backdrop, each participant will be given a lunch card to order from the menu.

Afternoon: Free Afternoon. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. You have the whole city at your feet!

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like. You might try one of the restaurants in the Inner Sunset neighborhood with cuisine from Chinese and Japanese to Thai, Mexican, seafood, vegetarian, even American!

Evening: At leisure. This would be a good time to attend a concert or catch a show. If you have something special in mind, it’s a good idea to order tickets in advance.

Mission District & Twin Peaks, Farewell Dinner
San Francisco, CA
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day: first 2 miles through the Mission District on level terrain; public transportation to Twin Peaks; walk up 100 steps to top of one of the peaks; walking up to 2 miles mostly downhill on forested trails; take public transportation to hotel; walk half mile to restaurant for dinner.

Breakfast: At the hotel

Morning: Led by a local expert, we’ll encounter one of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, the Mission District, named for the mission church founded in 1776 under the direction of Father Junipero Serra. Interestingly, this is now perhaps the city’s most “happening” neighborhood with its vibrant diversity and a plethora of galleries, restaurants, and more amid brightly colored murals. With the Group Leader, we’ll visit San Francisco’s oldest intact structure, which is also the oldest intact original mission in California. Originally called the Misión San Francisco de Asís (for St. Francis of Assisi), it became known as Mission Dolores after a nearby creek of the same name. We’ll learn about its historic, architectural, and religious significance. The adjoining cemetery is the final resting place of many First Californians. The large church next to the old adobe structure was completed in 1918 and is now a basilica.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like. There are numerous small ethnic restaurants in the area.

Afternoon: The Twin Peaks — Eureka and Noe — are situated near the geographical center of San Francisco and are more than 900' high. They are famed for spectacular views of the city and the Bay Area. Though surrounded by an urban metropolis, the natural topography gives a sense of how the land looked before the people arrived. The diversity of plant life provides habitat for many creatures. The Group Leader will take us to the top of one of the peaks for a breathtaking panoramic view of San Francisco and the surrounding bay to see many points of interest, including the areas we have visited during the week. We will then walk on trails through Sutro Forest to catch a bus back to the hotel.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated 3-course dinner with choice of soup or salad, entrée, and dessert. Beverage choices include coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Golden Gate Bridge Walking Field Trip, Program Concludes
San Francisco, CA

Activity note: Walking up to 4 miles; level terrain. Public bus to the bridge and back to the hotel. Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. Elevation gain 50 feet

Breakfast: At the hotel

Morning: For our final field trip, we’ll make the quintessential San Francisco pilgrimage — a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. The city’s most iconic landmark is exceptional for its length of 1.7 miles, 746-foot tall towers, sweeping cables, and Art Deco styling, flanked on each side by beautiful parks. The group leader will enlighten us about the construction of the bridge during the 1930s as well as point out the sights from the bridge — Point Bonita, the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, Alcatraz, harbor porpoises, and the newly installed barrier system on the bridge known as the “zipper.” There will also be time to visit the Bridge Pavilion, a visitor’s center with much historical information about the bridge and surrounding area. We expect to return to the hotel by approximately 11:30 a.m. depending on traffic and public transportation schedules. 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 https://www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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