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.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20588RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
11 meals
5 B 3 L 3 D
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San Francisco, CA
Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Activity note: Hotel check-in starts at 3:00 p.m. PLEASE NOTE: Daily hikes of up to five miles average seven hours over the course of the day include hilly streets, forest paths, sandy trails, and steep uneven steps without handrails; may be slippery due to weather. Some areas have elevation gains/losses of several hundred feet. Some neighborhood explorations will require standing for several minutes at a time. To explore San Francisco on a more moderate program, we offer San Francisco Signature City, #21052.

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

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

Evening: 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
Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Activity note: Walking 4 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 one of San Francisco's iconic cable cars to Union Square. With the group leader, we’ll learn about the history of the area as we walk through the square and through the Financial District and Barbary Coast featuring 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 a family style lunch, sharing platters of food. Hot tea and water are included; other beverages available for purchase. Sik fan! (Let’s eat!)

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. After Chinatown, we continue our walk through North Beach, home to early Italian fishermen as well as the 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 from Washington Square to the top of Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower and enjoy the approaching sunset (weather permitting). The final ascent to the observation deck is by elevator where we will have a 360-degree view 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
Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles, climbing stairways; forested trails and hills at Presidio Park.

Breakfast: At the hotel

Morning: To begin today’s field trip, we will first explore Fisherman’s Wharf where you will see active fishing boats in their docks surrounded by restaurants and shops which attract visitors from all over the world. Fisherman’s Wharf was established by Italian immigrants shortly after the Gold Rush as they fished the waters of San Francisco Bay. 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. Then we will take public transportation to Pacific Heights with magnificent views of Billionaires Row, the Palace of the Fine Arts, and the Marina District. We’ll continue walking to the Presidio, where both the oldest and the newest parts of San Francisco exist side-by-side. 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 the first neighborhood in San Francisco.

Afternoon: The Presidio’s chief archaeologist 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 to the Palace of Fine Arts and 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, and cargo ships. Via public transportation, we’ll arrive to and explore Fort Mason and Ghiradelli Square with the group leader. In 1894, the Ghiradelli family 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.

Dinner: At a 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: Following dinner, we will walk a few blocks back to the hotel. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

Haight-Ashbury & Golden Gate Park Walk, Free Time
San Francisco, CA
Hilton San Francisco Financial District

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

Breakfast: At the hotel

Morning: This morning begins with a brief visit to the Civic Center area and the majestic San Francisco City Hall. The dome is the fifth largest in the world, taller than the U.S. Capitol by 42 feet. Via public transportation we explore the the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood which began as a 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 hangouts. 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. 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 five acre Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest public Japanese garden in the country, to learn about its icons and the family that lived there. After the tea garden, we will go to the Hamon 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 voucher 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! For those wishing to return to the hotel as a group, the group leader will make arrangements to meet in the afternoon and return to the hotel by public transportation.

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. Suggestion: see Beach Blanket Babylon, the longest running musical revue in theater history and a San Francisco treat. Tickets: 415-421-4222. The show runs from 8:00-9:30 p.m.

Mission District & Twin Peaks, Farewell Dinner
San Francisco, CA
Hilton San Francisco Financial District

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. Suggestions will be provided.

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 of 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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