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California

Signature City San Francisco

Program No. 21052RJ
Immerse yourself in the story of San Francisco alongside experts as you explore Alcatraz Island, learn about the fire of 1906, stroll the markets of Chinatown and see iconic landmarks.
Length
6 days
Rating (4.86)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,999

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climate
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 6 - Apr 11, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Jun 15 - Jun 20, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Aug 3 - Aug 8, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Oct 26 - Oct 31, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Nov 19 - Nov 24, 2023
Starting at
2,149
Itinerary Note

Victorian house will be replaced with a Thanksgiving meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Max of 32 participants.

DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 6 - Apr 11, 2023
Starting at
2,599
Jun 15 - Jun 20, 2023
Starting at
2,599
Aug 3 - Aug 8, 2023
Starting at
2,629
Oct 26 - Oct 31, 2023
Starting at
2,629
Nov 19 - Nov 24, 2023
Starting at
2,759
Itinerary Note

Victorian house will be replaced with a Thanksgiving meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Max of 32 participants.

At a Glance

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.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking 1 mile a day. The program is designed to minimize walking up San Francisco's many hills. However, walks may still involve inclines and declines, stairs and standing on sidewalks that may not always be even. Some use of public transportation.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Discover Alcatraz Island, most famous for the federal penitentiary and 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 neighborhoods and explore Chinatown and Nob Hill from a local expert.

General Notes

Use of public transportation with some transfers.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Marie Thomas 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.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Marie McNaughton
Marie Thomas McNaughton View biography
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.
Profile Image of James Dalessandro
James Dalessandro View biography
James is a writer and filmmaker best known for his novel '1906,' a retelling of that year's earthquake in San Francisco. He has more than 20 feature film and television scripts to his credit. He wrote and directed 'The Damnedest Finest Ruins,' a documentary on the earthquake. In his adopted hometown of San Francisco, James lectures on the Transcontinental Railroad, Old Chinatown, and the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the history of its artists: Mark Twain, Jack London, Isadora Duncan and the Beat Generation.
Profile Image of Michael Conoscente
Michael Conoscente View biography
Michael Conoscente developed wanderlust after enlisting in the Navy when he was 17. During more than three decades as a trip director, he has traveled throughout the world including Australia and New Zealand, China, Fiji, Japan, Kenya, the former Soviet Union, Tahiti, and Thailand. Michael has visited most of the Pacific Rim capitals, U.S. National Parks, and major U.S. cities. He is a charter member of the San Francisco Tour Guide Guild, and dreams of living on a cruise ship and heading back to sea.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
by Joan Didion
A classic collection of essays on the1960s cultural climate, first published in 1968. In the acclaimed title essay, Didion vividly describes the landscape, mood and culture of '60s San Francisco.
Escape from Alcatraz
by J. Campbell Bruce
First published in 1963, this true crime classic is now out in a special edition. Bruce recounts the Rock’s transition from a Spanish fort to the infamous penitentiary, temporary home of legendary criminals like Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz (Robert Stroud). He also includes descriptions of Frank Morris’ escape attempt alongside archival photos.
San Francisco Map
by Berndtson & Berndtson
A laminated, folded map of the city center of San Francisco at a nice scale of 1:13,000.
Travelers' Tales San Francisco
by James O'Reilly (Editor), Larry Habegger (Editor), Sean O'Reilly (Editor)
Experience San Francisco from the inside out with this engaging, insightful and entertaining selection of mostly contemporary eyewitness reports -- a terrific literary profile of a dynamic city.
Tales of the City
by Armistead Maupin
What began as a newspaper serial then transformed into a classic novel, this is the first of nine novels about the citizens of an apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco.
Cool Gray City of Love, 49 Views of San Francisco
by Gary Kamiya
A kaleidoscopic love letter to one of the world's great cities, San Francisco, by a lifelong Bay Area resident and co-founder of Salon.
Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
by Rebecca Solnit
What makes a place? Infinite City, Rebecca Solnit's brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about place. She explores the area thematically--connecting, for example, Eadweard Muybridge's foundation of motion-picture technology with Alfred Hitchcock's filming of Vertigo. Across an urban grid of just seven by seven miles, she finds seemingly unlimited landmarks and treasures--butterfly habitats, queer sites, murders, World War II shipyards, blues clubs, Zen Buddhist centers. She roams the political terrain, both progressive and conservative, and details the cultural geographies of the Mission District, the culture wars of the Fillmore, the South of Market world being devoured by redevelopment, and much, much more.
Gold Fever, One Man's Adventures on the Trail of the Gold Rush
by Steve Boggan
Rich in history and economics, Boggan's travelogue follows the trails of the original 49ers -- to San Francisco and beyond -- where Americans still risk life and limb for lucrative gold strikes.
Fifth Chinese Daughter
by Jade Snow Wong
First published in 1945, Jade Snow Wong's memoir is a simply told, moving story of family life in pre-WWII San Francisco Chinatown.
Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love
by David Talbot
A cultural history of San Francisco that covers the years from 1967 to 1982 and tells the gripping story of how the city by the bay overcame tragedy and strife to become the beloved city it is today. Starring a cast of notable figures, including Harvey Milk, Janis Joplin and Jim Jones.
Golden Gate, The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge
by Kevin Starr
Starr covers the history and meaning of this beloved icon and great American feats of engineering in this slim portrait.
Bret Harte's Gold Rush, Outcasts of Poker Flat, The Luck of Roaring Camp, Tennessee's Partner and Other Favorites
by Bret Harte, Reuben H. Margolin (Editor)
In the 1860s and 70s, a former stagecoach messenger named Bret Harte dazzled the literary world with his tales of Gold Rush-era California. These 15 rough-and-tumble stories include some of the best he ever wrote.
You Can't Win
by Jack Black
A true classic, this fascinating memoir -- first published in 1926 -- lifts the lid on Black’s life as a safecracker, thief, gambler, opium addict and hobo riding the rails of the American West. With an introduction by William Burroughs.
111 Places in San Francisco That You Must Not Miss
by Floriana Peterson
This "111 Places" guide to San Francisco profiles so many strange and original places that it will surprise even loyal residents. Each hidden gem reveals the history and unique flavor of the Californian city.
San Francisco, A Cultural History
by Mick Sinclair
Organized more thematically than chronologically, this easy-to-read introduction to the city and its neighborhoods will appeal both to first time visitors and those who know and love the city.
A Crack in the Edge of the World, America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
by Simon Winchester
Geologist, master storyteller, traveler and journalist, Simon Winchester succeeds again in this fast paced, utterly fascinating account of the great 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco.
The Lucky Ones, One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America
by Mae Ngai
Ngai, a professor of history at Columbia University, uncovers the story of the Tape family in post-Gold Rush, racially explosive San Francisco.
San Francisco: A Food Biography
by Erica J. Peters
At the ideal intersection of rich farmlands and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is a reputable food destination. Peters delves into the city’s culinary history, from early Spanish missions and ongoing immigrant influences to current fixation on local ingredients.
California: A History (Modern Library Chronicles)
by Kevin Starr
Arguing that America’s most populous state has always been blessed with both spectacular natural beauty and astonishing human diversity, Starr unfolds a rapid-fire epic of discovery, innovation, catastrophe, and triumph. For generations, California’s native peoples basked in the abundance of a climate and topography eminently suited to human habitation. By the time the Spanish arrived in the early sixteenth century, there were scores of autonomous tribes were thriving in the region. Though conquest was rapid, nearly two centuries passed before Spain exerted control over upper California through the chain of missions that stand to this day. The discovery of gold in January 1848 changed everything. With population increasing exponentially as get-rich-quick dreamers converged from all over the world, California reinvented itself overnight. Starr deftly traces the successive waves of innovation and calamity that have broken over the state since then–the incredible wealth of the Big Four railroad tycoons and the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906; the emergence of Hollywood as the world’s entertainment capital and of Silicon Valley as the center of high-tech research and development; the heroic irrigation and transportation projects that have altered the face of the region; the role of labor, both organized and migrant, in key industries from agriculture to aerospace.
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6 days
5 nights
11 meals
5 B 3 L 3 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San Francisco, CA
D
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Transportation for program-related activities will be via public transportation unless otherwise specified. Please be sure to bring a face covering and a refillable water bottle on each field trip throughout the program. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel, we will enjoy a plated dinner plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
San Francisco History, City Hall, San Francisco Highlights
San Francisco, CA
B,L
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa

Activity note: Getting on/off public transportation and motorcoach; traveling 2 miles via public transportation. Walking and standing for 1 hour in City Hall; consider bringing a cane with a folding seat if standing for several minutes is difficult. 4-hour exploration of San Francisco via motorcoach; stops for bathroom breaks and photo ops. Bring refillable water bottle.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, the breakfast buffet offers a selection of eggs, breakfast meats, breakfast potatoes, Belgian waffles, cold cuts, cold and hot cereals and milks, fresh fruit, yogurts, bagels, muffins, Danish, toast, and a variety of juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: In the hotel, a local expert will show us 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. We will learn about the tumultuous beginnings of "Baghdad by the Bay." After class, we will take a public bus to San Francisco's majestic City Hall for a docent-led visit. The dome is the fifth largest in the world, taller than the U.S. Capitol by 42 feet.

Lunch: In a restaurant near City Hall, we’ll enjoy a plated lunch plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll continue getting to know San Francisco via motorcoach. We will be joined by a local expert on our motorcoach for a local's look at San Francisco. We will explore the highlights including Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts in the Presidio, Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park and a view from Twin Peaks.

Dinner: 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.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
1906 Film, Chinatown, Free Time, Performance
San Francisco, CA
B,L,D
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa

Activity note: Getting on/off public transportation and motorcoach; traveling 2 miles to/from Chinatown; traveling 3 miles to/from performance venue. Walking 1 hour through Chinatown involves some streets with inclines/declines. Bring refillable water bottle.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: In the hotel, we will watch and discuss a documentary about the 1906 earthquake and its aftermath. After the viewing, the filmmaker will lead the class in a discussion about the earthquake and San Francisco's continued vulnerability to earthquake activity. After class, we will proceed to Chinatown where a local expert will lead us on a narrated walking exploration through Chinatown, the oldest Chinese settlement in North America and one of the largest outside Asia. As we stroll crowded streets, our senses will be enlivened by the mix of residents, tourists, sights, sounds, and scents—an experience we’ll never forget!

Lunch: We will have a family-style lunch in a mouthwatering Chinese restaurant. Hot tea and water are included; other beverages are available for purchase. Sik fan! (Let’s eat!)

Afternoon: Free Time. 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.

Dinner: In the hotel, we will enjoy a plated dinner plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We will enjoy a performance in one of San Francisco's noted venues.

DAY
4
Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral, Cable Car Museum, Alcatraz
San Francisco, CA
B
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; traveling 4 miles. 20-minute ferry ride to Alcatraz. The distance from the dock to the penitentiary at the top of the hill is 1/4 mile with an elevation change of 130 feet, which is equivalent to climbing a 13-story building although over 1/4 mile. Bring refillable water bottle. Food and beverages other than water are not permitted on Alcatraz. Alcatraz is always cold and windy and often foggy; dress accordingly.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Via motorcoach, we will make a short drive to Nob Hill for a narrated walking exploration with our local expert. Nob Hill was settled in the late 19th century. Because of the scenic 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 earthquake. After the earthquake, many wealthy families moved to Pacific Heights. The only remaining mansion was James Flood’s house, now the Pacific-Union Club, a men’s social club. Where the Stanford, Crocker, and Hopkins mansions once stood are now hotels bearing their names. The Crocker property was bequeathed to Grace Chapel, which became Grace Cathedral. Designed in the French Gothic style, it was completed in 1964 as the third largest Episcopal cathedral in the nation. 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. We will then reboard our motorcoach for a short drive to the Cable Car Museum, 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’ll then have a short drive to 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, it is a foodie paradise frequented by tourists and nearby office workers. Our local expert will give us a narrated historical exploration before lunch.

Lunch: This meal had been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like at the Ferry Building. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Afternoon: We will rejoin and travel by motorcoach to the dock to ferry to Alcatraz. Alcatraz has been a bird sanctuary, a Civil War fortress, and home of the West Coast’s first lighthouse. Early native people never settled there permanently because they considered it cursed, but in 1969, Native American activists occupied it in protest to demand recognition of Indian rights. They held out for 19 months. Contemporary American Indians return each year for commemorative ceremonies. 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. We’ll learn about the colorful history, infamous criminal inhabitants, and legendary escape attempts from “The Rock.” The remainder of this field trip will be a self-led exploration. Park Service staff offer free presentations to visitors throughout the day on topics such as escapes, military history, American Indian occupation, natural history, and more. There are numerous exhibits including a cell house audio covering the penitentiary era. We will then cross back to San Francisco.

Dinner: 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.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Napa Valley Wine Train Thanksgiving Feast
San Francisco, CA
B,L,D
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa

Activity note: Private coach to/from the town of Napa is 60 to 90 minutes each way, depending on traffic. Train ride is 3.5 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After breakfast, we will board a private coach and depart for the town of Napa. Once there, we will board the Napa Valley Wine Train for a Thanksgiving Day feast and celebration. The train runs through the heart of beautiful Napa Valley, As you gaze out of the windows, you will be surrounded by vineyards, bucolic hills, and luscious scenery.

Lunch: We will enjoy a plated 3-course Thanksgiving Day feast upon the Napa Valley Wine Train. Water and one glass of wine are included; other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our train ride continues to the town of St. Helena where the train turns around and heads back to Napa. We will arrive at the station mid-afternoon and board the coach for the return to the hotel.

Dinner: In the hotel. This evening, enjoy a plated, 3-course dinner plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, the Group Leader will take you by public bus to San Francisco's waterfront for a leisurely stroll. You will see the dancing lights on the Bay Bridge and enjoy the beauty of San Francisco at night.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
San Francisco, CA
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.