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.

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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 2 miles a day which will involve steep inclines and declines (grades of 10 - 20%) on city streets, stairs and standing on uneven sidewalks. 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.

What You'll Learn

  • 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. San Francisco is famous for being built on hills which can be very steep, up to a grade of 20%. Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
James Dalessandro
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.

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

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 Kenn Sparks
Kenn Sparks View biography
Kenn Sparks is an award-winning journalist, foreign correspondent, and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker. His life has taken him from the once-closed cities of Siberia to debating business economics with Barack Obama. Kenn’s Road Scholar groups explore the mysteries of old Chinatown, hear tales of treacherous sea voyages to Gold Rush California while aboard a famous 19th-century Square Rigger, experience the mostly unknown legacy of the wives of the Big 4 Robber Barons, and wonder at centuries of Medieval and Renaissance art and relics at Grace Cathedral.
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Year
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Date
Oct 24 - Oct 29
  • Apr 18 - Apr 23
  • Jun 13 - Jun 18
  • Aug 01 - Aug 06
  • Oct 24 - Oct 29
  • Nov 24 - Nov 29
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Select trip year and date
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Oct 24 - Oct 29
  • Apr 18 - Apr 23
  • Jun 13 - Jun 18
  • Aug 01 - Aug 06
  • Oct 24 - Oct 29
  • Nov 24 - Nov 29
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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6 days
5 nights
10 meals
5 B 2 L 3 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San Francisco, CA
D
Stanford Court

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 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. 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, Chinatown, San Francisco Highlights
San Francisco, CA
B,L,D
Stanford Court

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; traveling 2 miles to/from Chinatown; walking 1 hour through Chinatown involves some streets with inclines/declines with up to 10-15% grades. 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, pancakes, 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, 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: At a local Chinatown restaurant.

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: Dinner at a local restaurant

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Victorian Architecture, Club Fugazi
San Francisco, CA
B
Stanford Court

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Traveling 4 miles each way for about 30 minutes via motorcoach. Docent-led visit through the Fisk House involves three sets of staircases (outside stairs do not have handrails) and 45 minutes of standing/walking. Getting on/off public transit and riding public transit for 3 miles in the evening.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will start our day with a lecture at the hotel on Victorian Architecture in San Francisco from a local expert. Learn about the various styles of homes that are seen throughout San Francisco neighborhoods and how they have changed over the years. We will board our motorcoach for a visit to the Fisk House. We will have a docent-led visit of the Fisk House. You will have the very unique opportunity to see one of San Francisco's beautiful old homes which is privately owned and not open to the public. Learn the history of the house from the current owners. Please note: owners of the house request participants to wear face coverings while in their private residence. After our visit to the Fisk House, we will return to the hotel in our private coach.

Lunch: This meal had been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this time to explore at your own pace.

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: In the evening, we will travel by public transportation tot he North Beach neighborhood. We will enjoy a performance at a local venue. Club Fugazi has been a community venue for over 100 years starting as a gathering place for Italian immigrants to being the backdrop for Thelonious Monk's 1959 album. The venue continues to be a place for the community to enjoy artistic performances.

DAY
4
De Young Museum, Alcatraz Island
San Francisco, CA
B
Stanford Court

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: We will board our motorcoach for a self-guided visit to the De Young Museum. The museum sits in the middle of Golden Gate park and has a long history in the city of San Francisco. You will have time to explore the exhibits independently. After the museum, we will board our private motorcoach for Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 33.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: We will walk to the dock to board the 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: On your own to enjoy local fare.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
City Hall, Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral
San Francisco, CA
B,L,D
Stanford Court

Activity note: Getting on/off public transportation; 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. Walking up to 2 miles in Nob hill with up to 20% grades on city streets. 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 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: At a local restaurant near City Hall, we’ll enjoy a plated lunch plus complimentary coffee, tea, soda, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will take public transportation to Grace Cathedral. We will have a docent-led tour of the church which was rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. The current structure opened in 1927 and the church continues to welcome the local community. We will learn about the unique architecture and furnishings from our docent. After our visit to Grace Cathedral, we will walk to the Nob Hill neighborhood for a tour with a local expert. People were attract to this area in the late 19th century because of the scenic view and its central position. The area became a magnet for the rich and wealthy of San Francisco.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
San Francisco, CA
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 p.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!






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