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A San Diego New Year Celebration

Program No. 21195RJ
Warm your spirits in the California sun with San Diego’s trademark holiday cheer! Celebrate the New Year by enjoying the area’s award-winning food, wine, parks and much more.

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At a Glance

Celebrate the New Year in the perfect year-round climate of San Diego. With the city festively decorated for the holidays, revel in exceptional adventures. Be exhilarated by an exploration of the historic Gaslamp Quarter at the doorstep of your hotel — the palatial US Grant. Plunge into Balboa Park and its 100-acre zoo and explore the charming seaside towns of La Jolla and Coronado. Epicurean New Year frolics begin at the Grant with a festive dinner continuing with a brunch onboard a harbor cruise while taking in the city skyline. Be warmed by the California sun and good cheer! Celebrate in style with elegant, high-end accommodations and meals at several fine restaurants.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to two miles on varied terrain; stairs, standing, board a ferry boat.

What You'll Learn

  • Unfold the city’s roots from Cabrillo Monument breathtaking vista point on to the charming mission and time-honored Old Town and a harbor cruise.
  • Experience the museums, art centers and Moorish architecture of Balboa Park and see the famous zoo lit up for the holidays.
  • Stay at the elegant US Grant Hotel, an emblem of incomparable sophistication with legendary style.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Maria Mitrani
Maria Mitrani was born in Italy, then lived in Canada, the United States and France. She finally settled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, where she has been living since 1976 with her husband and three children. She has a bachelor’s in Italian and art history from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1985 she has led learning adventures through different parts of Mexico and is a specialized guide for Baja California. She is one of the owners and founders of Andiamo.

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

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Maria Mitrani View biography
Maria Mitrani was born in Italy, then lived in Canada, the United States and France. She finally settled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, where she has been living since 1976 with her husband and three children. She has a bachelor’s in Italian and art history from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1985 she has led learning adventures through different parts of Mexico and is a specialized guide for Baja California. She is one of the owners and founders of Andiamo.
Profile Image of Esther Mitrani
Esther Mitrani View biography
Esther Mitrani was born in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. She graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, then worked in San Francisco for three years in human resources in high-tech. Missing her home, she return to her native city. Esther has been guiding since 1994, and joined the family business in 2002 as an organizer and tour leader. She is an eager traveler, and she loves sports and languages.
Profile Image of Isabel Sanchez
Isabel Sanchez View biography
Isabel Sanchez was born in Ensenada Baja California, Mexico. She began working as a group leader at a young age in the mid 1980s in her hometown. In 1998, she moved to Southern California where she continued her career as a successful group leader specializing in the Sonoran Desert as well as the Mojave Desert. In the fall of 2004, Isabel began leading groups through San Diego, Calif., the peninsula of Baja California, and the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico.
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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
11 meals
5 B 1BR 2 L 3 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San Diego, California
The US Grant Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m. Gather in the Private Room at 4:30 pm. If you arrive late, please ask for your welcome packet at the hotel front desk when you check in.

Afternoon: When you check in and get your room assignment, hotel personnel will inform you for the location of our Road Scholar private meeting room where the Welcome and Orientation session will take place at 4:30 pm. At 4:30 pm, we will gather in the Private Room for an informal reception with wine and snacks. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. You will receive a welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, and other important information. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Our knowledgeable Group Leader will also serve as our Study Leader for most field trips and deliver educational content unless specified otherwise. Transportation will be via private motorcoach. Purified water will always be available on the motorcoach, at the hotels, and in restaurants. For meals that offer a choice of dishes, we will circulate a form in advance to note each person’s preferences and save time ordering. 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. At the hotel, our private meeting room will serve as our space for lectures, gatherings, and free time activities. 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. Boarding the motorcoach, we will have a short ride to a restaurant on Harbor Island with a beautiful view of the downtown skyline for our welcome dinner.

Dinner: In a local restaurant.

Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

San Diego Mission, Presidio Park, Old Town, Gaslamp Quarter
San Diego, California
The US Grant Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 1.5 miles; paved and cobblestone streets.

Breakfast: In a private section of the hotel’s restaurant.

Morning: In our private hotel meeting room, we will be joined by a local historian from the San Diego Historical Society for an introduction to San Diego’s history. This morning’s lecture will set the stage for our day’s field trips. We then set out on our historical journey to the sites where the city was founded, beginning with San Diego de Alcala Mission. With our Group Leader, we will explore the property and visit the on-site museum. Established by the Franciscan missionary Father Junipero Serra in 1769, San Diego de Alcala was the first of 21 Californian Missions. We will then ride to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, with a detour to the top of Presidio Hill for views of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean on the way. The site of the original fortifications, residents chose to live in the Presidio for protection from potential Native American attacks but moved to the base of the hill as time passed.

Lunch: At a lively restaurant in Old Town

Afternoon: With our Group Leader, we will stroll through Old Town, the original site of San Diego where the population grew until Mexico granted it the status of “pueblo” or chartered town. We will visit some of the most important historical buildings from that era including the stately Casa Estudillo on the main plaza, Sibley Stables that house a collection of stagecoaches, the rustic jail, and San Diego’s first schoolhouse. Old Town San Diego remained the heart of the city until the 1860s when Alonzo Horton promoted development closer to the shore, the area that became the current downtown known as the Gaslamp Quarter. Returning to downtown via motorcoach, we will be joined by a local expert for a walk to become acquainted with the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego’s downtown since 1860. Declared a National Historic District, it is now filled with restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, galleries — and gas lamps! — as well as spicy stories and tales of haunted houses. We will also visit the Gaslamp Quarter Museum located in one of the area's first houses and the adjacent Horton Grand Hotel. The walk ends at Horton Plaza Park which has a restored landmark fountain from 1910 and the 1907 Jessop’s Street Clock. The US Grant hotel is across the street.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to attend a performance from current offerings or just relax.

U.S. Navy & San Diego, Cabrillo Monument, La Jolla, Aquarium
San Diego, California
The US Grant Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 1 miles; paved, smooth sidewalks with slight inclines. At aquarium, standing up to 1 hour with periods of slow walking.

Breakfast: in the Hotel's buffet

Morning: With our SDHS historian, we will discuss the establishment of the U.S. Navy and its importance in the growth of San Diego. We will then ride to the dramatic tip of Point Loma peninsula and the Cabrillo National Monument, named in honor of the famed explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who landed on this point in 1542. Our knowledgeable Group Leader will take us through the historic museum and to Old Point Loma Lighthouse, one of the original eight lighthouses on the West Coast, restored and refurnished to reflect what life was like in the 1800s. We will then hop aboard our motorcoach and drive along the scenic Pacific Coast north of downtown, past Mission Bay to reach the exclusive La Jolla community where we will visit the world renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium.

Lunch: At the Birch Aquarium Café

Afternoon: At the aquarium, our expert-led visit includes a lecture presented by a staff member of the education department as well as an exploration with commentary of the many exhibits, featuring more than 60 environments. Next, we will ride into La Jolla and set out for a nature walk with our Group Leader along the famous coves that will take us to nearby Seal Beach, protected by cliffs and part of a marine reserve. We will pace along the shore to observe seals and sea lions, each occupying a distinct cove, and see cormorants nesting on the cliffs. Perhaps we will catch the “green flash” as the sun sets. We’ll then return to the Gaslamp for dinner. The activities along the shore depend on the time available and on the walking abilities of the group.

Dinner: We will ride to a lively Italian restaurant in the Gaslamp area.

Evening: The motorcoach will return to the hotel after dinner. If you wish, you may stay in the Gaslamp on your own and return independently by walking or taxi.

Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, New Year’s Eve Festivities
San Diego, California
The US Grant Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking approximately 1/2 mile in Balboa Park; walking at museums and zoo according to personal preference.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach and set out with our Group Leader to become familiar with Balboa Park, America’s largest urban cultural park. Built to host the 1915 Exposition, its 1,200 acres are filled with exotic vegetation, 17 museums, theaters, art centers, exquisite Moorish architecture, and a world famous zoo. In El Prado, the heart of the park, we meet our SDHS historian who will lead a walking exploration of the premises while narrating amusing anecdotes of the park’s development. The remainder of the morning is free to explore on your own, to see and do what interests you most.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in Balboa Park. You might have a relaxed meal in a lovely garden restaurant or a sandwich on the go between museum visits.

Afternoon: We will regroup at a designated time and place and visit the San Diego Zoo, regarded as one of the best in the world. Ride to the entrance of the Zoo, then explore the grounds on your own. The zoo can be visited on foot or take advantage of the included services. It is best to begin with a ride on the narrated zoo bus for an overview. Then you may use the hop-on-hop-off bus and perhaps enjoy a ride on the skyfari. Gather again by the big Christmas tree, where bell ringers and caroling enliven the tree-lighting ceremony. Boarding the motorcoach, return to the hotel to rest and freshen up and prepare for an evening of festivities. In our private room, we will meet for a toast to get into the New Year spirit, then continue to the hotel’s elegant dining room for New Year’s Eve dinner.

Dinner: In the hotel’s elegant dining room, we’ll gather for a late seating of the special 6-course “Tasting Dinner” plus a glass of wine; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Enjoy the festivities with live music for listening and dancing. The exciting Midnight Countdown will include a champagne toast. Happy New Year!

Harbor Cruise New Year Day Lunch, Coronado Island,Happy Hour
San Diego, California
The US Grant Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Getting on/off a harbor cruise boat. Walking up to 1/2 mile, with opportunity to stroll along the stunning Coronado beach on your own.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: This morning we will have an opportunity to rest, relax, and sleep in before our late morning departure for the San Diego Harbor and embark on a narrated harbor cruise with New Year brunch and frolics. We’ll be able to view the spectacular city skyline while passing by elegant hillside communities, marinas, the Naval Shipyards, and the Naval Air and Submarine Stations.

Brunch: Aboard the harbor cruise, at reserved tables, we’ll have the New Year’s Day Champagne buffet. Champagne and non-alcoholic drinks are included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Back on shore, we’ll ride along the scenic waterfront. Pass by the landmark “Star of India” that has sailed regularly since its launching in 1863 and by the Midway aircraft carrier, now a museum. The Embarcadero Road continues along the San Di ego Convention Center, a huge construction recreating a sailing ship. A stop is made at Chicano Park, a National Historic Landmark and home to one of the largest collection of outdoor murals in the United States. They were painted by local Chicano (Mexican-American) artists on the pillars and the supports of the San Diego-Coronado bridge. The colorful art work reflects the cultural heritage of the Chicano community where the park is located. We will walk through the park with our Group Leader who will interpret the most representative murals. We then get on the Coronado bridge. Located across the bay from San Diego, Coronado is a semi-island connected to the mainland by the “Silver Strand” and to downtown San Diego by way of the curved, slim, elegant San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Coronado is characterized by fabulous views, palm-lined avenues, a fine wide beach, and the famous Hotel Del Coronado — popularly known as Hotel Del. The lavish wooden Victorian hotel, an American fairytale castle, is the last of its kind still standing on the West Coast. With our Group Leader, we will explore Coronado by motorcoach and on foot. Free time at the hotel for personal independent exploration, including a stroll along the white sand beach if desired. We will return to San Diego at sunset when skyscrapers reflect the sun’s glow onto the calm waters of the bay. Upon our return to the hotel, we will gather one last time as a group in our private room for farewells and a toast to the program during a Happy Hour with heavy snacks, juices, and wine. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Dinner: This meal is on your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

Program Concludes
San Diego, California

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

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program. 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 rewarding programs 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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