Historic Mendocino: A Colorful Coastal Community
Learn the story of this unique village as you take expert-led walks, explore historic monuments, visit local art galleries and explore the ruggedly beautiful California Coast.
Rating (4.8)
Program No. 6463RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 3 L 4 D
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Mendocino, CA
Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites

Activity note: Mendocino is a small, walkable coastal town that has been designated as a Historic Preservation site. Everything is accessible by foot, but visitors should be prepared for streets with uneven terrain, wooden sidewalks that sometimes turn into small, uneven pathways and coastal trails that may present challenges when walking the bluffs. The walking distance from the hotel to various destinations is 3-4 blocks one way. Participants should be able to walk half a mile without stopping.

Afternoon: Hotel Check-In: Available from 4:00 p.m. Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table 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. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and 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.

Dinner: In our private dining room at the hotel, enjoy a 3-course plated meal with salad, entrée, and dessert. Beverage choices include coffee, tea (hot and iced), and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Get to know your fellow participants in a session we call Crossing Points to discover what you share beyond a love of lifelong learning. Settle in and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. As one long-time resident described it, “Mendocino is a unique mix: on the way to nowhere, challenging to reach by car, with severe restrictions on water, yet a highly rated destination and beloved hometown. People are drawn to Mendocino for its natural beauty where the stunning backdrop of redwoods and the ocean frames a thriving community, volunteer driven and politically active, that is passionate about supporting the arts and preserving the fragile environment.”

Ecosystems, Museum, Historic District, Chinese History
Mendocino, CA
Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites

Activity note: Walks to Kelley House and Ford House are one block from the hotel; paved surface. Walk through Mendocino historic district is approximately 1 mile (about an hour); flat and uneven surfaces. Walk on Headlands trail is approximately 1/2 mile (about an hour); trail uneven in sections, muddy after rain.

Breakfast: In our private dining room at the hotel, the plated breakfast service features choices that vary by day such as an egg dish, breakfast meats, other cooked breakfast items, fruit, juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a local expert for a presentation on Mendocino’s ocean and coastal ecosystems. We’ll then embark on a walking field trip that takes us first to the Kelley House Museum. This ocean-view historic house was built in 1861 by William Kelly, one of Mendocino’s founding fathers. Docents will interpret the Museum's exhibits that focus on Native Americans, the shipwreck “Frolic,” and period furniture from the late 1800s. As we continue walking through part of the Mendocino and Headlands Historic District, a reenactor portraying 19th Century resident E.C. Williams will share stories from his hometown’s past. Perched on the bluff overlooking the river and the ocean, the town is not only classically picturesque, it is also one of the best examples of a vibrant historic landscape where people carry on their everyday lives amid the delightful and enduring legacy of the past. After the field trip, we will walk to the restaurant for lunch.

Lunch: At a Mendocino restaurant, we’ll order from the menu as we mix and mingle with local folks.

Afternoon: Next, we walk to the Ford House Museum and Visitor Center, situated in Mendocino Headlands State Park that wraps around the town with walking trails and beautiful views of the ocean and rugged coastline. View exhibits about the early settlement era including a scale model of the town as it was in 1890. The overall harmony of the streetscapes and the consistency of the historic townscape are thanks to the foresight of citizens who in 1971 got their town included on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the earliest district nominations in California, this helped preserve and acknowledge the importance of Mendocino, a place that figured importantly in the development and the economy of the Redwood coast following statehood. We then head out on a naturalist-led walking field trip into the Mendocino Headlands to learn about the area’s natural and cultural history and observe native flora and fauna. A pleasant walk takes us back to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Chinese immigrants began arriving in the early 1850s and later erected the first traditional Chinese temple in what became their hometown. We will learn about Mendocino's Chinese history from a local college instructor who will talk about her own family history and the foundation of the Temple of Kwan Tai, also known as a “joss house.”

Volunteer Fire Dept., Ford House, Kwan Tai, Movie Night
Mendocino, CA
Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites

Activity note: Walking distances to Ford House, Fire Department and Temple are 1-4 blocks one way; paved and uneven surfaces.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll walk to the volunteer Fire Department, founded in 1887. Chief Ed O'Brien will recount the department’s history, share stories of emergencies including cliff and ocean rescues and the occasional animal rescue, plus his personal account of living in Mendocino. Next, we’ll immerse ourselves in the living history program at the Ford House as we enter another era. “Martha Ford” — wife of Jerome B. Ford — will welcome us into their home. Mr. Ford was superintendent of the town's first sawmill and one of Mendocino’s founders. Learn about their lives in the early years of Mendocino and how Jerome had the house built for her in 1854 with one very unusual feature. From the Fire Dept, we walk to the Ford House. Enter another era through a living history program as Martha Ford, wife of Jerome B. Ford, welcomes us into their home. Mr. Ford was superintendent of the town's first sawmill and one of Mendocino’s founders. Learn about their lives in the early years of Mendocino and how Jerome had the house built for her in 1854 with one very unusual feature.

Lunch: Enjoy a plated meal at a local restaurant. Lunch will include an entrée, salad, and choice of coffee, iced tea, or hand-crafted soda.

Afternoon: Walk to the Temple of Kwan Tai, dedicated to the Chinese god of war, to encounter living evidence of Mendocino's 19th Century Chinese community. A local expert takes us inside and explains the Temple's history and the significance of its symbols and furnishings. Four generations of its founders' descendants have preserved this original Taoist temple, a site now recognized as California Registered Historic Landmark Number 927.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy international cuisine with healthy, organic ingredients. Meal will include entree, sides, dessert, and a choice of coffee, iced tea, or hand-crafted soda.

Evening: Movie Night. “The Russians are Coming” (126 minutes) a 1966 American comedy that depicts the chaos following the grounding of a Soviet submarine off a small New England island during the Cold War. The movie was filmed on the coast of Northern California, mainly in Mendocino and Fort Bragg.

Lighthouse, Botanical Gardens, State Park, Pygmy Forest
Mendocino, CA
Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites

Activity note: At the Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse, bus will drive 1/2 mile to lighthouse but be prepared to walk a couple hundred yards from the superintendent's 1930 style home to the lighthouse. Walking on paved and hard packed paths at Mendocino Botanical Gardens depends upon interest level. Walk on an elevated wooden walkway in MacKerricher State Park for 1/2 mile. Pygmy Forest interpretive walk is 0.5 mile on flat elevated boardwalk.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We board our private motorcoach for a short ride to Point Cabrillo Light Station, a California State Historic Park. With a docent, we will explore three open buildings. The light station has a local history museum on the first floor. The 1st Assistant Lightkeeper’s home is preserved as it was in the 1930s. The Blacksmith and Carpentry Shop houses a marine science exhibit. Construction on the light station began in 1908 because there was a demand for lumber especially following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. By then there were numerous sawmills along the north coast and the station was critical to the safety of ships and their cargo. At the conclusion of the field trip, we hop aboard the motorcoach for another short ride to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Lunch: At the Botanical Gardens, enjoy bag lunches with sandwich, side, and bottled water.

Afternoon: On this self-directed exploration, stroll through the Botanical Gardens at your leisure along paths that wind through a dense coastal pine forest, past 20 sizable plant collections, and lead to the sea bluffs. Located on 47 acres this site is also a good birding spot with more than 150 species living in or visiting the Gardens each year. Next, the motorcoach takes us to MacKerricher State Park where Pomo and other indigenous peoples once lived. Led by a local naturalist, we’ll go on a walking field trip along the park's elevated boardwalk and learn about the diverse habitats of flora and fauna including harbor seals and many species of shore and pelagic birds. Another short motorcoach ride takes us to the Pygmy Forest in Van Damme. This is a national natural landmark and showcases unique forests of low, stunted trees and shrubs caused by a complex ecological condition associated with underlying wave terraces and their unusual soils. At the conclusion of our field trip, we ride back to the hotel.

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.

Evening: At leisure.

Art Galleries, Crown Hall, Theatre
Mendocino, CA
Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites

Activity note: Crown Hall and Galleries are a walk of 2 blocks from the hotel. Mendocino Theater is a walk of 3 blocks from hotel. Bring a flashlight for return walk to hotel following performance.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will walk from the hotel to Crown Hall of Mendocino, which was built in 1901 by Portuguese settlers from the Azores. We'll hear from a local expert whose family has lived in Mendocino for five generations. After, we'll stop by local art galleries and visit artists-in-residence in their studios, learn about the media in which they work, and hear their stories of hometown life.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: The remainder of the afternoon is free to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. Most historic districts in this country consist of small sections of a larger more developed city, but historic Mendocino is the town itself and this creates a dynamic that is evident as one walks the streets. While visitors come to enjoy the historic townscape, the residents are also using the post office, the library, the school, and the grocery store. Even more recent additions seem at home and do not detract from the character of this once bustling lumber mill town.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy our final dinner together as a group.

Evening: We'll attend a performance of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" by Edward Albee and directed by Willo Hausman at the Mendocino Theater Company. Founded in 1976, the historic black-box 75-seat theater has hosted over 200 productions over the years.

Marijuana & the Local Economy, Program Concludes
Mendocino, CA

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: In the wake of legalization, cities and counties across California have moved to establish zoning regulations for medical cannabis cultivation, but what is or is not strictly legal and why is still developing. This new situation is having an impact on Mendocino, where some local enterprises have promoted it as “Bed, Bud and Breakfast.” This morning we hear from a local official with extensive knowledge of what’s happening to learn more about how the growth of marijuana is affecting his hometown. 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 www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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