California is a world unto itself. One can travel from its soft white sand beaches to lofty mountain peaks in a matter of hours. Begin with the iconoclastic bent of San Francisco’s enterprising restaurateurs who entice the palate from storefront and customized food truck. Travel through the bountiful Great Central Valley on your way to Lake Tahoe. Drink in the mountain air on a morning lake paddle and feed your culinary curiosity with a cooking class. Then further satiate the palate in Napa, which boasts some 400 wineries with a bounty of varietals and pair your preference with a fine locally cultivated cheese. Luxuriate in hot springs and relish fine food in Calistoga. This trip is sure to be revelry for the senses!
Slightly Active. May involve some walking and climbing.
Often compared to the climate of the Mediterranean, California has warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. On the coast, temperatures range between the low 40s to the high 80s. Farther inland, summers are hot and dry, and at higher altitudes you can encounter the four seasons with cold, snowy winters. The three largest cities that are included in this program have very different climate. San Francisco is famous for its fog — especially in the summer, Los Angeles is known for its consistently sunny, desert-like, coastal climate, and San Diego for its ideal climate year-round. For our Culinary California program, given the alpine setting of Lake Tahoe and the extreme weather patterns that can be expected in the winter, the best time to travel is between April and October. For our San Diego program, it is a year-round destination, but the desert is best visited in the winter months, and in particular in February/March when you could see the wildflowers blooming.
Your journey begins as you arrive in San Francisco and transfer to your hotel, where a welcome dinner awaits you. Your upscale hotel is situated only minutes away from Union Square, perfectly positioned in the Theater District of San Francisco. CERRANO HOTEL. (D)
Embark on a walking tour of this charming city. See Union Square, the ceremonial heart of the city, full of lovely boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants; Chinatown, North America’s oldest, established in the mid-19th century, boasting the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Stroll down the narrow bustling streets passing by the many shops selling everything from jade to herbal remedies, the many temples and, of course, the vibrant people. Continue to North Beach with its unique painted house facades, decorated by present day “Michelangelos.” Though adjacent to Chinatown, there is a distinct Italian feel as the neighborhood has historically been home to a large Italian-American population. Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio even grew up here! End the wonderful day with an evening sail on the Bay. Feel the excitement of the night approaching as you witness a spectacular sunset and reflect on the quiet Pacific waters and the city’s landmarks, notably the awe-inspiring Golden Gate Bridge. Sail by the historic Alcatraz Island and Sausalito, and glide past the gorgeous San Francisco city skyline from under a darkening sky. CERRANO HOTEL. (B,L)
Enjoy a scenic drive through historic gold rush country on your way to Lake Tahoe. Stop in Nevada City for a historic walking tour and lunch on your own. Continue to your home for the next two nights, beautifully situated in a lush forest, evoking a strikingly true feeling and a genuine sentiment that speaks directly to the heart of Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest lake in the United States. CEDAR HOUSE SPORT HOTEL. (B; B,L,D)
Today you will be privy to some of the tricks of the culinary art when you embark on a gastronomic journey with Jacob Burton, Executive Chef at Stella’s. You will begin by shopping for locally grown produce and locally cultivated cheeses and meats. Once you have sourced the raw materials, you will be shown how to prepare them, acquiring new techniques for enhancing the flavor and complementing the character of the ingredients. Chef Burton’s ongoing educational website provides an opportunity for you to hone your skills prior to the trip. (https://stellaculinary.com) In the afternoon, explore Truckee and the banks of Lake Tahoe. Take some of the trails for stunning views, or if you’re more adventurous, rent kayaks to explore the region by water. As you glide slowly along it is easy to see why this area is one of the most photographed locations in the country. CEDAR HOUSE SPORT HOTEL. (B,L)
Another picturesque drive as you make your way to Napa Valley. Everywhere you look, from the banks of the Napa River to the stony, volcanic foothills, you see neatly ordered vines, over some 45,000 acres of vineyards. Explore the many shops and wine tasting rooms and have lunch at one of the excellent restaurants. After lunch, you may take in a vineyard and a tasting. Continue to Calistoga at the base of Mount Saint Helena in Napa Valley, which offers the rustic charm of a 19th-century western town. Esteemed for its mineral-rich volcanic hot springs and spas, Calistoga has drawn visitors seeking reinvigoration since the 1800s. Make sure you indulge in at least one spa treatment during your stay. We suggest the quintessential Calistoga experience: The mud bath. In the evening, check into your hotel in Calistoga, a Zagat-rated Hotel and Spa. The property features luxury suites, private cottages and an award-winning spa to inspire rejuvenation and relaxation, as well as a pool, mineral whirlpool and wine tasting opportunities. Enjoy dinner at your own leisure. MOUNTAIN VIEW HOTEL & SPA. (B,L)
Your morning is at leisure to relax, enjoy a spa treatment or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can book a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. In the afternoon, visit the Franciscan Estate Winery and attend a wine blending seminar to learn how to make your own wine blend. Tonight you will join your fellow travelers at the Culinary Institute of America, CIA, for a farewell dinner. Located on the St. Helena Highway, this is the west coast campus for one of the world’s premier culinary schools. In this hotbed of culinary creativity, skills are sharpened and palates refined in pursuit of cooking excellence. MOUNTAIN VIEW HOTEL & SPA. (B,D)
Bid farewell to lovely Napa as you drive back to Francisco. En route, visit the 550-acre Muir Woods, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, home to some of the last old-growth redwoods on the planet, trees hundreds of feet tall and a millennium old. Ancestors of redwood and sequoia trees grew throughout what is now the United States 150 million years ago. Today the sequoia can be found only in a narrow, cool coastal belt from Monterey to Oregon. Following lunch at the quaint bayside community of Sausalito, cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the most visited and photographed bridge in the world, and proceed to the airport for your flight home. (B,L)
Continue your journey with a post-extensi on to visit a few more highlights of the Golden State. Begin in Monterey, where you’ll witness the majestic whales, up close and personal, on a boat tour. Next, drive along the American National Scenic Byway with picturesque stops along the way. Other points of interest include seeing the elephant seals, touring Hearst Castle, and visits to Stearns Wharf and Santa Barbara Harbor. Finally, wrap things up in Los Angeles, land of the rich and famous.
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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