California - Best Tours & Trips 2019
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Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
Stride Gives Back Stride Gives Back This trip visits a destination impacted by climate change. When you opt in to the Stride Gives Back program, we will donate 10% of our net revenue to organizations that help mitigate climate change in these destinations and across the globe. Learn more
Impacted by Climate Change
- City Tour of San Francisco
- Scenic Drive along spectacular 17-Mile Drive, through Napa Wine Country
- See quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea, Napa Valley
- Visit the historic gold and silver mining town of Virginia City, "The Salad Bowl of the World" in Salinas Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Monterey, Roaring Camp, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Discover the story of John Muir and America's national parks
- exploring Muir Woods
- Sequoia and Yosemite national parks
- plus three nights in San Francisco - Crafted by Tauck and Ken Burns; filmed vignettes by filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan tell the stories behind the creation and preservation of the national parks; visit the Presidio
- home of the 'Buffalo Soldiers' who played a key role in the history of the national parks; discover the night sky over Sequoia National Park with a naturalist
- Immerse yourself in the stark beauty of death valley
- Cross the stunning sierra nevada mountains
- Explore world-famous yosemite national park
- Marvel at ancient trees in sequoia national park
- Visit the world renowned monterey bay aquarium
- See General Grant Tree in King's Canyon National Park, General Sherman, Sequoia National Park, El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, Devils Postpile National Historic Monument, Badwater Basin in Death Valley
- Visit Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Mammoth Lakes, the summit of Mammoth Mountain on a scenic gondola ride, Death Valley National Park
- Sonoma: Sample local wines at a private tasting at an eco-friendly vineyard.
- Dining Summary: 8 Breakfasts (B) and 4 Dinners with wine (DW).
- San Francisco: Revisit the 'Summer of Love' with a Local Expert and former hippie at Haight-Ashbury, the iconic district where the hippie counterculture evolved.
- Los Angeles: Join a Local Expert for a behind-the-scenes tour of a historic downtown theatre.
- San Francisco: Timeless yet modern, The Westin St. Francis on Union Square, San Francisco has a vibrant, directly located on Union Square, with cable cars stopping just outside the doors.
- Sonoma: The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa is surrounded by lush vineyards and dotted with natural hot springs.
- Yosemite National Park: Stay in the park and enjoy Yosemite after the crowds have left, just a short walk to Yosemite Falls.
- Monterey: Located on Cannery Row, Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa is the most dramatic waterfront hotel in California.
- Santa Barbara: Stay at the Double Tree Fess Parker in beautiful mission-style rooms, with views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains.
- Los Angeles: Stay at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. situated in downtown L.A., within walking distance of the city's most noteworthy attractions.
- San Francisco: See the iconic cable cars, Union Square and Golden Gate Bridge.
- Sonoma: Browse the unique shops on the historic Sonoma Plaza.
- Yosemite National Park: Experience the park's natural beauty and wildlife. See the El Capitan and Half Dome rock formations.
- Carmel-by-the-Sea: Browse the art galleries and shops in this quaint beach city.
- San Joaquin Valley: Stop at a historic fruit stand where seasonal delights are grown, farmed, and sold.
- Scenic Drives: 17-Mile Drive past the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
- Santa Barbara: Visit Mission Santa Barbara, a historic Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order in 1786.
- Los Angeles: Drive along Sunset Boulevard, see the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
- City Tour in Los Angeles, San Francisco
- Scenic Drive along Highway 1, 17-Mile Drive
- See spectacular Half Dome, Golden Gate Bridge
- Visit Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, Yosemite National Park, Mariposa, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, San Francisco
- Visit lively Pike Place Market, Seattle's famous fish and vegetable market.
- Venture to Mount St. Helens Visitor Center to learn about its eruptions.
- Visit Columbia River Gorge's Bonneville Dam.
- Embark on a sightseeing tour of Seattle, the "Emerald City."
- Behold the majestic beauty of the Redwood Forest's "Avenue of the Giants."
- Discover the best of Magdalena Bay and Cabo Pulmo in the comprehensive eight-day itinerary
- Camp on the beach, visit Espiritu Santo Island, and hike through Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere Reserve
- See Rodeo Drive and Melrose Avenue
- Visit Santa Monica and its famous pier
- Drive along famous Sunset Strip
- See the famous Hollywood sign, Mann's Chinese Theatre & Hollywood's Walk of Fame
- Flight and tranfers to New York
- City sightseeing tour
- 7 Day Metro Pass
- Visit California Coastline
- Remote Black Sand Beaches
- Dense Old Growth Forests
- View Ocean Wildlife
- Stunning Beach Camping
- Ride through the famous neighbourhood of Palm Springs
- Experience Hike through Indian Canyons followed by Palm Canyon’s fan palm tree
- Opportunity to ride through Anza Borrego State Park features palm canyons, cacti, and plentiful wildlife, including bighorn sheep
- Hike along a boulder-strewn river bed to one of the region’s only native palm canyons
- Experience awesome California Wine tasting and bike ride
- Gorgeous walk along a grassy headland high above the pounding surf
- Explore world-famous wineries of the Russian River Valley, where the Pinot Noir is among the world’s finest
- Take a Ride through Chalk Hill to the Alexander Valley
- Hike through Golden Canyon’s narrows to the phenomenal Zabriskie Point
- Visit the lowest point in the U.S. at Badwater and explore the salt flats
- Journey up Mosaic Canyon, a multi-hued display of Death Valley’s rock layers
Enjoy riding along the Silverado Trail
Enjoy five miles of practically car-free climbing up Howell Mountain
Riding on scenic lanes that meander through the vineyards of the Dry Creek Valley
Enjoy some classic Californian coastal riding south to Bodega Bay
- Explore Yosemite National Park.
- See the Monterey's famous Seventeen Mile Drive
- Visit the Getty Villa which is a world famous museum
- Get an Opportunity to cruise on San Francisco Bay
- Discover California
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Top California Experiences
- Walking across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge
- Wine-tasting and visiting Chateau Montelena, the winery that put California wine country on the map in 1973
- Driving along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway
- Getting a taste of old Hollywood glamor in Los Angeles
- Stopping at the old haunts of 1950s beat poets in San Francisco
- Eating at the famous Chez Panisse in Berkeley
- Being awestruck by the views in Yosemite and Big Sur
- Recreating a certain Jawa scene from Star Wars in Death Valley
- Bike riding around beautiful Tahoe Lake
- Feeling dwarfed by ancient redwood trees
- Exploring Bodega Bay and feeling the spirit of Hitchcock
California Trip Reviews
81 California Tour Reviews - Summary 100% Recommend
California Tours and Travel Guide
California Attractions & Landmarks Guide
The westernmost mainland state, California is an incredibly diverse destination. Its population grew exponentially after the 1849 Gold Rush, when thousands struck out west seeking fame and fortune. Today tourists flock to California for everything from surfing to skiing. With a stunning coastline, world famous food and wine, and vibrant cities, nothing beats a California vacation.
The Wine Industry
In 1973, Chateau Montelena was largely responsible for putting the now famous California Wine Country on the map. Immortalized in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock, blind tasters in France were astonished that each of them preferred the California wine over their own.
Today, California’s wine country has expanded far beyond it’s Napa beginnings. The perfect destination for wine enthusiasts to explore other micro regions in the area, for the thrill of discovering new varietals and getting a real sense for how the wine industry has shaped Napa, Sonoma, and beyond.
The area is not only known for wine today, but also a hotbed of up and coming cuisine, as well as old standards, such as the French Laundry - where you’ll be treated to a meal of several courses, crafted by renowned chef Thomas Keller.
From Snow to Surf
Many think of California and think only of the sun and ocean. In reality, California features a wealth of landscapes and weather, from snow to surf and everything in between. From the popular ski destinations in Tahoe, to the aptly and ominously named Death Valley, to lush and fertile wine country, to the romantic desert winds in the south, California has something to offer everyone.
There are 13 national parks in California including Yosemite, a very popular vacation and tour destination. And no trip to California would be complete without a stop in Redwood National Park, or one of several Redwood state parks.
The sprawling city of Los Angeles is home to many things, but perhaps most known for the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. On a visit here, walk to the famous Hollywood sign, visit backlots, and various filming locations. Before filming “on location” became the new normal, epics such as Gone with The Wind were shot entirely in and around Los Angeles.
Visit the Hollywood Forever cemetery and walk among such names as Mickey Rooney and Douglas Fairbanks. This cemetery also hosts a very popular film series in the summer enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
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