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California tours

The only tours that I have been on are the Rick Steves tours. I am interested in going to California and wondering if anyone has used tours to explore this state.

Posted by
9701 posts

Depending on your age, you might consider Road Scholar at It used to be ElderHostel but rebranded itself about 10 years ago. They still mainly cater to seniors - maybe 55-60 and up.

I've done 10 tours with them and have number 11 set for October. I've done 5 in the US and 5 international ones. The US ones have been activity based (hiking, genealogy and birding). #11 is in France - going to Provence for 13 nights.

For Europe they are my go to if Rick doesn't have an itinerary that appeals to me. The model is similar - city center hotels when possible, smaller groups (24-28 or so), all tips included. They generally have more meals included which has pluses and minuses. The other tour members are usually interesting like on Rick's tours - many are the NPR/PBS group. Usually well-read and fun. I do find the Road Scholar folks on the international trips need a bit more hand-holding than those on the Rick tours.

I wouldn't hesitate to do a US tour with Road Scholar.

BTW, they do the same thing Rick does with single supplements. You can pay extra for a single or you can have them room you with another group member.

Posted by
6343 posts

My home state is as varied as could be as far as places to explore. What are you looking for?

The North is far different from SoCal.

I’ll bet most of the universe has no clue about the state’s vast farmland. In essence CA is an agricultural state that provides 1/2 of the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the US. Apples, almonds, onions, artichokes, grapes, squash, cucumbers, corn and rice are just some of the crops. There’s cotton and cattle as well.

Besides the Central Valley we’ve got mountains, beaches, desert, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Palm Springs, Hollywood, Sacramento, Santa Cruz and points in between. Joshua trees, Cypress trees, redwoods, sequoias, poppies, lakes, active volcanoes, where gold was discovered, cable cars, the Rose Parade, Yosemite, Death Valley, Salton Sea, Hearst Castle, CA Missions, Santa Clara County (aka Silicon Valley) championship sports teams ( pro and collegiate ) and.....

So what part of this great state do you wish to explore?

Posted by
11243 posts

There are many tour companies that offer tours to California. (I led some nearly 30 years ago.) But none that I know of like Rick Steves.

If you give us an idea of the type of tour you want--budget, premium, specialty--and the length of the tour we can give better info.

In the meantime, Tauck, Insight, Globus/Cosmos and Trafalgar are four of the largest tour companies offering trips. But there are others.

The other option is to take short 2-5 day tours from major bases like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Posted by
794 posts

I've lived in CA over 25 years, everywhere from Napa to Ventura. I drove 65,000 miles a year doing sales in the State. I know my way around...Asking for a tour in CA is like asking for a tour in Europe. There's way too much for any one group to focus on. Remember that, from end to end, CA is about the same distance as Paris to Vienna. Most people talk about visiting they mean the L.A. - San Diego area or the S.F. Bay area; those are just little slices of CA. Then realize the city of Los Angeles has a greater population than the entire State of Connecticut, and the county that San Diego is in is four times larger than all of CT.

It helps to narrow down what you want to see.

You can easily spend 2-3 weeks in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon and not see them all. Sierra Club and REI have tours of those areas.

Likewise you could spend a week or more driving from Lake Tahoe along the east side of the Sierras down to Death Valley on hwy 395, one of the most scenic roads in the USA.

Two weeks is not too much to go north from S.F. to the Oregon boarder with stops at the State Parks and Redwoods.

I couldn't show you the wineries between Paso Robles and the Alexander Valley in a month. There are lots of small local wine tours available.

Just trying to hit all the major tourist attractions in either of the major metro areas can take weeks, again you want to look to local tours outfits.

So, let us know if you want to drive, backpack, day trip, etc., and in what general area; that way we can make some valid recommendations.

Posted by
9701 posts

"There are many tour companies that offer tours to California. . But none that I know of like Rick Steves."

I do find Road Scholar similar to Rick Steves even on the US tours.

"There's way too much for any one group to focus on."

A search on Road Scholar reveals 91 results for "California". There seem to be a few misfiled (Namibia??) so give it 85ish. Road Scholar contracts with many Lifelong Learner organizations both thru universities and other educational sources to provide tours/programs. I know it sounds like I have some kind of investment in the company or am just a shill but I don't and am not. I just am a satisfied customer and I know the scope of the tours they provide.

Sue, if you are not sure where you want to go or what you want to do, at least look thru the programs offered and it might help narrow down some ideas. And of course the California folks here would be excellent resources for ideas as well.

Posted by
6481 posts

Collette Tours has one for coastal California that goes from San Francisco to San Diego. I've never used them myself so can't give recommendation but they've been around for a long time and have good reviews.

Most tours of California do chunks of the state. I don't know any that do the whole state. If you have the time and $$ you could cobble together more than one tour if you want to see the whole state.

Posted by
11243 posts

If you are looking for a "Highlights" tour of California, most offer one with the following itinerary:

Los Angeles (2 nights)--Monterey(1 night)--San Francisco (day trip to Napa)(3 nights)--Yosemite(2 nights)--Las Vegas(2-3 nights)--Palm Springs or San Diego(1-2 nights)--Los Angeles(1 night). Two week.s

Most people here will say that's too much but it is one of the most popular itineraries with California tours. (And before Rikniks say anything, look at how much ground Rick's Best of Europe 14 days covers.)

If you are looking for something specific, let us know.