Discover some of the most diverse landscapes in California on this rail buff's dream tour. From the Sacramento River to redwood country and from Napa Valley to Monterey and Yosemite, learn how much of the Golden State's dramatic history was shaped by rail travel. Along the way, also wine taste in Napa Valley, visit Carmel-by-the-Sea, learn how to pan for gold and much more!
• Discover California's storied rail history on a tour that includes four rail journeys.
• See the grandeur of the giant redwoods from aboard the historic Skunk Train.
• Tour Monterey Bay Aquarium, visit Yosemite and lunch aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.
AAA Sojourns Welcome Gift Basket
California history comes alive on this unique itinerary celebrating rail travel in the Golden State. From the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries, railroads influenced just about every aspect of California's social, political and economic development. Beginning with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, trains brought settlers to California and shipped many of the state's products to markets throughout North America. Railway lines within the state were also indispensable in transporting goods and raw materials from wilderness areas to the main population centers.
Get an introduction to this colorful history at the California State Railway Museum in Sacramento, where stimulating exhibits help illustrate how railways shaped the development of California and the West. Then hop aboard the Sacramento Valley Train and enjoy a scenic lunch as you travel a route established in 1911 to link nearby farmlands with the developing city of Sacramento. The following day, experience 40 miles of majestic redwood forests and mountain meadows from the retrofitted Skunk Train. Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line began in 1885 to move redwood logs from the rugged back country to the Mendocino Coast sawmills. The train's open observation cars make it easy to snap photos on this exhilarating journey that ends in Healdsburg, where you'll disembark and learn about Rodney Strong, one of the pioneers of Sonoma County's modern wine industry, on a tour of the Rodney Strong Winery.
Board the Napa Valley Wine Train, which follows the same 36-mile route it followed in the 1860s, to sip wine and enjoy a three-course lunch in a restored 1915 Pullman Car. Your whirlwind tour continues in San Francisco where you'll see the sights and enjoy an evening on the town before heading to Monterey, a city redolent with its own unique history. Here, you’ll experience your fourth historic rail journey aboard the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad, a narrow-gauge 19th-century railway that runs through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Monterey Bay Aquarium before concluding your adventure with a tour of amazing Yosemite Valley and a stop at Railtown 1897, now an historic park where scores of films and TV shows, including Petticoat Junction, were shot.
• 7 nights accommodations: 2 nights in Sacramento, 1 night in Fort Bragg, 1 night in Healdsburg, 1 night in San Francisco, 1 night in Monterey and 1 night in Yosemite
• Meals - Daily breakfast, 3 lunches and 3 dinners
• All non-rail transportation and transfers by deluxe motor coach
• Rail journeys aboard Sacramento River Train, Skunk Train, Napa Valley Wine Train and Roaring Camp Railroad
• City tour of San Francisco and dinner cruise on the Sacramento River
• Sights - California Railroad Museum, Rodney Strong Winery, Grgich Hills Winery, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Yosemite National Park, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
• Entry fees for all national parks and attractions as per itinerary
Note: Pre-tour and post-tour nights are available. Inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 – Arrive in Sacramento
A shuttle transfer from the Sacramento Airport to your hotel located in Old Sacramento is included. Upon arrival at the hotel, meet your tour director who will assist with check-in and give you a brief orientation. The rest of the evening is free to explore Old Sacramento on your own.
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza or similar – 1 night
Day 2 – California Railroad Museum & Sacramento River Train
This morning enjoy a tour of colorful Sacramento. Your first stop is the l874-vintage Capitol Building, recently restored to its turn-of-the-century splendor. Next, visit the Old Sacramento Historic District, where you can step back in time to the era of the Pony Express, the '49ers of the Gold Rush and the arrival of the Central Pacific Railroad. Enjoy time to explore at leisure before continuing on to the California State Railroad Museum. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable docents introduce you to stimulating exhibits and beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives to illustrate railroad history in California and the West.
Then we’ll depart for lunch aboard the Sacramento River Train. The Woodland Branch was constructed in 1911 by the Northern Electric Co. as the Sacramento and Woodland Railroad to link the fertile farmlands of Yolo County with the developing city of Sacramento. After lunch, journey through central California on the way to Fort Bragg and our overnight stay.
Accommodation: Surf Motel & Gardens or similar – 1 night
Day 3 – Skunk Train
Depart Fort Bragg this morning and head deep into Redwood Country to board the Skunk Train. Except for passengers' high-tech cameras and modern garb, a time traveler from the last century would feel quite at home riding the Skunk Train today. The view from the restored rail cars is pretty much unchanged from the late 1800s: towering trees, deer drinking from the Noyo River, an isolated fisherman's cabin peeking from the forest. Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line began in 1885 as a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country. Steam passenger service was started in 1904, extended to the town of Willits in 1911 and discontinued in 1925 when the self-powered, yellow "Skunk" rail cars were inaugurated.
Moving at a leisurely pace, the trains pull covered cars as well as open observation cars—perfect for capturing photographs of this truly exhilarating journey. We’ll journey aboard the train before heading south into wine country with stops in Healdsburg and the Rodney Strong Winery. Rodney Strong was one of the pioneers of Sonoma County’s modern wine industry, an acknowledged visionary who understood the potential that Sonoma’s soil and climate held for producing world-class wines. We’ll take a guided tour before checking into our hotel in Healdsburg.
Accommodation: Best Western Plus Dry Creek Inn or similar – 1 night
Day 4 – Napa Valley Wine Train & San Francisco
This morning travel east to California's beautiful Napa Wine Country and the Napa Station where you will board the Napa Valley Wine Train and enjoy a three-course lunch en route to Grgich Hills Winery. The Napa Valley Wine Train provides a relaxing three-hour, thirty-six mile round-trip journey from the historic town of Napa through one of the world's most well-known wine valleys to the quaint village of St. Helena and back. Disembark at Grgich Hills Winery for a one-hour private tour and tasting directed by a member of the Grgich Hills staff. Re-board the train for the dessert course in their lavishly restored 1915 Pullman Lounge Car as you head back to Napa Station.
Then we’re off to San Francisco where the most eclectic city in the world welcomes you. A city tour includes the beautiful Civic Center, Golden Gate Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, the Presidio and Sausalito. Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many terrific San Francisco restaurants.
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express Fisherman’s Wharf or similar – 1 night
Day 5 – Roaring Camp Railroad & Monterey Peninsula
This morning, travel south toward the scenic Santa Cruz Mountains where you’ll find more groves of giant redwoods, the tallest living things on earth. Marvel at these incredible trees as you visit Roaring Camp, a former mining town and now a bustling mountain retreat. Board the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad, an authentic narrow-gauge 19-century railway, and enjoy a ride amid the pristine beauty of the mountains. This railway boasts the steepest railroad grades in the United States - so be ready for a little excitement, as well as for breathtaking scenic beauty.
Depart the redwoods and travel toward the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on your way to the famed 17-Mile Drive along the coast. Stop at the storybook village of Carmel-by-the-Sea with its unique shops and art galleries. Next, travel to Monterey, the town made famous by John Steinbeck, where you’ll tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium for an introduction to the undersea world of Monterey Bay. This behind-the-scenes tour will focus on your interests and questions as you experience the ultimate insider's view of the aquarium. Then wander the aquarium at your leisure before checking into your Monterey hotel.
Accommodation: Best Western Plus Victoria Inn or similar – 1 night
Day 6 – Yosemite National Park
Depart Monterey for Yosemite National Park, "Jewel of the Sierra," and home of the most beautiful streams, the loftiest granite domes, the noblest forests and deepest ice-sculptured canyons in the world. Experience these natural wonders as you board the open-air Valley Tram and travel to Yosemite's most famous scenic highlights, including El Capitan, towering 7,569 feet above the Merced River; Yosemite Falls, the second largest waterfall in the world; Bridal Veil Falls, whose roaring torrents cascade down towering cliffs in lacy grandeur; and the geologically-fascinating Half Dome. After spending the day in Yosemite, our accommodations are just outside of the park.
Accommodations: Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station or similar – 1 night
Day 7 – Sacramento Valley
Depart Yosemite this morning for Jamestown, CA and the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. It is home to one of America’s last intact, still-operating railroad roundhouses. Known as "The Movie Railroad," Railtown 1897, its historic locomotives and cars have starred in hundreds of film and TV productions, including High Noon, Back to the Future 3, and the Petticoat Junction TV series. Continue toward Sacramento with a stop at the Marshall Gold Discovery Park. Marshall’s monument, the original gold discovery site and several historic buildings became part of California’s state park system in 1927. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park features a museum, many original and restored buildings, and costumed volunteers. At the museum you will learn how to pan for gold and you can buy a gold pan there as well.
Arrive back into Sacramento where we’ll join the group for a Farewell Dinner aboard a Hornblower cruise down the scenic Sacramento River. Your four-course dinner aboard the yacht will end with some time for dancing. After dinner we’ll return to the hotel.
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza or similar – 1 night
Day 8 – Depart for home
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the Sacramento Airport for your flight home.
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