Los Angeles to San Diego
Meet up with your Contiki crew and Tour Manager before cruising through Orange County and along the Pacific coastline to laid-back San Diego. Get a feel for the city’s easy-going vibes with a look around San Diego’s vibrant neighborhoods. In Old Town, your Tour Manager will give you the story behind the original pueblo (village), with its Adobe buildings (made of brick, straw and mud) and show you the 19th century buildings of the Gaslamp Quarter's. You’ll also see Balboa Park, which holds the largest urban cultural park in the USA and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Tonight, make your first night on tour one to remember and get to know the group over dinner before heading out for a fun night exploring the Gaslamp District’s funky live music venues or one of the many cool bars.
With a full day in San Diego, live a bit of the California lifestyle and get into some outdoor activities. With 42 miles of beaches, a Mediterranean climate and loads of parks, San Diego is all about kicking back in the pleasant surrounds. Otherwise, visit the San Diego Zoo, known for its conservation efforts and vast numbers of animals (over 4000) or head to SeaWorld, known for its fun marine animal shows. If the weather is good, we’ll cruise out to the locals’ favorite spot, Mission Beach, for a few hours soaking up the sun or walking along the boardwalk for views of ocean. Don’t forget your towel and swimmers.
San Diego to Phoenix
Things are about to get hotter as we head to Phoenix, a massive metropolis sitting smack in the middle of the desert. With around 300 days of sunshine per year, this place is all about shopping, sports and nightlife.
Phoenix to the Grand Canyon
Kick start the day with an unforgettable optional excursion: a hot-air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert and “Valley of the Sun”. The combination of full blown vistas over the desert and a champagne breakfast upon landing make this an amazing experience. We continue deeper into the Wild West as we head to stunning Sedona. Chill out and watch the region’s recognizable red rock cliffs, rugged spires and mesas (flat-topped rock formations) go by from the coach. Your Tour Manager will tell you about this eco-friendly town that is also known for its high-energy red rocks. There’s a chance to explore this stunning red rock country with our Local Guide on an optional 4WD tour through the historic canyons. Learn local legends and even pick up a piece of Native American jewelery. We continue on to the mind-blowing landscape of the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most recognizable natural wonders and pride of Arizona.
Grand Canyon National Park
A day here means time to take in the immensity and spine-tingling beauty of the scene-stealing Canyon – it has got a rep for a reason! This morning get up close to this UNESCO World Heritage site on an optional helicopter ride and get another angle on the Canyon as you fly over it. Hike along the South Rim for mind-blowing vistas of the dramatic scenery. See some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth, take in the deep abyss and soak up the wildness of the area. There are trails for all levels of hiking, so take it up a notch or cruise along at your own pace. Wrap up the day with a canyon sunset and take in the stunning changes of light while the sun goes down.
Grand Canyon to Las Vegas
Leaving behind the Grand Canyon, we stop off at Seligman, an historic Route 66 town. Get a feel for the old style as you check out 1940’s shop fronts and motels. Maybe pick up a souvenir for back home. Then following a section of the legendary Route 66, we head north. With down time on the coach, plug in your MP3, catch on some sleep or chat with your friends. Get ready to arrive in larger-than-life Las Vegas – a man-made entertainment oasis smack in the middle of the desert. Often dubbed Sin City, it’s all about glitz, neon lights, and excess. See the bright lights of this city and its world-famous casinos in a first taste of Vegas kitsch as the group heads down the main drag, the “Strip”, and your Tour Manager fills you in on the story behind Vegas. Then cruise downtown to Freemont Street and experience a slice of the spectacular at a light and laser show in a massive pedestrian mall.
With a free day, you’ve got time to get a real feel for this outrageous town, so keep an eye out for Elvis impersonators and fast-paced chapel weddings! Explore more of the Strip and check out over-the-top versions of international icons, like the Eiffel Tower, Venetian canals and gondolas, a Roman temple or the pyramid, whose nightlight can be seen from the moon. Try your luck at one of the casinos, sit yourself down at a blackjack table and watch the high-rollers or go for a ride at one of the casino’s theme-parks. If you work up an appetite, tuck into an all you can eat buffet, and lunch American style. For something different, discover Las Vegas’ trademark art at the Neon Museum and for a look into this town’s atomic heyday in the 50s, visit the Atomic Testing Museum. Tonight, get some pointers on Las Vegas’ hot spots from your Tour Manager and make the most of this towns’ 24/7 action with some of your new friends.
Las Vegas to Bass Lake
Today, it’s a total change of scene when leave behind flashy Vegas and the desert to arrive in the outdoor capital of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Make the most of picturesque Bass Lake and wind down in your chalet. With two nights at this lakefront resort, you can unpack your things, kickback on your chalet’s deck and soak up the views.
Yosemite National Park
Get back to nature with a day in Yosemite National Park. This place has a reputation for a reason – it’s absolutely stunning. With a dramatic combination of waterfalls, woods, towering mountains and wildlife, Yosemite will take your breath away. Keep an eye out and a camera handy in case you’re lucky enough to see black bears, deer and coyotes. Your Tour Manager will tell you all about Yosemite as you check out the massive El Capitan rock and the sheerest cliff in the USA, Half Dome. It’s guaranteed to impress. You’ll also see the breathtaking Yosemite and Bridalveil Falls. Add to your time here and hike or bike along the park’s trails to experience this unique environment first hand and close up. Tonight, if the weather is good, cook up a BBQ on your chalet’s deck and enjoy eating under the open night sky.
Bass Lake to San Francisco
Cruise on through the San Joaquin Valley to free-wheeling San Francisco, via Oakland. Colourful, cosmopolitan and creative, San Francisco is packed with characters, free-thinkers, and artists. You’ll see the signs of its recent history where it served as the hub of the gold rush, as well as the center for Beatnik and Hippy cultures. After crossing over the Bay Bridge for a panorama of the area, get familiar with this buzzing city as your Tour Manager shows you around San Francisco’s key sights. We stop off at Fisherman’s Wharf for a slice of the historic waterfront lifestyle, where you can order some fresh fish or crab from sidewalk stands. Cross San Francisco’s landmark suspension bridge, the Golden Gate, and check out the city’s iconic row houses on Alamo Square. This afternoon, take it down a notch & soak up the sunset on out included catamaran cruise around San Francisco Bay.
With a couple of days here, get a real feel for San Francisco and its hilly streets. Chalk up a local experience by jumping on a cable car and exploring the city. If you’ve booked ahead of time, catch a ferry out to Alcatraz, the former island jail that once held A-list criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone, Soviet spies and crime bosses. Walk around the old cells and get the background on these bad boys. Thriving with activity, Chinatown is a fun, kitsch experience. Choose the optional trip there with your Tour Manager and see its hidden spots. Learn about the history of the gold rush as you walk through the bustling district, past traditional herb-sops, Buddhas, and flashing neon lights. Then eat together at one of its many authentic restaurants. You could turn back the clock to the “Summer of Love” with a visit to cool Haight-Ashbury, the centre point of 1960s alternative culture. Once packed with 75000 hippies, it now has chilled-out cafes, record stores, second hand clothes shops and bookstores to rummage through. With over 3000 places to eat and drink, San Francisco has more choice per capita than anywhere else. Head to the city’s gritty Latin American quarter, Mission District, for Mexican tacos or El Salvadorian pupusas (corn flat breads stuffed with cheese, pork or beans) or hit North Beach for some Italian.
San Francisco to Carpinteria via Santa Barbara
Today we leave San Francisco behind and continue traveling through California. This afternoon, we travel south along the central coast and through the pretty wine country of the region before arriving in Santa Barbara. Experience the Spanish flavor of Santa Barbara and see the pretty white stucco buildings and red tile roofs that give the town its distinctive feel. Hit the main drag of State Street, lined with palm trees and interesting coffee shops, bookstores, and diners. Well-known for its hot shopping, you can find anything from indie clothe boutiques to surfer chic, from locally-made accessories to big label brands. Golden beaches make Santa Barbara a great place to surf, swim or catch some sun. You can also rent bike or roller blades and look around town California style. Later, we arrive in Carpinteria for our overnight stop.
Carpinteria to Los Angeles
Wrap up your tour in the city that mixes up glamor, grit and the American Dream: Los Angeles. It’s packed with legends, full of energy and a bit rough around the edges. We head to mythical Hollywood and onto holy ground for the stars. Check out the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars are held every year and the Chinese Theater, where so many greats have pressed their hands into the famous cement stars. For a more in-depth look at movie star glamor and the lifestyles of the rich and famous, choose the optional movie stars’ home tour, where you’ll see over 40 mansions and learn about the celebrities who live in them. For more history on Hollywood, choose our optional walking tour around the area. Our expert Local Guide will show you the old theaters of Hollywood Boulevard as the group walks down this legendary street. Follow the star-studded Walk of Fame, with its 2000 brass stars, and see the Egyptian Theater and El Capitan Theater. Then it’s time to say farewell to your new friends, as your tour ends in downtown LA.