A Grand Tour of the West
"California here I come!" From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the magnificent landscapes at Yosemite National Park, The Grand Canyon and up the Pacific Coast Highway, you'll see the best California & the West has to offer. Contrast the striking desolation of Death Valley with the bright lights of Las Vegas, and the tranquility of California's coastal towns with the buzz and glamour of Hollywood. Along the way, you'll take in such intriguing sites as the giant General Sherman Tree, Scotty's Castle, the Guadalupe Sand Dunes, and "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Hearst Castle). In California, where driving is an integral part of life, you'll enjoy the journey as much as the destinations. Put on your sunglasses, immerse yourself in the diversity, and enjoy this fabulous state.
PLEASE NOTE: If this suggested tour is too long for you or alternatively, you have other stops in mind we can tailor a different length holiday or route to suit your requirements. Please call one of our friendly and experienced consultants on (01892) 779900 for more advice or email us with your itinerary and we will be happy to assist in helping to plan your trip.
Not looking to drive so far? Why not let us suggest some alternative routes or instead book a short Domestic flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas or Los Angeles. With Alamo, there are NO One Way drop fees on car hire in California, Nevada or Arizona, so you really can start and end your Grand Tour of the West just about anywhere!
- San Francisco
- Yosemite National Park
- Death Valley
- Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon
- Kingman's Historic Route 66 Museum
- Los Angeles
- Santa Barbara
- The Big Sur
- Highway 1
The world-famous Golden Gate Bridge welcomes you to San Francisco, the most-visited and beloved American city. Prepare to lose your heart as you explore delightful and diverse neighborhoods, take in breathtaking views from the tops of crooked streets, wander through Fisherman's Wharf, and sample a fabulous variety of cuisines.
Begin your stay in San Francisco by walking the Barbary Coast Trail, a wonderful 3.8-mile overview of the city ranging from Nob Hill to Ghirardelli Square. Spend a day exploring the Golden Gate Recreation Area, which includes the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, Muir Woods and more. Jump on the ferry at Pier 39 for a trip to Alcatraz, the famous island prison that also has spectacular gardens, bird colonies, and views of San Francisco Bay. Stop in one of Boudin's famous sourdough bakeries for a true taste of San Francisco, and be sure to visit Chinatown for great food and atmosphere to match.
Yosemite National Park
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the US, Yosemite National Park offers an amazing variety of landscapes. Best known for its magnificent waterfalls, glacial rock formations, and groves of giant redwood trees, Yosemite also delights visitors with gorgeous meadows, reservoirs, overlooks, and a collection of historic 19th century pioneer buildings. The most scenic route through the park is the 39-mile Tioga Road. The best way to explore the park is on foot. Hiking trails through the main areas of the park allow for an up close and personal experience of Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Wawona and Mariposa Grove of Giant Redwoods, Hetch Hetchy, and Tuolumne Meadows. If you’d like a guide, sign up for a two-hour Valley Floor Tour with a National Park Service ranger.
What a contrast! From the heights of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the lowest, driest, hottest point in the country, you’ll make the short journey to Death Valley National Park. Although the landscape is barren and forbidding in much of the park, snow-capped mountains rise to 11,000 feet, beautiful sand dunes glisten in the sun, and more than 1,000 species of plants make Death Valley home. At night and at higher elevations, a multitude of animals emerge and thrive.
Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America, and the dramatic Devil’s Golf Course, a large expanse of land covered in crystalline salt deposits, are must-sees in the park. The Artist’s Drive is a 9-mile loop offering lovely vistas. The Borax Museum tells the story of the famous product that was hauled out of the desert to California markets. Don’t miss Scotty’s Castle, a fantasy house that “Death Valley Scotty” told everyone he built. A guided tour tells the real story of Chicago businessman Albert Mussey Johnson’s Death Valley Ranch and his eccentric mining partner.
Who turned on the lights?! Welcome to Las Vegas, a city created to provide non-stop entertainment. Enjoy two days in this fantastic city, wandering The Strip, enjoying show after show, taking in the view from the Eiffel Tower or catching an adrenaline rush on the Stratosphere. For a break from the action, tour the world-famous Hoover Dam, or go for a hike or scenic drive through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Museum lovers will enjoy the Imperial Auto Museum, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, and the Liberace Museum. Whatever you choose to do, remember that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”
The magnificent Grand Canyon awaits today. Take the free shuttle bus from the Canyon Plaza Visitor Center to some of the best viewpoints along the South Rim, or enjoy the 25-mile Desert View scenic self-drive. Visit the Yavapai Observation Station, theTusayanMuseum, and the Kolb Brothers Studio for more fabulous views and a perspective on the cultural heritage and history of theGrand Canyon. Treat yourself to a helicopter ride over the North and South Rims of the Canyon for thrilling bird’s eye views of the Colorado River more than a mile below.
On you way back toLas Vegas, you can rejoin man-made civilization at the Historic Route 66 Museum to learn more about the “Mother Road,” and at the Mohave Museum of History and Art to learn more about the ancients.
Kingman also offers great hiking in Hualapai Mountain Park, 2,300 acres with elevations ranging from 4,984 to 8,417 feet in the cool, clear, fragrant pine country. The name Hualapai, "Pine Tree Folk," is derived from the name of the Indian tribe that called these mountains home until they were relocated by the military in the 1870s. The total beauty, character and history of Hualapai Mountain Park cannot be fully expressed in words - it is something that must be experienced.
Next stop is 'the City of Angels', as Los Angeles is fondly otherwise known.
Driving in Los Angeles is a way of life – and a glamorous one at that. So roll down the windows and head out on one of the fabulous scenic drives around the city. Cruise the Sunset Strip; check out the entertainment hot spots on Hollywood Boulevard, or journey through the city’s historic, cultural and architectural roots along Wilshire Boulevard. Los Angeles is a city of suburbs that includes Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Anaheim, stretching east into the California desert. Enjoy classic boardwalk fun on the historic Santa Monica Pier, visit “the Mouse” at Disneyland, window shop on Rodeo Drive, and take in any number of LA’s fabulous museums and attractions. The view from the Getty Center, sitting high above the city, is as spectacular as the art collection inside.
Known as “The American Riviera,” the beautiful coastal town of Santa Barbara, nestled against the Santa Inez Mountains, has the sophistication of a city with the feel of a small community. Its fascinating history includes its founding by the famous Jesuit priest Father Junipero Serro in 1782 as one of a series of missions along the California coast. The Mission has been a working church since 1794 and is well worth a visit. The earthquake of 1925 forced a stricter building code that resulted in the lovely Spanish-Moorish architecture that draws visitors to downtown Santa Barbara today. Shopping becomes a sensory experience as you meander down cobbled streets and paseos into fragrant courtyards lined with unique boutiques and galleries. Complete your visit by basking in the Southern California sun on East Beach, one of the best beaches in the country, or touring Santa Barbara’s wine country, made famous in the movie Sideways.
On your way to Pismo Beach today, stop to explore the beautiful Guadalupe Sand Dunes, a National Natural Landmark and the largest undisturbed tract of coastal dunes in Southern California. The Dunes Discovery Center provides directions to access points along the dunes and general information about this unique natural resource. At nearby Oso Flaco Lake, a beautiful bridge over a rare coastal freshwater lake leads to a boardwalk through the dunes to a viewing platform with wonderful views of the coast.
When you arrive in Pismo Beach, you’ll find this classic California beach town has it all, from gorgeous surf to fabulous wineries.
As you travel north on the Pacific Coast Highway today, plan to spend plenty of time visiting the spectacular Hearst Castle, officially the San Simeon National Historic State Park. Perched atop "La Cuesta Encantada," The Enchanted Hill, the "camp" that William Randolph Hearst built overlooks the majestic Pacific coast. By 1947, the country house had 165 rooms on 127 fully landscaped acres, along with two stunning swimming pools and several outbuildings. For peek inside this California landmark, take the Experience Tour, which includes portions of the main house, the 18-room guesthouse, both swimming pools, and the esplanade and gardens.
Continuing on towards Monterey, you'll encounter several California State Parks, including Julia Pfeiffer State Park, the Andrew Molera State Park and the Point Sur State Historic Park, as well as wonderful beaches. When you reach Monterey, you'll be captivated by its legendary charm and beauty. John Steinbeck drew inspiration from area landmarks such as Cannery Row, which today is a delightful shopping district. The National John Steinbeck Center is in nearby Salinas. Popular Monterey attractions include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Old Monterey, and Old Fisherman's Wharf. Be sure to sample the seafood chowder in a sourdough bread bowl!
San Francisco & Home
Time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and last morning in the Monterey and Carmel area, before heading back to San Francisco Airport this afternoon for your overnight flight home.
- Direct return flights from London (Please ask us about other departure airports)
- 17 nights hotel accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire (Larger vehicles and GPS available at a supplement)
- A detailed travel pack with driving instructions and maps
- Alcatraz Tour (Due to the popularity of this tour we HIGHLY recommend pre booking in high season)
- Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
Daily Departures 27 April to 26 October (Also available on other dates subject to a change of route in the Yosemite area because of seasonal road closures).
We can also offer this itinerary in a wide range of other accommodation types, including superior hotels, character properties and small inns.