Fully escorted tour includes:
There are few places in the world that generate more iconic imagery than California and the western USA, with even fewer living up to reality! The sights and amazing natural wonders just roll off the tongue, with probably nothing more aptly named than the Grand Canyon. Then there’s Monument Valley, whose towering sandstone pillars are immortalised in countless Westerns, the Painted Desert, Yosemite, the astonishing national parks of Bryce Canyon and Zion and the lofty snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Combine these with the allure of such genuinely unique cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas and you have a destination that simply cannot be matched!
- Los Angeles - the four-star Marriott Los Angeles Airport (http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/laxap-los-angeles-airport-marriott/) is just a couple minutes’ drive outside the airport, ideal after a long flight. There’s a large free-form outdoor pool, jacuzzi and fitness room. Dining options include an all-day continental restaurant, a steakhouse with open kitchen, a Starbucks coffee shop and a sports bar with over 50 screens! The 985 rooms are all spacious, comfortably furnished and feature Marriott’s Revive bedding, with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, iron/iron board, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, wireless internet (extra charge in room, free in lobby) and tea/coffee-maker.
- Los Angeles - 2013 tours will stay at the four-star Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel (http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/hilton-los-angeles-airport-LAXAHHH/index.html). The property is just a couple minutes’ drive outside the airport, ideal after a long flight. There’s a large free-form outdoor pool, jacuzzi and fitness room. Dining options include an all-day Bistro restaurant with Starbucks coffee, a sports bar and Andiamo, specialising in northern Italian cuisine. The 1,234 rooms are all spacious, comfortably furnished and feature Hilton's Serenity bedding, with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, iron/iron board, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, wireless internet (extra charge) and tea/coffee-maker.
- San Diego - the three-star Best Western Bayside Inn (http://www.baysideinn.com/) is in downtown San Diego, three blocks, or a 10 minute stroll, from the bay and the famous Maritime Museum. The city’s Little Italy quarter starts just opposite the hotel and is full of plenty of interesting places to eat. The hotel has small outdoor heated pool and the Bayside bar & grill (closed weekends). All the well-appointed 122 rooms are air-conditioned with en-suite bathroom & hairdryer, iron/iron board, free wireless internet, cable TV, writing desk, microwave & fridge, coffee-maker and a small balcony with bay or city views. A complimentary breakfast buffet and newspapers are available each morning.
- Phoenix - the three-star Hampton Inn Glendale Westgate (http://hamptoninn.hilton.com) is located in Glendale, a suburb north of central Phoenix. It’s within easy walking distance of the Westgate shopping mall, with its numerous restaurants, plus the home of the Arizona Cardinals, the vast University of Arizona stadium, is also down the road. There is a comfortable lobby with free wireless internet and complimentary tea/coffee all day, a snack shop, breakfast room, outdoor pool, jacuzzi and fitness room on the premises, plus plenty of varied dining choices and shopping within walking distance. There are 149 comfortable rooms with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom & hairdryer, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, free wireless internet, iron/iron board and coffee-maker. A complimentary breakfast buffet is available daily.
- Phoenix - 2013 tours will stay at the three-star Hampton Inn Phoenix North/Happy Valley (http://hamptoninn.hilton.com), located in Happy Valley, a suburb north of central Phoenix. It’s within easy walking distance of the Happy Valley Town centre . There is a comfortable lobby with free wireless internet and complimentary tea/coffee all day, a snack shop, breakfast room, outdoor pool and fitness room on the premises, plus plenty of varied dining choices and shopping within walking distance. There are 125 comfortable rooms with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom & hairdryer, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, free wireless internet, iron/iron board and coffee-maker. A complimentary breakfast buffet is available daily.
- Tusayan, Grand Canyon – the three-star Canyon Plaza Resort (http://www.grandcanyonplaza.com) is located just off the main street through Tusayan, the small community where most hotels are located, about a mile from the Park entrance for the Grand Canyon’s south rim. This motel-style hotel has a small outdoor pool & jacuzzi, a restaurant and free wireless internet in the lobby. The 232 rooms are well-appointed with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, cable TV, iron/iron board, tea/coffee-maker and either patio or balcony.
- Kayenta, Monument Valley – the three-star Monument Valley Inn (http://www.kayentamonumentvalleyinn.com/) is a motel-style property located in the small community of Kayenta, within the largest Indian Reservation in the USA and just a few miles from Monument Valley. The hotel has a small outdoor pool, a restaurant and fitness room. The 164 spacious rooms are air-conditioned, with en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, cable TV, iron/iron board and coffee-maker.
- Bryce Canyon – the three-star Best Western Ruby’s Inn (http://www.rubysinn.com) is located just a mile from the park entrance. There’s an impressive wood-panelled lobby, an indoor heated pool & Jacuzzi, a popular buffet restaurant and a separate fast-food outlet as well as an indoor dining & entertainment venue with a wild-west dinner show (summer months). There’s a large general store on the premises and several shops across the road, as well as a small evening rodeo (Wed-Sat) in the summer months. The 370 comfortable rooms are in motel-style blocks and all have air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, cable TV, free wireless internet, writing desk, iron/iron board, fridge, microwave and tea/coffee-maker.
- Las Vegas – the recently-renovated four-star Tropicana Resort & Casino (http://www.troplv.com) is perfectly located right on the famous Las Vegas ‘strip’. The hotel has a casino, three dining venues, evening entertainment, a nightclub and four acres of tropical landscaped gardens including one of the best pools in Vegas, plus a fitness centre & spa. The 1,375 spacious well-appointed rooms all have air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom with hairdryer, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, wireless internet (extra charge), iron/iron board and tea/coffee-maker.
- Oakhurst, Yosemite National Park – the three-star Shilo Inn (http://www.shiloinns.com) is located in the small town of Oakhurst in the hills a few miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park. There’s a small outdoor pool, fitness room and breakfast room. There’re several local restaurants within walking distance. The 80 spacious rooms are air-conditioned, with en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, cable TV, iron/iron board and coffee-maker. A complimentary simple continental breakfast is available daily. For 2013 this hotel will be re-named as the Yosemite Southgate Hotel.
- San Francisco - the four-star Courtyard Downtown San Francisco (http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/sfocd-courtyard-san-francisco-downtown/) is located two blocks from the Museum of Modern Art and five blocks from the Embarcadero, the revived San Francisco waterfront. There is an indoor pool and fitness room, a Starbucks coffee shop, a breakfast room and the Whispers bar & grill, plus there’s more than a dozen restaurants within half a mile radius of the hotel. The 374 rooms are all very comfortably furnished, with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, iron/iron board, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, free wireless internet, fridge, tea/coffee-maker and great views of downtown San Francisco’s skyline.
- San Francisco - 2013 tours will stay at the three-star superior Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (http://www.goldengatewayhotel.com/). The property is located on Van Ness Avenue, with one of the city's historic cable car lines just outside. The hotel has a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch, and the Interlude Bar & Grill for the evenings, as well as plenty of restaurants nearby. There's an outdoor pool with city views and a fitness centre. The 499 rooms are comfortably furnished, with air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, iron/iron board, flat-screen cable TV, writing desk, free wireless internet, fridge, tea/coffee-maker and great views of San Francisco’s skyline.
- Swimming pools in the USA: outdoor pools may be closed early or late in the season.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Los Angeles. After our afternoon arrival, we transfer to the nearby four-star Marriott Hotel (Airport Hilton for 2013) for one night.
LA, the city of glitz, glamour, the stars and miles of pristine beaches – it’s all here! This morning we see the best it has to offer – Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Sunset Strip, Santa Monica and Venice beach. During the afternoon we head south, following the coast, to charming San Diego, staying two nights at the three-star Best Western Bayside Inn, close to the waterfront and the city’s ‘Little Italy’ quarter with its many restaurants and cafés.
With over 260 days of sunshine a year, San Diego is the classic Southern California city, set around a sweeping bay and numerous sparkling white sand beaches with its beautifully restored gaslamp district. After an included morning city tour, you are free to experience San Diego’s numerous attractions. A great favourite is the Maritime Museum with its many historical ships, including the Star of India, the HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18th-century frigate used in the film ‘Master & Commander’, a Soviet-era submarine and the famous aircraft carrier, the USS Midway. A visit to the Midway is particularly fascinating and includes a tour of three decks, 35 types of aircraft and even the option of trying out your own flying skills in a high-tech flight simulator!
During the afternoon, why not dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean? Take the ferry across the bay to Coronado and the Victorian Del Coronado Hotel, used in the film ‘Some Like It Hot’ and host to a multitude of famous names such as Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart and even Edward VIII. Whale watching cruises (Feb-Mar is best) or Harbour cruises to view the US Pacific Fleet are also very popular. Next to the world-famous San Diego Zoo are the 1,200 acres of Balboa Park, the largest cultural complex west of the Mississippi with 15 museums and numerous other attractions, all set amidst wonderful sub-tropical gardens and fountains.
Today we leave the coast driving towards Phoenix in Arizona. Climbing to 4,000ft, passing though the Cleveland National Forest and hugging the US-Mexico border, we descend towards the hot sands and wide plains of the lower Mojave Desert. We cross the Colorado River and the California-Arizona state line at Yuma before staying one night at the excellent Hampton Inn Glendale-Westgate (Hampton Inn Happy Valley for 2013) just north of Phoenix.
Leaving Phoenix we drive through the Sonora Desert, the ‘new-age’ resort of Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and then on towards the Grand Canyon itself. When you first experience this great chasm, the grandeur is truly overwhelming, almost beyond the grasp of human imagination and one of the few sights in the world that mere words can never, ever describe! Photographs or mere statistics just cannot prepare you for such gargantuan scale: over a mile deep, with rocks as old as the earth itself. Its mind-boggling series of shapes, colours and glaring desert light contrast with jet-black shadows, formed by pinnacles of rock interspersed by stark promontories. The south rim extends for 14 miles and we visit some of the best viewing points, each one providing a different perspective over the constantly changing panorama. Our hotel is the newly-refurbished three-star Canyon Plaza hotel.
This morning you have the option of taking a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter flight for the ultimate panoramic view of the Grand Canyon, a truly magical display of natural beauty! As the light gradually grows ever stronger, the crisp shadows rapidly shorten and the greys and blues change to reds, yellows and ochres in a kaleidoscope of intensive colour. It is at moments such as these that you truly feel the might of Mother Nature! From the Desert View Watchtower we have our final, lingering look over the canyon with the meandering Colorado River visible in the distance, before crossing the Painted Desert, through the vast 16 million-acre Navajo Indian Reservation, towards Monument Valley. Arriving a few hours before sunset, this is the best time to view the incredible flat-topped towers of red sandstone that rise so dramatically from the surrounding barren desert, with the softer light affording ideal photographic conditions. Here, the bustle of civilization seems so far away and as the sun sets there is an amazing and almost magical stillness in the air. For those wishing to see the Valley from a different perspective and gain a greater understanding of its historical significance we have the option of a guided 4x4 tour by a local Navajo Indian. Tonight we stay at the three-star Monument Valley Inn in the nearby small community of Kayenta.
After an early start we arrive at the town of Page just next to the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and whose building created the vast Lake Powell. We then cross into the Mormon state of Utah and climb to almost 8,000ft as we arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park. Created by thousands of years of erosion, Bryce Canyon presents an almost surreal landscape of multi-hued and delicate rock pinnacles – a quite exceptional, strange and exotic topography with a uniquely fragile quality.
We stay in the three-star Best Western Ruby’s Inn, just a mile outside the park.
This morning we continue to Zion National Park where the scenery is made up of layers of petrified sand dunes, hundreds of feet thick as well as huge sheer cliffs and gorges. Unlike the Grand Canyon and Bryce, we reach the bottom of the main canyon experiencing a completely new perspective. Leaving Zion in the afternoon we drive towards the glittering bright lights of Las Vegas, the glow of which can be seen from thirty miles.
Our hotel for two nights is the stylish four–star Tropicana Resort & Casino superbly situated in the vibrant heart of the Vegas ‘strip’. Tonight we have the option of a ‘Vegas by Night’ tour, probably the best time to appreciate its unique atmosphere with everything bathed in a glow of all-encapsulating neon, so brash it’s almost an art form.
Today we have a full day to explore the self-styled ‘entertainment capital of the world’ which really is everything you expect it to be. It’s an almost surreal apparition growing out of the desert! It’s where the world’s most renowned sights and cities such as Venice, Paris, New York and even the Pyramids have been recreated in such detail. You can even take a trip on a gondola on a canal on the 1st floor of one of the hotels! Whatever your opinion and taste, shocked or captivated, you cannot fail to be impressed! Tours by helicopter are also available to the west rim of the Grand Canyon. This is the only section of the canyon where helicopters are permitted to actually fly and even land on the canyon floor itself. This evening why not take in a show? Always amongst the most impressive in the world, you are assured of a memorable night whichever one you choose.
Today we leave Las Vegas driving through the barren Mojave Desert. Our route skirts the famous Edwards Air Force base, before climbing even higher through the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. On reaching the peak, literally from one minute to the next the climate changes from the burning heat of the desert to temperate grasslands and forest as we cross the Tehachapi Pass and travel through the vast fertile plains of the San Joaquin Valley. This evening, we stay at the three-star Yosemite Southgate Hotel & Suites (previously named Shilo Inn) in Oakhurst just outside Yosemite National Park.
This morning we enter the park and drive through incredible scenery to Yosemite Valley itself where we are confronted by one of the most staggering views in the USA: a deep, lushly forested valley encircled by the steely grey vastness of sheer granite cliffs and domes rising by over 4,000ft on all sides, bisected by some of the highest waterfalls in North America. Dominated by the granite monolith of El Capitan on one side and the instantly recognisable Half Dome on the other, it is impossible not to find your heart touched by this overwhelming natural grandeur. We then continue to San Francisco staying three nights in the centrally located four-star Courtyard by Marriott Downtown (Holiday Inn Golden Gateway for 2013).
For many, San Francisco will be one of the highlights of the tour. From its beginnings as a 19th century mining boomtown to the sophisticated metropolis you see today, it is simply one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world. Nestling on a bay astride the blue Pacific Ocean, dominated by the instantly-recognisable Golden Gate Bridge, the city spreads out over forty-three steep hills on one side and a vibrant green carpet of forests on the other. This morning we have a guided tour of the city, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, Nob Hill, Lombard Street and Union Square. The rest of your day is at leisure. Why not wander along the busy waterfront of Fisherman’s Wharf, choose from one of the many seafood restaurants or watch the antics of the sea lions on Pier 39. Alternatively, the short boat ride to the US’s most infamous prison, Alcatraz island, known as ‘the rock’, is well worth the trip – the fascinating audio guide is narrated by ex-prisoners and guards. Other popular trips include a scenic harbour cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Our final full day and there’s still so much to do! You can amble through Chinatown, the largest outside Asia, and wonder at the pagodas and oriental markets. Or perhaps take a stroll down to the renovated Ferry Plaza Building on the waterfront, converted into a huge alfresco Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Try the once predominantly Italian North Beach, still home to innumSerable bistros, delis and bakeries, which during the 50’s attracted the bohemian writers and avant-garde artists of the Beatnik movement. And don’t forget the Haight-Ashbury district and the ‘Summer of Love’ for which San Francisco is still famous today. Alternatively, there’s an optional trip to visit Muir Woods, a US National Monument, which contains a unique 560-acre stand of giant 300-foot high Coast Redwoods. The trip also visits the quaint artists’ colony of Sausalito.
Our flights depart in the late afternoon, so why not use your final morning for some last minute shopping – Macy’s department store is always popular and is located very centrally on nearby Union Square.
We arrive back in the UK after a very special tour, the memories of which will last a lifetime.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room and includes scheduled direct flights to Los Angeles and returning from San Francisco, thirteen nights accommodation on a room only basis in three and four-star hotels, three continental breakfasts, all tours and National Park entrance fees as mentioned, guided city tours of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, the porterage of one item of luggage per person and the services of an experienced tour manager. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement (date dependant).
Visas and Health Matters
British passport holders do not require a visa under the USA Visa Waiver Programme. Please ensure your passport is machine-readable (i.e. a red passport with two lines of letters, numbers and ‘>>>>’ at the foot of your personal details page) and is valid for at least six months after your departure date from the US.
Please note British passport holders qualifying for the Visa Waiver programme must now apply online for authorisation to enter the USA, for which there is now an administration fee of $14 per person. This may only be submitted online by logging on to: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov and registering at least 72 hours prior to travel. It is now a requirement that all passengers apply in this way. Without authorisation prior to travel, admission may be denied at a US port of entry. For the latest information, please visit the ESTA website, as detailed. Holders of non-British passports will need to contact the American Embassy in London for details at least three months prior to departure. Details can be found on: http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_new/visa/niv/vwp.html.
There are no current health requirements for the USA. However, whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that we often enjoy walking tours (sometimes over unmade paths) of the various places of interest. This tour also reaches an altitude of 8,000ft and temperature variations can be unpredictable, especially during winter, spring and autumn. For these reasons this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. Please bear this in mind when considering this holiday. To make the most of your trip, we recommend you check the Foreign Office website at www.fco.gov.uk/travel or call the Foreign Office Travel Advice Unit on 0845 850 2829.