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The California Experience

The California Experience

This popular tour takes travelers up and over the Grapevine and down through the Central Valley to Sacramento.  Along the way stops highlight the aqueduct system, geography, agriculture, and more.  Then it's time to explore Sacramento with visits to the State Capitol Building, the Railroad Museum, and Sutter's Fort before heading to Gold Country.  There you will learn about the discovery of gold and will even get to try your hand at gold panning!  The last stop is the City by the Bay - San Francisco.  Ride a cable car, escape from Alacatraz, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, and learn about science at the Exploratorium before heading back home.

  • Program Highlights

    Most "California Exerience" Programs with American Christian Tours will include:

    • Ft. Tejon Stop
    • Hilmar Cheese Factory
    • California State Capitol Building tour
    • Capitol Grounds tour
    • Old Town Sacramento
    • California State Railroad Museum
    • Sutter's Fort
    • Gold Discovery Museum in Coloma
    • Sutter Mill and the gold discovery site
    • Hike to Marshall's Monument and cabin
    • Panning for gold in the American River
    • A one-way cable car ride from Union Station to Fisherman's Wharf
    • A walk out onto the Golden Gate Bridge
    • Time on Fisherman's Wharf
    • Alcatraz Island Tour


    If time permits, visit

    • Nearby Gold Country Mines
    • Jelly Belly Factory tour
    • The Exploratorium
    • Golden Gate Park
  • Climate

    Sacramento has a Mediterranean-type climate.  Winters can be damp and wet, and the summers are usually hot and dry with a lot of sunshine.  The wet season is generally October through April.  The monthly daily average temperature ranging from about 45° F in December to 75 °F in July. In the summer, a breeze frequently blows in called the "Delta Breeze."  It travels from the San Francisco Bay, up through the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers.  This breeze causes the temperatures to cool down sharply at night.  


    In Coloma Valley, the spring and fall temperatures have daytime high temperatures ranging from 60° - 80°F. Spring flowers and fall foliage are spectacular. There is some rainfall in spring, but usually not as much as in the winter.  Summers are hot. Daytime temperatures are typically around 90° F and can often spike to over 100°.  Little rain falls in the Coloma Valley between June and October.


    Surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's climate is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean. The weather is remarkably mild all year round, with a so-called Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, foggy summers and relatively warm winters.  Average daily high temperatures in the summer typically range from the upper 60s to low 70s, while in the winter it virtually never reaches freezing. Rain in the summer is extremely rare, but winters can often be very rainy.

  • Geography

    The Central Valley is a flat valley loacted in the center of California. On the east side are the Sierra Nevada Mountains and on the west side are the Coast Ranges.  The Central Valley is 40 to 60 miles wide and about about 450 miles north to south.  It covers approximately 18,000 square miles. 

    The City of Sacramento is located at the coming together of the Sacramento and the American Rivers and has a deepwater port connected to the San Francisco Bay by a channel through Suisun Bay and the Sacramento River Delta. It is the shipping and rail center for the Sacramento Valley, fruit, vegetables, rice, wheat, dairy goods and beef. Food processing is among the major industries in the area.

    Much of the land to the west of the city is a flood control basin. As a result, the greater metropolitan area sprawls only four miles west of downtown but 30 miles northeast and east, into the Sierra Nevada foothills, and 10 miles to the south into valley farmland.


    The name Coloma comes from the native Nisenan Indian name for the valley Cullumah, meaning "beautiful."  And it is beautiful.  Coloma is nestled in a valley along the western shore of the South Fork of the American River in the Sierra Nevada foothills some 60 miles northeast of Sacramento. 


    The City of San Francisco is located on the U.S. mainland at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, halfway up the coast of northern California. It is surrounded on three sides by bodies of water: the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate strait, and the San Francisco Bay.  Several islands are part of the city, notably Alcatraz Island and Treasure Island. The city and county has a total area of 231.9 square miles. 46.7 square miles of it is land and 185.2 square miles of it (79.86%) is water. The land within the city limits roughly forms a seven by seven mile square.


    San Francisco is famous for its hills. A "hill" in San Francisco is an elevation that is over 100 ft. There are a total of 42 hills within city limits. 

  • Essentials

    • Driving through the southern part of California's Central Valley taking in the agriculture, aqueduct, and mountain views
    • Standing beneath the dome of the California State Capitol Building
    • Walking on the wooden sidewalks and cobblestone streets of Old Town Sacramento
    • Seeing Patty Reed's doll at Sutter's Fort
    • Walking through the St. Hyacinthe, a sleeping car, at the California State Railroad Museum.  It moves!
    • Watching the squirrels at play among the orange trees on the grounds of the State Capitol Building 
    • Walking to the spot in the tailrace of Sutter's Mill where gold was first discovered and imagining how it would change the world
    • Standing in the cold water of the American River panning for gold
    • Hiking up to Marshall's Monument and seeing an incredible view of Coloma Valley
    • Walking across the old steel bridge built in the 1930's that spans the American River.  It is on the site of the original bridge built in 1849 - the first bridge built west of the Mississippi River
    • Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge - internationally known symbol of San Francisco
    • Riding a Cable Car - now listed as a "special" moving National Historic Landmark
    • Visiting Alcatraz - "The Rock" - infamous federal prison
  • Get Prepared


    • This is America, Charlie Brown - The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad [VHS] (1988)
    • The Gold Rush, PBS, 1998 (DVD and VHS)
      The Gold Rush is a one-hour historical documentary about the great 19th-century quest for gold in frontier California. Narrated by John Lithgow, the program intertwines historic photos with current footage of California gold country. Interspersed throughout are passages from 49er diaries and interviews with historians.


    • The preamble to the California State Constitution.
      Notice that the founders of California were grateful to Almighty God for their freedoms!:
      California Constitution Preamble
      We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.
    • Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express by Michael P. Spradlin, Layne Johnson (Illustrator) (2010).
    • By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman, 1963. A twelve-year old boy named Jack, who has lived with his Aunt Arabella since his parents died, heads to California to search for gold after Aunt Arabella loses all her money. He is accompanied by Aunt Arabella's butler Praiseworthy.


    • Maybelle the Cable Car, by Virginia Lee Burton, 1952

    Listen to the sound of a steam train. Sacramento was the western terminus of the Central Pacific Railroad. The Central Pacific Railroad joined with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869, linking the nation from coast to coast and opening up the west for rapid development. The transcontinental train was very important to the development of California.


    Listen to the short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, written by Mark Twain in 1867.

    The sound of a foghorn, a common sound in San Francisco, near the waterfront.

  • Senses

    Find a bag of Blue Diamond Almonds.  Founded in 1910, Blue Diamond is headquartered in Sacramento.  Almonds are California's largest food export and the #1 specialty crop in America.


    Forty-niner Flapjacks  Flapjacks were very popular in the gold camps.
    Sourdough bread. Sourdough was the main bread made in Northern California during the California Gold Rush and it remains a major part of the culture of San Francisco.  The bread became so common that sourdough became a general nickname for the gold prospectors. 

    • With all the vegetables that are grown around Sacramento, maybe a glass of tomato juice or V8, would remind you of all the nearby agriculture!
    • A hot cocoa at Ghirardelli.
    • With all the hiking in Coloma be sure to drink plenty of water.
  • In A Word:

    Central Valley - Productive.
    Sacramento - Discover!
    Gold Country - Eureka!
    San Francisco - Hills.

  • Surprises:

    • Due to irrigation the Central Valley contains some of the richest farmland in the United States and produces more than 300 crops, including cotton, fruits, grains, nuts, and vegetables. The valley produces about one-fourth of the food consumed in the United States!
    • Finding out how the Old Town area of Sacramento area was raised about 9 feet back in 1868.
    • Learning that the people who really made the most money during the Gold Rush were the shopkeepers not the miners.
    • Sutter's Fort is the oldest restored fort in the United States.  It was built in 1839.
    • Gold was discovered in Coloma on January 24, 1848.  By 1850, over 300,000 gold seekers had flooded the area.
    • Most miners made about $10-15 a day.  However a pound of beef cost about $10, butter was $20 a pound, eggs were $3 each, and a shovel was around $40.
    • The size of some of the gold nuggets found.  In the Gold Discovery Museum they have actual size replicas of some of the nuggets.  They were huge!
    • The amazing natural beauty of the City of San Francisco - stunning.
    • The sea lions that have taken up residence by Pier 39.
    • How steep the hills are and the streets running straight up and down them.

  • Cities/Destinations Included

    Central Valley



    San Francisco

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