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    Historic fiesta outfit and ornate saddle

    All the leaves are brown, And the sky is gray / California dreaming on such a winter’s day. Mammas & the Papas

    Published 11-29-2018

    While academic programming may be considered the most important factor in selecting a college, also essential to success are both the campus and local culture. College tours are an excellent way to experience a slice of student life, obtain specific admission and housing details and visit in-depth the area surrounding the institution.  Parents should accompany the student on the tour if possible and turn what could be a tedious exercise into an opportunity of a lifetime. Sharing this event can be, not only informational, but additionally a chance to bond, a vacation and an adventure themed around the unique offerings of each college town.

    The California State University System is the largest state university system in the country with hundreds of institutions of higher learning. Three of the most sought after schools offer campus tours and are located in cities, Claremont, San Luis Obispo and Berkeley, that have a unique ambience that enhances the university experience. Adults  embarking on this 400-mile trek, whether accompanied by a student or not, get to immerse themselves in California culture.

    Claremont, 32-miles east of Los Angeles, is known as the “City of Trees and PHD’s” because of its 23,000 trees and five stellar undergraduate Liberal Arts Colleges designated as being among the country’s best. The city is nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains about 40-minutes from the Pacific Ocean and some of California’s best beaches and surfing options. The 540-square mile San Gabriel National Monument is 17-miles away and features campgrounds, trails and breathtaking views. www.discoverclaremont.com

    Native Americans lived in the area for more than 10,000-years prior to Spanish exploration in the 1600s. Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was established in 1771 and  Captain Juan Bautista de Anza camped nearby. Until the late 1800s Claremont was part of Rancho San José when the railroad crossed the land in 1887 and laid out the city. It was ideal as a transportation hub and had been the juncture of the Camino Real and the Mojave and Spanish Trails and a stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach route. In 1931 two-miles of Foothills Blvd. became part of Route 66.

    Folk Music Center entrance

    Claremont Village is a 12-city block area showcasing more than 150 Boutiques, locally owned businesses and food venues. The city has earned national accolades for the quality and diversity of its dining options. It is the first Fair trade town in Southern California, supporting businesses that do not use forced child labor, offer safe working conditions, fair remuneration for employees and global environmental issues. Guided and self-guided tours are available. www.thevillageclaremont.com

    The historic Spanish Colonial Revival Santa Fe Train Station Depot was constructed in 1927 to replace an earlier one. It is an architectural gem with spectacular doors adorned with the railroad’s cross and circle logo.

    Hotel Casa 425 courtyard

    Hotel Casa 425 is a boutique hotel situated in the heart of Claremont Village and steps from all its offerings. The Mission-style structure blends Mexican and Southern California elements to create a series of spectacular public and private spaces. The hotel boasts all the modern amenities and an outdoor living room complete with fire pits. Small plates are on the bar menu and the Kobi beef sliders and ahi and shrimp burrito are reasons that NBC LA designated Claremont a “Food Neighborhood”. www.Casa425.com

    Back Abbey Burger

    A must stop in this foodie paradise is The Back Abbey is a Gastropub inside a historic structure. There are more than 110 international beers and an innovative menu featuring the award-winning “Best burger in L.A”. www.thebackabbey.com

     Museum T-Rex skeleton

    The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology is the only accredited museum in the US on a high school campus. Alf, a teacher, collected fossils and on a trip in 1936 discovered a 15-million year old skull of an undiscovered species, the peccary, a pig . His years of collecting resulted in the construction of a 1967 museum to showcase his collection. Galleries are chronological and displays are artful. A highlight is the Hall of Footprints featuring one of the largest fossil trackway collections including those of the bear-dog. www.alfmuseum.org

    Botanical Garden  with mountain view

    Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is the largest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to CA’s native plants. The  86-acre garden has three distinct areas, Indian Hill Mesa, Alluvial Gardens and California Plant Communities. Artworks and more than 22,000 native plants, including endangered species, are there for guests’ enjoyment, edification and contemplation. www.rsabg.org

    DoubleTree by Hilton Claremont courtyard

    DoubleTree by Hilton Claremont is perfectly situated for touring Claremont and the college campuses. It is located on Route 66, Foothills Blvd., and is a short drive to all the sites and attractions. It offers free parking, on-site dining, a free shuttle and 194 beautifully appointed rooms with access to quiet courtyards and an outdoor waterfall. The staff is knowledgeable and will assist you with your itinerary. www.doubletreeclaremont.com

    Piano:Piano Club

    Adjacent to the DoubleTree you can take in PianoPiano:: Dueling Piano Show. This is one of the hottest live shows in town and reservations are recommended. www.duelingpianopiano.com

    California Coast View

    San Luis Obispo is 220 of the most scenic miles you will ever travel whether you choose the iconic  SR1, the Pacific Coast Highway, or travel more inland on US-101 N. Our next campus is in the heart of the Central Coast of California. www.visitcalifornia.com         

    LO Wineries map

    California Polytechnic State University (1903) and Cuesta Community College (1965) are located at the heart of California’s Central Coast, surrounded by vineyards and farmland, in San Luis Obispo. SLO County averages 70°F, 80-miles of Pacific shoreline and areas conducive to sighting whales from onshore. As if 300 sunshine filled days were not enough, additional nearby lures include Montana de Oro’s sand dunes, wine country that has been designated one of the “Top 10 Wine Getaways in 2018” in the world, and Hearst Castle, the 165-room millionaire’s incomparable estate. SanLuisOBispoVacations.com


    SLO Mission

    SLO Mission interior

    SLO Mission altar

    SLO Mission stature of Father Serra

    The first Spanish land expedition in 1769 was followed in 1773 by the construction of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa near Tixilini, an existing native village. The current mission, at its third location, is the focal point of the downtown area. Guided tours are available and include the mission interior, the garden and museum. Highlights of the church tour include the stations of the cross painted on linen, wall murals of flowers with no two alike and the artworks. The Mission Plaza footbridge connects the plaza to San Luis Creek walk where the mission accessed water. The mission remains an active church and the plaza is the site of community events. www.missionsanluisobispo.org
    Near the plaza is the Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum and the History Center. The 3-story Children’s Museum has an exterior playscape and three interior interactive exhibits. www.slocm.org

    SLO History Plaque

    The Path of History features 22 historic structures and the History Center offers a free podcast download of the walk. Tours of the center begin with a 14-minute video, “Once Upon a Time in the West”. Themed galleries display artifacts and memorabilia that interpret regional history starting with pre-exploration and  the Native American presence and legacy. www.Historycenterslo.org

    Junk Girls shop

    Downtown SLO is definitely a shopper’s dream and a diner’s paradise. The culinary choices cover the spectrum and the retail venue selections range from trendy boutiques to unique artisan offerings. Junk Girls is not just a store it is a destination. The owners sell found and vintage objects that stand alone or are incorporated into artworks. The building is one of the area’s oldest and retains several original architectural elements. www.facebook.com/junkgirls.

    SLO Boo Boo Record Shop

    You must drop into Boo Boo Records. Rolling Stone has called it one of the best record stores in the country. The collection of CDs and vinyl is stunning. Booboorecords.com

    Bubblegum Alley

    Bubblegum Alley has been featured on television and has the distinction of being designated one of the “World’s Strangest Streets”. Since the 1970s the 15-ft. high, 70-ft. long alley has filled with 2-million pieces of gum, placed there by passers-by. The nearby SLO Sweet Shop sells gum if you forget to bring your own.          
    The Thursday Night Farmers’ Market has taken place for 35-years in downtown SLO. Everyone is invited to eat, shop, listen to the entertainment and generally have a fiesta SLO-style.

    Old SLO BBQ sign

    Old SLO BBQ Tap Bar

    Old SLO BBQ food

    Old San Luis BBQ is a must. They serve Santa Maria style cuisine from home recipes including Cowboy corn pie and Tri-Tips, the bottom cut of sirloin that has lower fat and more flavor, grilled over red oak wood. There is a self-serve bar with 46 taps, 8 of them wine. Be prepared for long lines. Oldsanluisbbq.com

    SLO Flour House

    SLO Flour House information

    Alberto and Jessica Russo’s Flour House is an affordable Italian adventure. All of the dishes are based on home recipes and menu items are gluten-free with the exception of the bread. Flour House is renowned for Pizza Napoletana, a heritage-style pizza so precious it is guarded by Italian law and has a UNESCO designation as a property of humanity. They use all authentic ingredients and it is baked in a hand-pressed brick Stefano Ferrara Oven with Italian soil as mortar. www.flourhouseslo.com

    Granada Hotel & Bistro

    Granada Hotel & Bistro was located next door to the Elmo Theater and was a favorite of the artists who performed there and those who wished to rent a room by the hour.  It underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and a new 17-room boutique hotel was born. The bistro’s menu is inspired by Spanish cuisine and changes often. www.granadahotelandbistro.com

    SLO Provisions

    SLO Provisions is perfectly suited to the city. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and features take-away boxed lunches, baked goods, picnic baskets as well as regional beers, wines and ciders. This is “SLO food made fast”. SLO Provisions is active in the community and supports events and programs. www.sloprovisions.com

    Petit Soleil Bed et Breakfast

    Only singular accommodations will do and Petit Soleil Bed et Breakfast is a natural choice. Guests park free and enter a picturesque cobblestone patio and the ambience and architecture of Provence in France. Rooms include comfortable beds, deluxe linens and French farmhouse touches. A gourmet breakfast and evening appetizers paired with French wine are part of the experience. www.petitsoleilslo.com

    Madonna Inn Entrance sign

    Madonna Inn carosol bar

    Madonna Inn fireplace

    As we begin our journey further north our final SLO destination is the fabled Madonna Inn & Copper Café. In 1954 Alex Madonna purchased 10-acres to build a hotel that today is Swiss chaletesque and has 110 themed guestrooms on 1,000-acres. Self-guided tours showcasing the Gold Rush steakhouse, Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge Copper Café, Bakery, Spa, Pool Bar, Boutique and Fitness Center are offered. Of special note are the lobby fireplace, made of Palos Verde flagstone with authentic imbedded dinosaur bones, the elaborately carved Coffee Bar and the hand-carved marble handrail. The most popular guestroom is the Caveman Room complete with rock features. Stop to dine and stay for the tour. www.madonnainn.com When in doubt. Go SLO! www.slowine.com

    Berkeley view from bell tower

    Northern California was home to nearly 300,000 indigenous people prior to the arrival of Russian and Spanish Europeans in the 1700s with the major tribe being the Ohlone, also known as the Costanoan. European arrival, the establishment of missions and the Gold Rush in 1849 caused the native population to dwindle from approximately 300,000 to less than 25,000 and to be marginalized in northern California.

    Berkeley Campus Sign
    The Gold Rush ended in 1855 and 13-years later, on March 23, 1868, the first campus of the University of California was established at Berkeley. The campus was named in honor of George Berkeley an 18th-century Irish philosopher. The land was originally purchased in 1866 by the private College of CA. It merged with the state’s Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College and became the University of California. www.berkeley.edu

    Berkeley Bear Mascot

    Situated bayside land the institution is regarded as a top public university in the country based on its academic excellence, impressive and informed faculty and reputation as a liberal bastion and haven for free and innovative thinking. It boasts 22 Nobel Laureate Professors and 30 Nobel winning alumni and has won a greater number of Nobel Prizes than any other public university. Nobel prize winning faculty members are given a designated parking space.

    The most expeditious way to learn about the university and aspects of the region is to take the guided, free campus tour. Tours are offered daily and reservations are recommended. They leave from the Koret Visitor Center where displays and interactive exhibits provide an orientation. There are seven sites that you must see on the campus tour.

    Berkeley Bell Tower

    Berkeley’s Campanile is the institution’s iconic symbol and the 3rd highest bell and clock tower worldwide. A 360-degree observation deck provides outstanding views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding area. Concerts are given daily.

    The Neoclassical Doe Memorial Library connects two other campus libraries via tunnels. Inside the North and Morrison Reading Rooms are beautifully appointed student study spaces.

     Free Speech Movement Café (FSM) honors Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement through photographic displays on the walls and tables.  Exterior bulletin boards showcase current copies of newspapers. The menu focuses on foods that are made with sustainable, organic and local ingredients.

    The Hearst Museum of Anthropology was founded in 1901 to study international cultures. The 3.8-million object  permanent collection covers  2-million years and 6 continents. The collection includes 400,000 Native American artifacts inclusive of 12,000 Native American bones the ownership of which is currently steeped in controversy. www.Hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu

    Osborn T-Rex Skeleton

    Osborn T-Rex information

    The Valley Life Sciences Building’s 1st  floor dinosaur exhibit, though small, is worth a visit. The focal point of the displays of fossils is a  mounted Tyrannosaurus Rex.
    People’s Park, the site of Bloody Thursday, is  one of the most famous campus locations. On May 15, 1969 Governor Reagan ordered the highway patrol and city officers to clear the park because the students and community members there were “communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants”. This action led to a riot in which 239 people were injured.

    The 1964 Free Speech Movement (FSM) was born here as an outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War protests. Berkeley students protested the imposition of an on-campus protest ban and demanded free speech and academic freedom. The main protest site was Sproul Plaza and Mark Savio was an acknowledged leader. Students were suspended and arrested in efforts to stop the protesters.

    The city of Berkeley was incorporated in 1878 after having been known as Ocean View. The city, like the university, was always innovative. The first lie detector machine was used there in 1923 and it was the site of the first bike patrol. There are specialized tours that provide background information. A Berkeley Historical Tour App. Is available at www.telegraphtour. The self-guided Berkeley Pathways Tour leads you through 137 charming footpaths, ramps and stairways. The city is unique, walkable and filled with surprises. Visitberkeley.com 

    Downtown Berkeley Poetry Walk  displays 3-tons of poems inscribed in  128 cast-iron, 55-pound. poetry panels. Curbside panels are 2-ft. square.

    Check out what is playing at La Val’s Subterranean Theater, exactly the type of theatrical  venue one would expect in Berkeley. The ensemble, Theater Lunatico, is dedicated to fostering unique performance opportunities for women. This nontraditional casting is both thought-provoking and an impetus for experiencing classics in a new way. [email protected]

    Peet’s Coffee Shop

    The first gourmet coffee shop in the nation was Peet’s Coffee, still a city staple . Alfred Peet opened Peet’s in 1966 as his response to the poor quality of American coffee. His signature coffee is a dark roast. www.peets.com

    Free House Restaurant sign

    The Free House Restaurant’s main dining room was a site of Mario Savio’s meetings in the 60s. The restaurant is decorated with pictures from the FSM, dark woods and a central communal table conducive to conversation and debate.  Creative pub fare is served both inside and outdoors. www.berkeleyfreehouse.com

    Skates on the Bay Restaurant Interior

    Skates on the Bay Restaurant exterior

    Skates on the Bay is located in the Berkeley Marina. The service is impeccable and the menu consists of the freshest seafood possible. As you dine you are treated to unmatched views of the sunset, San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. www.skatesonthebay.com

    DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina Room View

    Situated in the 52-acre Berkeley Marina and  close to the university and downtown is the DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina. The 378 accommodations have all the deluxe amenities including Sweet Dreams by Doubletree bedding and the Fitness Center is outfitted with Precor cardio equipment. Rooms have views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline. A complimentary shuttle is available to take guests to locations within 3-miles. Special offerings, information and booking details are available online. www.doubletree3.hilton.com
     Berkeley Sunset View of Golden Gate Bridge


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