01 of 05
Tour the Golden City with the Disney Difference
Trying out one of Adventures by Disney's bucket-list family vacations has never been easier. Along with its roster of seven- to 14-night guided tours to destinations in North America and around the world, Disney's premium tour company now offers several shorter Long Weekend itineraries.
Adventures by Disney is a premium tour company known for offering VIP access and exclusive experiences not available to the public or other travel companies. While the focus of these trips is firmly on families, don't expect to visit theme parks and meet characters. The so-called "Disney difference" comes through the immersive storytelling and attention to detail that is woven into the itineraries and interactions. Most itineraries are best for kids age 6 and up.
My daughter and I recently joined Disney's three-night, four-day trip to San Francisco and the Napa Valley. Led by two outstanding guides, the San Francisco Long Weekend offers a deep dive into the City by the Bay, including special experiences such as a guided bike ride to the Golden Gate Bridge, a visit to the redwoods in Muir Woods, a privately guided tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum, an exclusive trip to Lucasfilm, a tour and wine-blending workshop at Silverado Vineyards in Napa, and much more.
Click through for my review of this trip from July 2015.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05
Day 1: San Francisco Bay & Golden Gate Bridge
Breakfast at the Fairmont San Francisco
We met our Disney guides and the other families in our group in the Crown Room at our hotel, the Fairmont San Francisco, for a delicious buffet breakfast. This upper-floor corner room has enormous windows, offering sweeping views of the San Francisco skyline and landmarks, including Alcatraz, Coit Tower, and San Francisco Bay.
Guided Bike Tour to Golden Gate Bridge
For our first activity, we headed to historic Fisherman's Wharf, where we were equipped with bikes and helmets for an eight-mile guided cycling tour along the edge of the bay and into the Presidio. Our guide shared interesting facts and anecdotes about local sites and neighborhoods, and we stopped to admire the Palace of Fine Arts. Then we pedaled on to Fort Point for a fabulous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Except for a few short uphill stretches where we walked our bikes, this dedicated bike-and-pedestrian route was mainly flat and away from traffic, making it doable for kids. (There were also tandem bikes and trail-a-bikes available.) Our bike ride was a great introduction to San Francisco and a highlight of our first day.
Lunch at M.Y. China
For lunch we were treated to modern Chinese cuisine with a delicious multi-course, family-style lunch at M.Y. China, along with a noodle pulling demonstration by the restaurant's celebrity chef.
After lunch, our motorized trolley took the group back to the hotel, where we had several hours of free time before dinner. My daughter and I went to Pier 39 to see the resident colony of sea lions and explore the Fisherman's Wharf area.
Dinner at Waterbar
For dinner, our group had a private room at Waterbar, a stunning restaurant at the base of the Bay Bridge. We were able to relax with hors d'oeuvres, light seafood dishes, and drinks on the balcony and take in the gorgeous panoramic views of Treasure Island and the bay. This was a great way for the group to mingle and get to know each other better.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05
Day 2: Silverado Vineyards & Muir Woods
Breakfast on Our Own
While the Fairmont San Francisco offers several options for breakfast, the most affordable is Caffe Cento, located at the back entrance of the hotel on Powell Street. The counter-service place offers pastries, yogurts, bagels, and many other options, as well as delicious coffee. (Take the main lobby elevator to level P, turn right and you'll find the entrance to the cafe.)
Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley
Our group boarded our motorcoach and headed out across the Bay Bridge into the beautiful Napa Valley. We visited Silverado Vineyards, home to some of the region's award-winning wines and co-founded by Diane Disney Miller, who was Walt Disney's daughter.
After a guided tour of the winery and the atmospheric barrel room, the adults in the group took part in a wine-blending workshop with a seasoned vintner. Meanwhile, the kids in our group attended their own workshop, where they created an organic body scrub using olive oil using all-natural ingredients. We were able to move between both activities and take the body scrub home as a souvenir, along with a gift bottle of wine for the grown-ups.
Here's the recipe for Silverado Vineyard's organic body scrub
After our tour and activities, we sat down for a fabulous catered lunch served family platter-style. The meal was outstanding, served with several Silverado wines, in a beautiful room overlooking the gorgeous Napa Valley.
Our visit to Silverado Vineyards the highlight of our day and one of the best experiences of the trip. The tour was first-rate from start to finish and was packed with exclusive experiences reserved for Adventures by Disney guests.
Muir Woods National Monument
In the afternoon, we visited Muir Woods, where we were able to stroll along the boardwalk among the magnificent redwood trees. It was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Mother Nature and we even spied several deer. This was a self-guided visit, where we were free to explore the trails on our own and meet back with the group at a designated time.
Dinner on Our Own
After a full day of exploring, we returned, exhausted, to San Francisco and our hotel. My daughter and I opted for take-away from Uncle Vito's, a local Italian restaurant recommended by the Fairmont's concierge that's located just a few blocks downhill from the hotel. If you're too tired for the trek back uphill, Uncle Vito's will deliver to your hotel room.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05
Day 3: LucasFilm & Walt Disney Family Museum
Stop at the Golden Gate Bridge
We started our day with a brief stop at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, where we got out to take photos from a quintessential observation point. There's a gift shop with souvenirs, and my daughter and I were able to walk along a pathway to the bridge and even walk across a portion of the bridge on the pedestrian walkway.
Guided Tour & Picnic on Angel island
Next, we took a ferry ride from Tiburon to Angel Island, where we hopped on an open-air tram for a guided tour of the largest island in the San Francisco Bay. We learned about its history as a U.S. immigration station and status as the "Ellis Island of the West." Throughout the tour, we were treated to expansive views of the San Francisco skyline and Alcatraz.
Later, our group enjoyed a catered picnic lunch under the shade of eucalyptus trees. It was casual—sandwiches and salads on picnic tables—and very tasty.
Visit to LucasFilm
In the afternoon we headed back to San Francisco's Presidio to the Letterman Digital Arts Center, where we strolled through Lucasfilm's 23-acre campus and took photos in front of the iconic Yoda Fountain. In the Lucasfilm lobby, we examined life-size replicas of Darth Vader and Boba Fett, as well as other artifacts from the Star Wars saga. Finally, we enjoyed a private screening at the Premier Theater of some of the highlights of LucasFilm's work on many blockbuster films, along with a brief Q&A session with one of the company's creative heads. Since LucasFilm is normally closed to the public, this was a very special, exclusive activity.
Guided Tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum
Afterward, we took a guided tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum, where we learned about the life and genius of Walt Disney. The many interactive exhibits included concept artwork and original cells from the early Disney films, and many personal photos, awards, and artifacts from the Disney family.
For our last group dinner and drinks, we went to San Francisco's award-winning One Market for yet another fantastic meal.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
What's Included and What's Not
Final Morning Farewells
We enjoyed breakfast on our own before saying good-bye to our fabulous Disney guides and fellow guests.
This weekend itinerary with Adventures by Disney is a super option for families looking for an upscale turnkey getaway to San Francisco and Napa. Disney takes care of everything so that you can just show up and enjoy. This would be a particularly great trip for families wanting to test the waters before committing to a longer Adventures by Disney trip and for multi-generational groups with a wide range of ages, since this trip is equally doable for small kids and seniors with mobility issues.
Group travel isn't for everyone, but Adventures by Disney does a great job creating a friendly, inclusive environment where families get to know each other and share experiences together. Introverts needn't worry about being pressured to be more social than you want to be. My daughter and I enjoyed getting to know everyone in our group, but we were also happy that the itinerary built in free time on our own.
This premium trip definitely makes your family feel like VIPs. In just a few days, you get a deep dive into San Francisco and the Bay Area and gain access to numerous exclusive activities that you would never otherwise be able to experience on your own.
This three-night/four-day trip costs about $2,700 per adult and $2,600 per child.
- Three nights at the luxurious Fairmont San Francisco
- Most meals over three days (1 breakfast, 3 lunches, 2 dinners)
- Two dedicated Disney Adventure Guides
- All group activities, entry tickets, guided tours, group transportation
- VIP access and exclusive experiences
- Transfers between SFO or OAK airport and the hotel
What's Not Included
- Transportation and meals during free time
- Gratuities for your Disney guides (recommended $7-10 per guide, per day, per person. For a family of four on a four-day trip, that's $112 - $160 x two guides = $224-$320 total)
- Transportation to and from San Francisco
Disclaimer: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.