7:12 AM / Sunday January 29, 2023

21 Nov 2018

Smooth Traveler: California coast ‘town and gown’ college tour (part one)

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November 21, 2018 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Alf Museum  (Photo: Renée S. Gordon)


By Renée S. Gordon

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

California Coast (Photo: Renée S. Gordon)

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. (

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 was laid out the city.

Botanical Gardens (Photo: Renée S. Gordon)

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.

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 are concerned about global environmental issues. Guided and self-guided tours are available. (

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 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 Kobe beef sliders and ahi and shrimp burrito are reasons that NBC LA designated Claremont a “Food Neighborhood”.  (

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.”.  (

Alf Museum interior (Photo: Renée S. Gordon)

The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology is the only accredited museum in the United States 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. (

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is the largest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to California’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. (

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. (

Adjacent to the DoubleTree you can take in the “Piano Piano Dueling Piano Show.” This is one of the hottest live shows in town and reservations are recommended. (

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. The campus is in the heart of the Central Coast of California. (          


The Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package is available at 49 hotels from December 1, 2018 to March 3, 2019. It includes free overnight hotel parking; two tickets to the Barnes Foundation; admission and ice skate rental for two at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest; a $20 voucher for Chickie’s & Pete’s at the Lodge at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest and a $10 Lyft credit, a $218 value. (

NYC’s Hotel Week will be held from January 4-14, 2019. Prices are a fixed rate of $100 to $400 per night. (

The Air Force One Experience at National Harbor features a former Pan Am Boeing-747 cargo plane, recreated as Air Force One, provides rare glimpse into presidential travel. Audio tours of the 232-ft. long aircraft are offered daily at 801 National Harbor Blvd. in MD. (

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