Tour Review: Globus’ Golden State of Mind California

More activity choices and deeper dives into destinations sets this California tour apart.

Yosemite Valley at sunset as seen from the Merced River
(Photo: Envato/Maciejbledowski)
  • I went on Globus’ Northern California tour that includes stops in San Francisco, Sonoma, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite.
  • Though the tour covers a lot of ground, it offers great activities in each major stop and the chance to choose your own guided activities with Globus’ YourChoice Excursions.

Globus’ Golden State of Mind: Northern California by Design tour mixes history, culture and nature for a busy trip that will appeal to many different types of travelers. Starting in San Francisco, this California tour makes stops in Sausalito, Wine Country, the Lake Tahoe area, and a surprisingly vibrant Sacramento before ending with a bang at Yosemite. Along the way, there’s time to find out about the Gold Rush and the Pony Express. Three nights near Yosemite National Park means there’s time to soak up the wonders and wilderness of the land that has inspired humans for thousands of years.

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This Globus California tour is a Choice Touring by Globus itineraries. More than a dozen Choice Touring itineraries in North America and Europe are designed to offer travelers more choices along the way, with both guided sightseeing of the biggest sights and YourChoice Excursions, curated experiences that you can choose from along the way. All of the YourChoice Excursions are built into the price of the tour.

Things to Know About Globus’ Golden State of Mind California Tour

  • Globus’ first “Choice Touring” offering in the U.S. gives travelers options along the way. That means, for instance, that you can sail Lake Tahoe while your travel companion opts for a scenic gondola right. Three of the days on this itinerary include activity options, so you can mix and match, together or apart, to best satisfy everyone, including the person who craves an afternoon nap.
  • All breakfasts (8) are included (at the hotels), plus two dinners. The format makes it easy to connect with fellow travelers early to share some of the meals that are not included. On my trip, some solo travelers occasionally dined alone for the evening meal, but the convivial group was more fun when gathering together. The tour guide always pointed out restaurants with a variety of price points.
  • This tour suits older adults who are curious and eager to travel, but would rather have someone else arrange the details. From the moment you connect with your tour director, you no longer have to handle your luggage, or deal with almost any other arrangements. Also, having a tour director in charge means any unexpected snafus, which you can expect on any trip, are handled by someone else.
  • On my tour, most of the group were couples, retirees with an urge to travel. A handful were solo travelers who melded easily with the friendly group. Two couples were extended family—a brother and sister and their spouses—and the tour seemed especially suited for that kind of group. Keeping four people happy is easy when there are options on activities.

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  • The best hotel of the trip is at Yosemite, the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, with a heated pool, spa and on-site nature trails. There’s just one restaurant, but all the food was good (sometimes great) and the prices were fair, with lighter options for those who don’t need three square a day.
  • Being a bus passenger has its downsides, but the big plus is that you don’t have to drive. It’s a joy to watch the scenery glide by without worrying about finding your way on unfamiliar roads. This is especially true on this tour with its many zig-zagging mountain roads.
  • The location of the Embassy Suites in Sacramento makes it ideal for a tour group. It was easy to head out on foot to a variety of Sacramento attractions, and it’s close to the city’s old town and its vibrant appeal.
  • For many, Yosemite will be the highlight and it’s at the end of the tour. That could be a drawback, but instead it keeps the excitement high for the duration.

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Important Details About Globus’ Golden State of Mind California Tour

People looking out window of coach at Mono Lake on Globus' California Dreamin’ Tour
Globus’ California Dreamin tour includes sights such as Mono Lake (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

For most travelers, the Yosemite National Park stop at the end of the trip will be the big draw. The tour begins in San Francisco, and Day 2 is a a full day of sightseeing in and near the City by the Bay. This is one of the Choice Touring Days; you can choose to go on a food tour in North Beach, head across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods, or go to Golden Gate Park and visit the Academy of Sciences.

On Day 3, it’s time to hop the bus and head toward Sacramento, with a stop in Sonoma for a wine tasting at a winery as well as a lunch stop in downtown Sonoma. Sacramento, California’s capital city, is a surprisingly vibrant destination, and the overnight here includes a sightseeing tour and a group dinner.

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Next up is two nights in Lake Tahoe, where the YourChoice excursions include a Lake Tahoe cruise, a trip to historical Virginia City, or a trip up Heavenly ski resort’s year-round gondola for some incredible views.

Then, it’s on to the three nights in Yosemite with plenty of time to experience this natural wonderland. The time in and around the national park starts with a general tour, and is followed on Day 7 with YourChoice Excursions options including a two-hour tram tour of the Yosemite Valley, a naturalist-led walk, or a private guided photography tour.

Route Notes

Sometimes on this tour, the bus rides are longer than you might like. But part of the reason for that is you are traversing mountain roads into wilderness areas at Yosemite. There are frequent “comfort” stops along the way, but a bathroom at the back of the bus is available as well. Globus utilizes a rotating bus seat assignment plan that means no one can hog the front seats and no one is continually stuck in the back. Chatting with an ever-changing group of nearby seat mates is a great way to get to know everyone on the trip.


Breakfasts were different at each stop, but the food was always plentiful, and buffets were the most common option.

Lunches are mostly not included in the package, but this works well because you are often en route from one place to another. Sometimes you’re picking up a sandwich or something light.

With just two dinners included, many of your evening meals will be on your own. What this means is that your tour director will provide suggestions on places for you to try out that are usually within walking distance of your hotel. The benefit of the group dinners is that you don’t have to make any plans, or spend any extra money. The disadvantage is that you’re dining with a group of 30-plus folks.

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Amenities Along the Way

Most of the hotels along the way had pools and similar amenities, but there wasn’t much free time to use them until the last stop at Tenaya Lodge. Here are a few amenities that stand out.

The nightly happy hour at the Embassy Suites hotel in Sacramento served us well. Arriving in time for happy hour meant we could exit the bus and head to the lounge for free drinks while our luggage was sorted. Sounds like a small thing, but it was a pleasant and unexpected way to end the day of bus travel.

At Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, we spent three nights, so there was time to take advantage of some of the hotel amenities even while getting in lots of time at the National Park. The main pool is heated and has underwater speakers if you’re keen to listen to jazz while swimming. The spa and fitness room are top notch, with excellent massages, though the prices are typical of hotel spas: high. Bikes and short guided nature hikes at the hotel are also great ways to spend some down time. An outdoor fire pit is a fine place to savor some after-dinner s’mores.

Hotels Ratings

San Francisco: The San Francisco Marriott Marquis gets a rating of 8.3 out of 10 on Kayak, 4 out of 5 on Tripadvisor, and 8.5 out of 10 on The rooms are pleasant and clean, the location is central, and I loved the rooftop bar.

Sacramento: Embassy Suites by Hilton Sacramento Riverfront Promenade receives a rating 8.4 out of 10 on Kayak and of 4 out of 5 on Tripadvisor. I appreciated the location close to Old Town Sacramento and the happy hour.

Lake Tahoe: The Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel gets a rating of 7.2 out of 10 on Kayak and 3.5 out of 5 on Tripadvisor. The hotel has a central location in downtown South Lake Tahoe.

Yosemite: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, situated just beyond the park’s south entrance in the town of Fish Camp, is rated 8.4 out of 10 on Kayak and 4 out of 5 on Tripadvisor. This is the longest stay of the trip, and Tenaya has nice amenities like its pools, though there aren’t a ton of restaurant options nearby.

Best for/Worst for

This tour suits older adults who are excited to travel, but don’t want to drive and would rather not arrange all the details. It’s especially good for groups of couples or other relatives since the choice option suits many different kinds of travelers, including people who are used to traveling independently.

With a lot of travel time, this tour isn’t a great fit for families with young children.

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Terri Colby began her journalism career in hard news before becoming a travel writer. She loves amazing natural wonders, luxury cruises, fine dining, and boutique hotels. She has worked for The Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other publications. Follow her wanders at or on instagram at finding_the_wonder.