Our adventure begins aboard the Coast Starlight as it slides through a rarely-seen countryside of Central California until finally it slows and gingerly crawls down the Cuesta Grade into San Luis Obispo.


2017 Section Now Open!

Christmastime in Cambria 2017

Including an evening at Hearst Castle
December 15-17, 2017
A Long Weekend Rail Adventure

A Special Three Day/Two Night Getaway Led by Sandy Lydon

Makes a great Christmas Gift!

Special Holiday Sale! Heavy Discount!
$100 per couple below MSRP
$600 per couple until midnight Dec. 31, 2016.

Always Sells Out!

A Cure for those Christmas-is-Almost-Here Blues

Come kick-start your Holidays with a weekend adventure to one of those special historic places where the Christmas Spirit still lives. See Central California from the train, and then enjoy a relaxed visit in Cambria and vicinity. Cambria is a great place to do last-minute Holiday shopping – unique arts and crafts (and there's plenty of room to stash your stuff under the bus for the trip home.)

Brief Itinerary – Tentative

Depart Aptos (8:30 AM at Cabrillo College) for San Jose, board the southbound Coast Starlight for the luscious ride through Central California up the Salinas Valley and down the astonishing Cuesta Grade into San Luis Obispo. (c. 3:00 PM)

Re-join our bus (and your luggage) where we'll begin our historical
Exploration before driving to Cambria where we will check into The Cambria Pines Lodge for the weekend. We will arrive in time to explore the remarkable Cambria Christmas Market on the hotel grounds. You can begin your Cambria stay with a stroll through a magical lighted wonderland, drink mulled wine and set your Christmas spirit free.

Daytime touring in Cambria and environs, including some of those rarely-discussed "secret histories" that Sandy is famous for. And time to wander and explore. (The bus will be available.)

Evening Tour of Hearst Castle in full Christmas regalia
Buffet dinner at the lodge following castle tour.

Visit Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, lunch (not included in fee) in Paso Robles and then home up Highway 101

Transportation includes: Amtrak's Coast Starlight and deluxe Discovery Charters motorcoach

The Great Dining Room at Hearst Castle, 2012. The docents and volunteers go all out decorating the castle during the December. You may have seen the castle before, but never like this.

Nitt Witt Ridge. A counterbalance to Hearst's vision at San Simeon is this humble abode assembled by Cambrian Art Beal, with its own unique view of the countryside. Quirky, funky and fun, Nitt Witt Ridge is one of those places that helps define the Cambrian Spirit.

The finalists in the costume contest, 2015.  They represent a lot of thought and care in their outfits and they're all winners.

Designed for double occupancy
This adventure is designed and priced for double occupancy.  There is no single fee possible.  If you must travel alone, you’ll have to pay for two spaces.

Regular Fee: $790 for two ($395 per person.)

Special Holiday Rate: $600 for two, a savings of $190 per couple. You must register for two, even if you've not determined who you're roommate will be.  Sale price of $600 will stay on until midnight Dec. 31 or the trip fills up.

A note about singles and roommates:

This adventure is designed for two persons per room. The responsibility for your finding a roommate is yours. We do not have the capabilities of being a matchmaker.

A note about room configurations:
Rooms have two queen-sized beds, so they're set up for non-married roommates. Some rooms with one king-sized bed might be available .If you wish that arrangement be sure to check that answer when you register.

The fee covers the following:
Parking fee for secured parking at Cabrillo College for the weekend.
Air-conditioned motorcoach with on-board restrooms for Aptos-San Jose: San Luis Obispo- Cambria; Cambria to Aptos. Including driver's gratuity.
Train Fare on Amtrak Coast Starlight, San Jose to SLO.
Bus touring in Cambria and vicinity.
Two nights lodging at the Cambria Pines Lodge (double occupancy), including taxes
Two buffet breakfasts at Cambria Pines Lodge
Buffet Dinner at the Lodge Saturday evening
Admission to the Cambria Christmas Market.
Admission to Hearst Castle evening tour
Printed guide materials
Personally escorted by Sandy Lydon and his crew
Donations to local history organizations that spend time with us.

Not included:
Meals other than the two breakfasts and Saturday evening dinner noted above. It is recommended that you bring a picnic lunch on the train on Friday, though there is a dining car and snack bar. There will be various stops for meal opportunities during the weekend.
Personal room charges made while staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge

Note: This adventure is designed for adults. Persons under the age of 21 may not participate.

Trip Highlights include:
The Cuesta Grade – One of the railroad engineering marvels in California, as the rails loop though 5 tunnels and many switchbacks down 1,200 feet over an 8 mile distance.
Cambria Christmas Market The hotel grounds are transformed into a European-style Christmas market, with many of the Cambria village stores having a special gift booth right up beside the Inn. The Christmas light display is breath-taking.  Folks who saw it last year said that it is better than Disneyland at Christmas!
The Cambria Pines Lodge – Nestled into Cambria's pine forest, the Lodge goes all-out during the Holiday season decorating not only the grounds but also the Lodge itself. One of Cambria's best properties, with plenty of time to explore both the Lodge and the surrounding town.
Cambria is one of those places you usually drive past on the way to Hearst Castle or Southern California. But, we'll explore this town that's pretty much as it was in the 1860s.
Hearst Castle – In the evening at Christmastime – Christmas decorations and living history makes this a most special time to visit the Castle.
Piedras Blancas – largest coastside elephant seal rookery on Pacific Coast. (Yes, now bigger than Ano Nuevo).
Surprises and Unscheduled Treats, as always with Lydon adventures

Going to Hearst Castle Saturday Night In Style – In 2012 I thought it might be fun and exciting to imagine that we were Mr. Hearst’s guests and to dress in 1920s and 1930s style for the trip up the mountain.  I also thought it would be nice to honor the Hearst Castle docents who have expended so much energy and attention to decorate the rooms and dress themselves for the evening. 

Since we go up in a group (usually having a shuttle bus all to ourselves), our arrival each year has been something of an event, creating conversations with the docents, and on several occasions applause from them.

The Dinner and Costume Contest – Our buffet dinner in our private dining room will be waiting upon our return, and after dinner we’ll have a contest where we honor those among us who have expended the most spectacular effort.  Women, men and couples will have categories. 

Costume Logistical Notes
You should put your costumes in garment bags and we’ll load them flat carefully beneath the bus.
There will be plenty of time late Saturday afternoon to get all gussied up before we board the bus for the Castle.
Many of us living in Santa Cruz County have been utilizing the services and collection at Closet Capers, Santa Cruz’s longest running (32 years) costume shop: 1211 Soquel Avenue (two doors down from the Rio Theater).  The shop’s owner, Rebecka Hawkins knows about our Christmas in Cambria, and she has taken care of us at Christmastime for the past 4 years.  She’s open Tue-Fri Noon to 5:00 and Sat., 11:00 to 4:00.  Their phone is 831-425-7685.  Here’s their website: http://www.closetcapers.com/  I would recommend not waiting until the last minute and set aside some time as it probably will take time to adjust things.  You should consider calling ahead and give Rebecka (or her assistant) some idea about who you’re interested in being.  Obviously, the earlier you set something aside, the more choices you’ll have. She’s expressed an interest in coming with her partner on one of our Cambria Christmas adventures.  Maybe this year?  Of course she can’t be in the contest.  Wouldn’t be fair. (See her picture on their website.)

Costumes are completely voluntary – If you have no interest, desire, energy or inspiration to dress up for the Castle evening, that’s perfectly OK.  You will still be able to express your opinions at dinner that evening.

A Note About the Weather:

Sure, it will be December. And it might rain. We will proceed with this adventure regardless of the weather. What could be more fun than being in a cozy room at the Lodge?

Up to November 1, 2017 – a full refund.  Simply notify me by e-mail at salydon@aol.com.  We do not reverse credit card payments.  We only process refunds by check. Refunds will take at least two weeks to process.
November 1 to November 15..  No refund. You may substitute others in your stead but they must be over 21.  Again, notify Sandy Lydon (salydon@aol.com) of any changes.
After November 15 – No refunds and no changes.  We must submit passenger and rooming lists to Amtrak and the Cambria Pines Lodge.