The team of FAA-certified pilots at San Carlos Flight Center opens up the world of aviation to aspiring pilots and sightseers. During comprehensive flight instruction, the team teaches pupils the skills needed to operate flight controls, land, take off, and keep seagulls from mistaking the plane as their king. Training sessions include everything from private pilot certification to specialty and advanced training. High-tech simulators such as the Xwind help burgeoning aerialists get their bearings before soaring the skies in a Cessna suited for training. To share bird's-eye vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, coastal cliffs, and the city of San Francisco huddled up against the blue Bay, the crew also offers aerial tours.
The spiritual healers at Adventure Quests International Counseling Service believe the soul will starve if it doesn't experience something beyond the mundane, which is why they lead spiritual adventures. Mexico, Argentina, Austria, France, Italy—these are the faraway places they explore on 8- to 12-day trips designed to reignite a passion for life. But clients don't have to travel abroad to grow spiritually. They can also try spiritual counseling. Counseling sessions help clients refocus on the most important parts of themselves, from their identities as men or women to the ways they love themselves and others.
Drivers are only as good as their cars, which is why SFC Limo's ace chauffeurs keep a fleet of superior sedans and stretch limos on hand. They rev up the stretch limos during weddings and specialty group trips to Muir Woods, Napa Valley, and throughout downtown San Francisco. Passengers can customize the daylong jaunts by telling their driver to head toward a certain nightspot, park alongside a specific scenic view, or veer into a certain winery to get the ghosts of the California Raisins off their trail. For more business-minded migrations, the drivers hop into their sedans and transport guests to San Jose, Oakland, or San Francisco airports.
The history of wine in the Livermore Valley spans 250 years. Spanish missionaries planted the region's first grapes in the 18th century, and Robert Livermore sowed the first commercial vines in the mid-19th. These early efforts led to America's first international gold medal for wine at the 1889 Paris Exposition, when California grapes beat out bordeaux in the annual race to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The guides at Livermore Valley Wine & Cycle Tours lead cyclists into this historic, scenic valley in which some 40 wineries currently reside. Rides between them follow moderate routes, letting peddlers soak in views of the canyons and ridges that rise and fall between the clustered rows of vines.
"If you want to aggressively snack your way through a neighborhood as you walk it," says Fodor's, "consider hanging with cookbook author Tom Medin or one of his local guides." Medin is one of the founders of Local Tastes of the City Tour/SF Food Tours, and he personally leads many of the company's walking tours, which seek out the soul of the city in its bakeries, restaurants, and cafes. The hunt for hidden gems might lead to Chinatown's oldest bakery and a fortune cookie-making demonstration, or through an authentic Western saloon. The North Beach tour, which has been recommended by Lonely Planet, presents a behind-the-scenes look at coffee-roasting by way of the favored hangouts of the Beat Generation. Even when a tour skirts the city's iconic landmarks via painted bus, each stop is replete with tastings and demos, which is why the guides recommend that visitors avoid eating before a tour or swallowing their backpacks for safekeeping.
Even before you climb inside, the GoCar is clearly a car with a personality. The petite, three-wheeled two-seater has a hood that slightly resembles an eager-to-please smiley face, and an open top that seems custom-made for letting the breeze ruffle your hair. Then the real fun begins: built with the company's own software and a compassion for the voiceless robots of America, a talking GPS system guides two-seater GoCars through the city streets of San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon with cheerful, info-rich narration. Second only to having a knowledgeable local jog alongside your minivan, tours zip along at drivers' own pace and accommodate as many pit stops as time allows.