This incredible journey takes you across the USA like the song says…“from sea to shining sea.” You truly get to see it all on a cross-country road trip taken to the next level. You will experience the awe of natural wonders like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, the hustle and bustle of thriving cities, and the incredible excitement of California. You think the “U.S.” before “Explorer” stands for United States … try again. Unforgettable Summer!
For participants on this trip, transport by motor-coach is included from New York to the trip starting point in Ithaca. For the many travelers from outside of NY, NJ, CT or PA, we are happy to assist you with arranging flights into New York and will provide chaperoned accommodations for the evening before departure. You may also choose to meet us in Ithaca and we help you to coordinate your travel times to meet the group at the hotel.
For your return home from San Francisco, we head to the airport for morning flights. Our leaders help you to check-in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed. For those from the New York area we offer a chaperoned flight.
Ithaca is gorges, and gorgeous and a great place for our icebreakers and welcome orientation. Experience the ultimate team building at the Hoffmann Challenge Course including the centerpiece high element, a 64′ high replica of Cornell’s McGraw Tower featuring a tree fort platform, rappelling stations, a 400′ double zip line, and a 40′ Giant Swing. Enjoy lunch from the Ithaca Bakery and visit the Cornell campus including the bookstore. Browse the shops in the college town of Ithaca and enjoy some hibachi for dinner and a night of bowling with your new friends.
Cross the border into Canada and get ready to see over 100,000 cubic feet of water falling nearly 165′ over the Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil Falls. Grab a poncho and head onto the Voyage to the Falls to feel the spray inside the curve of Horseshoe Falls before getting soaked on a Whirlpool Jet Boat tour down the Niagara River.
Turn up the volume at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; learn about recent inductees including Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Journey. Hit up the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” Cedar Point with 18 coasters voted as one of the “Best Amusement Parks in the World”! Top rides include Magnum XL-200 (Hypercoaster), Millennium Force (Giga coaster), Top Thrill Dragster (Strata coaster) and the newest ride, Steel Vengeance!
Check into the University of Michigan, and tour The Big House, home of the Wolverines. Grab a bite to eat on State Street in the heart of Ann Arbor. Buckle up for Whirlyball – lacrosse, bumper cars and basketball mixed into one wild game. Try the World Famous Chipati at Pizza House, a popular college hangout. Chill out on skates at the Ice Cube.
Enjoy the Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater. Venture to the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the United States and the ninth-tallest freestanding structure in the world. Stand 1,353′ above Wacker Drive on the glass balcony. Explore Chicago’s number one tourist attraction, Navy Pier and take a ride in a surrey along the lakefront biking path. Visit the Museum of Science and Industry to walk inside Apollo 8 which first flew humans to the moon. Enjoy browsing the stores on Michigan Avenue! Laugh it up at the famed Second City’s comedy improv that has produced so many comedy legends.
Welcome to Minneapolis –the larger of the Twin Cities. Check out the Mall of America, one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world! Dive into one of the state’s 10,000 lakes and hang out on the shore or join a game of beach volleyball! Rock ‘n roll the night away – show off your moves as you skate to the music at a classic roller rink!
Hike through Badlands National Park. Sample the 5¢ coffee and get a bumper sticker from the world famous Wall Drug.
Hang out with Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln at Mount Rushmore. Venture deep into the earth at Jewel Cave National Monument, the second longest cave in the world, to see chambers and passages decorated with crystal formations. Browse the Reptile Gardens, home to more species of reptile than any other zoo or park in the world. Shoot it up at Bankshot Basketball, by banking the ball off the wacky back boards. Get lost in 1.2 miles of walkways, bridges and stairs at The Maze.
Yee haw from the wild-west, and the town named after “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Spend some time browsing the quaint shops in this western town. Embrace the beauty of the Shoshone National Forest on horseback. Participate in (yes, participate in!) or watch the Cody Rodeo.
Journey through America’s oldest National Park, Yellowstone, and watch Old Faithful erupt. Check out the geothermal features including the Fountain Paint Pots and keep your eyes peeled for bison and elk. Travel through Teton National Park on your way to zip down the 2,500′ alpine slide track. Whitewater raft down the Snake River for an adrenaline rush and great laughs! Browse the shops of downtown Jackson Hole and unwind at the incredible Teton Recreation Center pool.
Explore this resort ski town and the incredible hotel amenities including an indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub and fitness center. Visit the Olympic Park and whiz down the landing hill of a ski jump in an Extreme Tubing ride at up to 50 mph! Ride the tube, body and drop slides at Lagoon-A-Beach. Brave Cannibal, Lagoon’s newest state of the art roller coaster that includes vertical lifts, plunging free falls, break-over angles, underground tunnels, and three inversions.
Greetings from canyon country! Experience Zion National Park, named Zion by western pioneers meaning a place of peace and relaxation. Hike the Queen’s Trail in Bryce Canyon, known for its breathtaking red rocks. Make your way into the largest canyon in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon. Roll down the coral-hued sand dunes located beside red sandstone cliffs at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
“Bright light city gonna set my soul, Gonna set my soul on fire!” Take in Las Vegas Boulevard and many of the sites you may recognize from pop culture – the Venetian’s canals as seen in the movie Rat Race, the erupting volcano at the Mirage, the Forum Shops and Coliseum at Caesars Palace featured in episodes of Friends and the Sopranos and the MGM’s casino robbed by Danny in Ocean’s Eleven. Live on the edge, literally, on one of the Stratosphere’s thrill rides, the Big Shot, Insanity or X-Scream.
Learn to ride the waves with professional surfing instructors. Play Frisbee, make a sand castle or lounge on an incredible SoCal beach. Cheer on the Padres at Petco Park! Travel on the Skyfari for an aerial view of the San Diego Zoo. Explore Seaport Village. Strap on a vest before stepping into darkened labyrinth for laser tag.
“Beverly Hills – That’s where I want to be! (Gimme Gimme).” Pick up a hoodie or other souvenirs at the UCLA bookstore. Pose with celebrities in Madame Tussauds. Stroll along the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, browse the shops at Hollywood & Highland, and check out the imprints outside Mann’s Chinese Theater. Ride the three mountains (Space, Splash and Big Thunder) at Disneyland. Volunteer at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Survive a flash flood, experience an earthquake, come face to face with Jaws, watch King Kong battle dinosaurs, see the Bates Mansion, and journey into the Mummy’s tomb on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios. Additionally, explore Universal Studios Los Angeles’ newest attraction, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Check out City Walk and devour the Jumbo Combo at Hard Rock Cafe. Enjoy an evening at the IMPROV Comedy Club on Melrose Avenue. Indulge your sweet tooth at Diddy Riese. Check out the chiseled bodies on Venice (Muscle) Beach and the stores on Rodeo Drive. Take a stroll in Downtown Santa Monica on 3rd Street Promenade and enjoy live performances. Then, hop over Ocean Avenue to the Santa Monica Pier and soak up the beautiful views of the California coast from the world famous Ferris Wheel.
Relax on the shore of Tahoe, play beach volleyball, enjoy an all-American BBQ, listen to music and perfect your tan. Learn to waterski with professional instructors or go tubing or wakeboarding. Sprawl on the deck of a sailboat as you cruise around the lake. Play a game of basketball or tennis at our camping resort.
Greetings from the City by the Bay! Ferry over to Alcatraz*, meet the sea lions that call Pier 39 home, browse Fisherman’s Wharf, sample chocolates in Ghirardelli Square and take the cable car over to Chinatown. Wobble down Lombard Street, one of the most crooked in the world, ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and grab lunch in the small fishing town of Sausalito. Get funky in a real nightclub and enjoy a farewell banquet to commemorate one Unforgettable Summer!
*As per the National Park Service, we disclose that Alcatraz tour has a retail value of $36.55 included in the trip tuition.
Once your action-packed day is over, you’re going to need a place to crash. This trip features a combination of the finest centrally located hotels and resorts, fantastic college residences to get a taste of college life, and some deluxe camping.
You will stay in the finest hotels and resorts. All of our properties are chosen based on safety and security, amenities, comfort and location to our activities. Rooms vary from doubles to triples. Triples may contain two beds and a rollaway or be a suite style with a sofa bed. Each trip member has their own bed.
Just minutes from downtown Ithaca, this hotel provides a great home base for the start of your adventure! The hotel has an indoor pool and fitness center.Visit Website
After the nation’s top amusement park at Cedar Point, enjoy great comfort with the Hyatt Grand Bed™Visit Website
Located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, this all-suite hotel has everything you would expect from a four-diamond accommodation, including a plasma TV in every room, an indoor swimming pool and two sundecks.Visit Website
We stay at the newly renovated Embassy Suites Bloomington hotel located close to the famed Mall of America. All rooms are spacious suites with separate living areas. The hotel has an indoor pool and fitness center.Visit Website
This hotel provides you with a convenient place to rest and refresh en route to Rapid City.Visit Website
Known as the rodeo capital of the world and not far from the east gate of Yellowstone National Park, get the full cowboy experience while in Cody. Stay at Buffalo Bill Village where every cabin has a rustic Wild West exterior while still offering the services of a full service hotel.Visit Website
Cowboy Village Resort is nestled in a beautiful forest only a few minutes from the heart of Jackson Hole, and close to the area’s National Parks. All cabins of this charming resort boast modern comforts and amenities. Resort facilities include swimming pool and fitness center.Visit Website
This mountain, modern hotel is a stylish take on a ski lodge. Enjoy the indoor/outdoor pool and chill in the hot tub with a view of the surrounding mountains.Visit Website
Located on famous Las Vegas Boulevard, “The Strip”, this pyramid-shaped hotel offers a unique way to experience the over-the-top décor for which Vegas is famous! The pool deck is one of the largest in Las Vegas, with a choice of 4 pools to enjoy – the perfect place to cool off from all the excitement and bright lights of the city!Visit Website
Located just minutes from the beautiful seaside village of La Jolla, the Embassy Suites San Diego – La Jolla hotel is an all-suites hotel, with each two-room suite offering plenty space to spread out and relax. When not out playing in San Diego, take advantage of the indoor swimming pool and hot tub, or Fitness Center, fully-equipped with cardio machines and weights.Visit Website
This modern, all-suites hotel is conveniently located for enjoying the Bay Area. The hotel features an indoor pool and fitness room.Visit Website
Get a taste of the college lifestyle on world class campuses and as time permits, take advantage of incredible facilities.
One of the nation’s most desired universities, located in beautiful Ann Arbor, you will love your stay at this Big Ten Campus. Being on campus, you will have access to student life including State Street and the university bookstore!Visit Website
The UCLA campus is so amazing that after your stay here, you might not be able to wait to send in your application. Enjoy their unmatched facilities and check out the bookstore in the Ackerman Union (the perfect place to pick up a great hoodie). You know you can wear it with pride, as UCLA was the first US College to win 100 team championships.Visit Website
Forget anything you think about when you hear the word “camping.” There’s a reason we call it Deluxe Camping! You will stay at private campgrounds with hot showers and clean modern bathroom facilities – yes that means indoor plumbing! Don’t be surprised to find that many of the campgrounds on our Teen Tours feature pools, basketball courts and plenty of room for football, soccer and fire pits for evening bonfires and roasting s’mores.
Our experienced leaders will introduce you to the joys of camping and guide you in everything you need to know, no experience is necessary. For a comfortable night’s rest, we provide cots and insulated air mats inside the largest tents in teen travel today. Our sturdy cabin style tents (16’x10’) have windows (with screened vents) and floors. Set up is quick and simple! We generally sleep 6 trip members per tent so there is plenty of room for your stuff. Camping meals are incredible and of course there are s’mores too! For more information on meals while camping, see the WHAT IT’S LIKE tab.
The award winning Niagara Falls KOA campground is located on famous Lundy’s Lane, just three miles from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Amongst its many amenities, enjoy an incredible pool, hot tubs, jumping pillow and much more.
Camp out in a valley of ponderosa pines just five miles from Mt. Rushmore and nestled at the foot of Harney Peak, the highest point in the USA east of the Rocky Mountains. You will never be short of things to do at this luxury camp site with their heated pool, hot tubs and 180′ waterslide.
This campground is just a short scenic drive from Zion, The Grand Canyon, Bryce, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and many more favorite attractions. Enjoy the pool, play horseshoes, or just take it easy!
You couldn’t picture a more perfect and serene place. A crisp blue lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains and of course it’s almost always sunny! Tahoe is a dream camping experience. Relax and enjoy the facilities, take a dip in the swimming pool or the jacuzzi or shoot some hoops on the full court.
At Westcoast Connection nothing else comes first. From our extensive trip planning department through our management team and our leaders, it is our single biggest priority! Safety procedures, equipment – we’ve got it covered. All Trip Leaders and Directors are certified in First Aid and CPR. We are extremely proud of our safety record and welcome all questions you may have in this area. Please see more under Safety First.
Once you are on your trip, you will have sensitive leaders that are caring, approachable and always there for you. Your Trip Director and Trip Leaders are people with incredible backgrounds including teachers, guitar players, IRONMAN triathletes, SCUBA divers, volunteers, and so much more.
Every staff member takes part in and must complete our extensive training weekends that review our philosophy and procedures to provide a well-supervised and fun-filled program.
Our Trip Directors, the individuals responsible for overseeing each itinerary, take on the roles of teachers, coaches, camp counselors, mentors, concierges and hosts. They’ve been trained to provide individual attention and create an all-inclusive family atmosphere (our EACH & EVERY philosophy). There’s a definite art to building dynamic groups, and we’ve worked hard to master it! We want you smiling on day one right through to a teary goodbye at your farewell banquet.
Our leaders are non-smokers. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Summer Leaders section.
We can’t say it too many times, this is a really incredible group experience. A great dynamic starts with our secrets for group bonding. Our bag of tricks goes way beyond traditional ice breakers. Imagine people hunts, Rock, Paper, Scissors championships, Ninja tournaments, flash mobs and so much more. We work hard to get everyone moving beyond first impressions and creating an atmosphere of total acceptance. Our staff hiring and training emphasizes social safety and establishing an inclusive culture. Many of our travelers come as individuals and we have a geographically diverse enrollment with students joining us from across the USA, Canada and internationally. This mix helps eliminate cliques at the outset and establish an open environment that benefits you. We take great care in assembling groups to create an unforgettable social experience.
Your summer of a lifetime starts with us carefully crafting the perfect program. Our team is dedicated year round to creating exciting, meaningful experiences! You have a detailed itinerary, but not one that is so rigid that you lose chances for spontaneity! Our Trip Planning Department pays painstaking attention to detail, sweating the small stuff so that your summer experience is stress free. Our trips are designed with a very logical flow: action, adventure and excitement balanced with structured downtime and relaxation. There is a reason our itineraries are known to be “Perfectly Planned. Perfectly Paced.” Our year-round team has over 420 summers combined working with teenagers and we understand what you’re looking for. We describe our trips in as much detail as these web pages allow, but to truly appreciate the flow of a particular program, please speak with us to review the trip of your choice.
Get ready because your summer is not going to be spent staring out of a window! For starters, our Active Teen Tours are very different from tours your parents may have gone on. We are always on the lookout for the newest and coolest activities including jet boating at Niagara Falls, playing whirlyball in Ann Arbor, whitewater rafting in Jackson, riding thrill rides hundreds of feet over the Vegas strip and surfing in San Diego. It’s much more exciting than summer camp. Depending on the specific itinerary, add in nights out at comedy clubs, baseball games, nightclubs and amusement parks and you know you’re in for a treat.
But “active” also means you get to play a big part in how the summer turns out. We want you engaged and are interested in what you have to say. You have a role in this trip and how it gets molded.
There is so much more to a teen travel experience than just traveling. Summer after summer we love nothing more than the many calls and notes from parents sharing with us how they can’t believe how much their son or daughter has matured, helps out more at home, is more outgoing and confident, is more poised, more responsible and more worldly having had not just the summer of a lifetime, but a life changing experience as well. It’s amazing how much growth can occur when you are having fun, feeling socially safe, branching out into new friendships, and being yourself.
Our experience lends itself to trying new things and stepping just outside of one’s comfort zone. With a taste of age-appropriate independence and a well-deserved break from overly scheduled lives during the school year, teens can enjoy a very healthy reprieve from the usual pressures associated with home and school. We want you to be empowered and will provide opportunity to grow as a leader and further develop your self-confidence!
Living, experiencing, working and learning together, our trip members are afforded the chance to interact with other teens who share both similar and different backgrounds and interests. Everybody grows in their social acceptance of others.
By the end of the program we hope to have lit a spark – to travel, to learn, to meet new people, to try new things and to explore. With new friendships, new memories and new life skills on which to build, our teen travel experiences are truly unforgettable.
There really is a difference in how different summer programs operate! Motivated teens going away with qualified leaders is a given. But what sets us apart is the depth of our qualified personnel that allow us to perform with the greatest consistency at the highest level.
Your Trip Director and Trips Leaders are with you throughout your program. They have daily contact with one of our two 24-hour Communication Centers and are in regular contact with our Company Directors. Our Company Directors are the most seasoned veterans who each oversee specific programs providing support to trip staff and to assist with any situations that may arise. Our Company Directors alternate between traveling to visit programs and being reached in the office.
Program visits enable us to provide ongoing support and development to our Trip Directors, allows trip staff to have a sounding board for their own progress in reaching trip goals, helps us to identify any challenging areas for improvement while it still has relevance to your summer rather than as a mention on your end-of-summer survey, and helps us to identify the future Directors from the current crop of all-star summer staff. These visits are by Company Directors along with our Regional Supervisors, who are former Trip Directors with further experience out in the field. Collectively our planning, supervisory and management team is an incredible resource with over 420 summers of combined teen travel experience. This way, we can lend a hand wherever and whenever a little extra effort is called for. Last year, we had 208 scheduled supervisory trip visits to make sure all was running well, provide ongoing support to our staff in the field and have fun! This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality and surpassing client expectations!
Included in the trip tuition are all activities and entertainment described, breakfast and dinner daily, lunches as indicated on your specific program, gratuities, taxes, land transportation, accommodations, and fanatical customer service from our full-time team and summer Communication Centers. This can add up to tremendous value!
A big part of a summer’s success depends on how well you eat. We are proud of the fact that year after year we are complimented for our quality, quantity and choice of food. Our North American Active Teen Tour programs visit great restaurants. Depending on the specific itinerary, you may order off the menu at the Cheesecake Factory, Romano’s Macaroni Grill or Hard Rock Cafe. Still hungry? Here are more of the places you may enjoy… Jack Astor’s, Boudin Bakery and some really great local favorites like a Boulder institution featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive personal experience in this area. Please speak with us to review your needs.
Our experienced leaders will introduce you to the joys of camping and guide you in everything you need to know – no prior experience is needed. Our professional campsite managers are an additional staff member at each camping location. They manage the equipment and oversee purchasing fresh produce and meals prepared as a team with your assistance on a rotating basis. Menus include omelets, fresh pancakes, French toast, BBQ chicken or steak, grilled salmon, stir fry, and of course s’mores and banana boats. There is a reason we call it Deluxe Camping as you are truly not roughing it! For more information on Deluxe camping, see the WHERE WE STAY tab.
On our North American Active Teen Tours, you’ll ride in a chartered deluxe, air conditioned motor coach with a professional driver. Buses have entertainment systems for music and movies. Coaches are outfitted with seatbelts.
You will only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in our packing list as we visit local laundromats weekly. We will supply the detergent and dryer sheets. Don’t worry if you’ve never done laundry before, most of our travelers have not either! We’ll walk you through the Westcoast Connection laundry lesson, and in no time at all you’ll have the hang of it. Parents, we know the thought of your children doing laundry is making you smile!
We believe in promoting responsibility and community, and have a long history of helping charitable organizations. We volunteer each summer at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank on our trips that visit LA, along with other worthwhile agencies on our trips that do not include Los Angeles. (Groups that are exclusively completing 7th and 8th grade are too young for the LAFB and other activities are planned.) Students on our programs have helped dozens of organizations serving thousands in need ranging from building homes from scratch with Habitat for Humanity to running day camps for the Boys & Girls Clubs. Last summer we completed 23,201 hours of service (that’s equivalent to 2.6 years!) in just 8 weeks.
While you’re out having the summer of your life, your parents should feel like they are in on the action as well. We post updates to our blog and Facebook page and e-mail photos approximately once a week so those at home can be in on the fun. Parents also have access to our dedicated office Trip Monitors 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns. We’re as in touch as any trip operator could possibly be via smartphones with e-mail and text. The goal is uncompromising safety and peace of mind, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Participants may bring their personal cell phones.
In last summer’s surveys, 99% of responding teens and parents said they would recommend us to others. We must be doing something right!