The Monterey Peninsula is a favorite weekend destination for Bay Area families. The beaches, sunshine and beauty attract the parents, while the kid-friendly attractions motivate the kids. Here are a few local destinations that are favorites with young families.
Dennis The Menace Park is Monterey’s famous playground within El Estero Park and offers lots of fun places for young children.
Monterey Skate Park is a skateboard park for the older kids, also found within the El Estero Park complex. Parents can picnic within view of the skateboard park and keep an eye on the munchkins.
El Estero Lake is filled with bathing birds and paddle boats on sunny days. Rent a paddle boat for a 1/2 hour and we guarantee your legs will get a great workout!
Monterey Bay Aquarium is the major destination for most visitors on the Monterey Peninsula, and rightly so! It’s beautiful, educational, fun, and lots to see. Membership to the aquarium will help you get inside quicker and earn you discounts in the gift shops, so consider getting a membership if you visit Monterey often.
The Recreation Trail runs along the water’s edge through Pacific Grove, Monterey, Seaside, and all the way up to Marina. Between Lover’s Point and Fisherman’s Wharf is where most people are found riding rented bicycles and surreys.
Del Monte Beach is across Del Monte Blvd. from El Estero Lake. To find easy parking, pull into the paid parking lot at the corner of Del Monte Blvd. and Figueroa, right at the foot of the Commercial Wharf #2. Del Monte Beach is dog-friendly, offers lots of sand for sandcastle builders, and is a safe beach where small kids can run and play in the waves. Picnic areas are available, as are kayaks and paddle boards. If you visit Del Monte Beach, please make sure you pack all your trash, shoes, plastic toys and such so you don’t pollute the water. People forget that high-tide will sweep all that refuse into the water and it harms our sea life.
Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck, is a street filled with candy shops, restaurants, souvenirs, and holiday memories. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is at one end of Cannery Row, and San Carlos Beach park and the Coast Guard pier are at the other end. In between, at the corner of Prescott and Cannery Row, families will delight in yummy yogurt at MYO Yogurt. During summertime, you’ll see MYO’s brightly colored yogurt cups in everyone’s hands as they cruise around Cannery Row. Make sure you properly dispose of the yogurt cups and other refuse in the trash, however, so we don’t pollute our shores!
Old Fisherman’s Wharf is another top tourist destination after the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s from Fisherman’s Wharf where you can grab a bag of salt-water taffy or depart on a whale watching tour. Visit a gift shop or restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf, or head for the sea on a chartered sail boat. There’s lots of stuff to do at Fisherman’s Wharf, but remember that you’ll need to budget for parking, and higher food prices because of the stellar location. At the foot of Fisherman’s Wharf, check out the Custom House and take a history walk in downtown Monterey via Alvarado Street’s Portola Plaza.
Insider’s Tip: In summer, from May to September, ride the free trolley through town. It makes a loop from Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and back. Click here for the map.
The Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club is very active and you can see sailboats on the water on most sunny days. The MPYC hosts several sail boat races–mostly Sundays on a weekly basis–and it’s a delight for participants and spectators alike. Wednesday is a popular sailing day, but races are not typically held mid-week.
The race schedule can be found at the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club’s website. Most races begin at 1:00 PM and end by 5:00 PM. Spectators can get good views anywhere along the Recreation Trail, but here are some local places where you can get the best views from shore.
Sapporo Restaurant is a local favorite for teppan-yaki and sushi yummies. The restaurant is located upstairs and is right next door to the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, located at the Commercial Wharf #2, at the corner of Del Monte Blvd. and Figueroa in Monterey. You’ll find ample paid parking close by.
Del Monte Beach is where you can take a stroll and see all the sailing action without any obstructed views.
Find a bench along the Recreation Trail anywhere from San Carlos Beach park (but the Coast Guard pier can block your view) up to Fisherman’s Wharf.
If you don’t mind seeing the boats from a distance, but want a bigger picture overview, drive up the hill and into the New Monterey neighborhood. You can get pretty good views from the corners of Belden and Dickman, Belden and Hoffman, and Belden and Prescott. The further up you go, more panoramic views will be found. Be mindful of locals walking their dogs and all the stop signs. You don’t want your sightseeing of the water to become dangerous for the locals.
Whether we are looking to exercise while on Christmas vacation, or whether we’re planning on making regular exercise as part of our New Year’s Resolutions, there are plenty of places to exercise on the Monterey Peninsula.
In-Shape is a fairly new health club chain that has opened 2 locations in the Monterey Peninsula. The Monterey facility is located at 2370 Fremont Street, Monterey, CA 93940-5407 (831) 333-1835. The Pacific Grove facility is located at 1146 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, (831) 649-2348. Call each facility for daily operating hours.
Monterey Sports Center is city-owned and -operated by the City of Monterey. It’s beautiful and very affordable for drop-in, out-of-town guests, and it has a large pool area, cardio room, basketball court, weight room, exercise classes, and well-tended locker rooms. Monterey Sports Center is located in downtown Monterey at 301 East Franklin Street, Monterey, CA 93940-3044, (831) 646-3730. Call for daily operating hours.
The Recreation Trail is a very popular destination for walkers, runners, and bikers, for this coastal trail offers gorgeous views of the Monterey Bay. The Rec Trail goes all the way from Asilomar State Beach to Marina, so you have plenty of entry and exit points from which to choose. Just park somewhere near the water’s edge and start your nice, long stroll.
El Estero Park has many areas of diversion for the whole family. From walking around or paddle boating within El Estero Lake, to playing with the little ones in Dennis the Menace Park…from picnicking by the lake to skateboarding in a safety zone, El Estero Park is a popular family destination.
Monterey County’s Beaches are lovely and there’s something for everyone. Get close to the sea lions at the Coast Guard Pier at San Carlos Beach at the foot of Cannery Row in Monterey. Take a nice, long beach walk and dream of owning your own condo on Del Monte Beach. Surf or body board the beaches in Seaside, but be careful of the strong current. Paragliders and kite aficionados can be found along the windy shores of Marina’s beaches. They’re all lovely and they all beckon you to come over for a visit.
The golf course at the end of Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove is known as the Pacific Grove Golf Links, and it’s an incredible bargain considering its location by the ocean. Rated as one of the best golf courses under $50, it’s a must-see for golfers who don’t want to pay the higher rates at Pebble Beach.
Scuba Diving is very popular around Monterey Bay, due to the fact that it’s a national marine reserve. If you’re okay with diving in cool water temperatures from 50 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll love this region of gorgeous dives. Popular dive sites include Breakwater at San Carlos Beach for diving newbies, right by the Coast Guard Pier in Monday; night diving at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove; and doing the “Monastery Crawl” at Monastery Beach in Carmel–which can be extremely dangerous and is known by locals as Mortuary Beach. The BEST diving can be found at Point Lobos in Carmel, but you’ll need to make reservations, for they only allow 15 dive teams per day. Be warned, diving here is splendid, but DO NOT dive in poor diving conditions…regardless of how far you’ve traveled to dive here. Dive smart!
Kayaking is tremendous fun and a great way to get some exercise on the water. You can kayak out in Monterey Bay, or go inland down Elkhorn Slough by Moss Landing. Either way, you are very likely to pull up close to sea birds, otters, sea lions, harbor seals, jellyfish, kelp, and fellow kayakers.
Paddle Boarding is a pretty cool new sport where a person stands up on a surf board and paddles around. Paddle boarders get ripped abs and arms and say that it’s pretty easy once you’ve mastered balancing on the surf board. There’s even a local paddle boarder who takes his dog along for a ride on the board. So cool! Paddle boarding lessons are available at Adventures By The Sea and gear is available at Monterey Bay Kayaks.
Bicycling is fun for all ages and there are plenty of places to bicycle around the Monterey Peninsula. There are plenty of places to rent a bike if you don’t have your own, and the types of bike rides to choose from are endless. Here is a link to several bike routes around town. For novice bikers, choose the Recreation Trail. For diehard mountain bikers, try some of the tougher trails up in the hills. Just be careful of cars when you’re sharing the road–especially around blind corners or narrow mountain roadways.
Thanksgiving, our delightfully gut-busting national holiday is around the corner, and for a few, that means a terrifying experience in the kitchen. Not everyone has what it takes to prepare a large feast that tastes great and hasn’t gone cold before reaching the dinner table. That’s why a brave few choose to opt out of cooking during this Thanksgiving holiday and find a yummy turkey dinner at a local restaurant.
Not all restaurants are open on Thanksgiving, but here are a few worth mentioning:
Whole Foods: If you are staying in one of the lovely vacation rentals offered by Monterey Bay Property Management and want to have Thanksgiving Dinner within your rental, you may want to reserve a fully prepared Thanksgiving Meal from Whole Foods. It’ll be an easy solution that will allow you to celebrate Thanksgiving at “home”. Whole Foods is located in Monterey.
Asilomar Conference Grounds: Offering a Thanksgiving Package that includes Thanksgiving dinner. Asilomar is located in Pacific Grove.
Il Fornaio: The Italian eatery located at the NE Corner of Ocean and Lincoln Avenues in Carmel is offering Thanksgiving Dinner, and reservations are required.
Fresh Cream: With it’s French-inspired California cuisine, located at the NW Corner of Dolores and 8th Avenues in Carmel, just published its Thanksgiving Dinner menu. The menu makes our mouths water with their descriptions of roasted butternut squash soup, oven roasted turkey, sweet potato puree, savory bread pudding stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Wow! Make a reservation at Fresh Cream by contacting 831-250-7943 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa: Offering a 4-course Thanksgiving Dinner from 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM in their Duck Club Grill. The Duck Club Grill is in side the Monterey Plaza Hotel on Cannery Row in Monterey.
Cannery Row Brewing Company: Offering Thanksgiving Dinner and beer. They’re new, so it might be worth checking out their Thanksgiving Day efforts. Call 831-643-2722 for details.
Fandango Restaurant: Offering a special Thanksgiving Day menu. Contact them for reservations at 831-372-3456.
Chart House: Is doing something a little like Whole Foods, where they are offering a full Thanksgiving Dinner that will feed 6 – 8 people and it’s all To-Go! Or, you can eat there. Call 831-372-3362 to make your order.
Insider’s Tip: There is a little bar, tucked in the back of its row of shops in Carmel, called Ody’s Tavern, that sometimes serves up Thanksgiving dinner on the evening before Thanksgiving! It’s on San Carlos near Ocean Avenue and the building is light blue. Call them at (831) 626-6821 for directions if you get turned around.
For those who love to run and walk along our beautiful coastline, the Big Sur Half Marathon is worth checking out. This is the 8th year of the Big Sur Half Marathon and its popularity has grown!
Here’s what to expect if you participate in the half marathon:
- A gently rolling fast course that winds through historic downtown Monterey, along Cannery Row, and proceeds along Pacific Grove’s coastline with incredible views of the Monterey Bay.
- An unparalleled race destination weekend. After the race, take some time to enjoy world-class golf, a Spa afternoon, whale watching, world-class dining, shopping, wine tasting, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and much more. Visit the Big Sur Half Marathon’s Visitor’s Guide for more options.
- A walker friendly course that welcomes Half Marathon walkers. Other weekend events include the Run Forrest Run 5K and the JUST RUN!®Just Kids 3K fun run, both held on Saturday, November 13th.
Insider’s Tip on Registration: Register early to make sure you get all your ducks in a row before the big weekend!
Insider’s Tip for Non-Participants: For those of you not interested in participating, but wish to hang out near the popular Recreation Trail and Cannery Row, keep in mind the following things: 1) It may be harder to find parking during the event. 2) The trail may be closed to non-participants during the event. 3) You may find more traffic congestion during the event.