What Could Be Sweeter?

steinbeck house salinasValentine’s Tea or Valentine’s Dinner at the historic Steinbeck House?

Celebrate romance on Saturday, February 12, in John Steinbeck’s childhood home at a Victorian Valentine’s Tea from 1–3 pm or a Valentine’s Day dinner that evening from 6–9 pm.

The afternoon tea ($25 per person) will feature an array of special tea blends, sandwiches, scones and sweets, while the prix fixe dinner includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert (creme brulee or chocolate flan). The price of $40 per person includes a glass of Monterey County wine.

The Steinbeck House is located at 132 Central Ave. in Salinas. Call 831-424-2735 for reservations.

What The Locals Know–What’s New At The Monterey Bay Aquarium?

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the Monterey Peninsula’s crown jewel of tourist attractions. Though the aquarium has been operating for over 25 years, they do an outstanding job of keeping things fresh and new for visitors and locals alike.

Here are some of the highlights of what’s new at the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Meet Kit, the newest sea otter pup. Not only is she on display in the Sea Otter Tank, but the Aquarium staff have done a great series on Kit’s behind-the-scenes adventures with her surrogate otter mom, Mae. From her first days of meeting Mommy Mae, to the adventures of crab hunting, we learn a lot about otter life from watching Kit grow up.

The Hot Pink Flamingos exhibit is still bringing in a lot of interest from visitors…especially after seeing the impact that the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster had on our nation in the first half of 2010. This compelling exhibit tells the story of climate change through the eyes of tropical wading birds, green sea turtles, the colorful creatures that inhabit coral reefs, hypnotic jellies, playful Magellanic penguins and other ocean animals. You’ll also hear stories of hope involving people and communities that are fighting climate change and making a difference.

Sign up for daily activities and guided tours for an up-close-and-personal view of the Aquarium. Don’t miss a chance to see Makana, our beautiful Laysan albatross, up-close. The Penguin feeding is informative and fun to watch. The kids can really get into the hands-on exhibits in the Splash Zone, the touch pools, and at the interactive games found throughout the Aquarium. The behind-the-scenes tours are really neat and you can even sign up to help prepare the food for the animals.

Insider’s Tip for Parking: You’ll find free parking if you don’t mind parking along Ocean View Drive and walking down the Recreation Trail to the Aquarium. It’s best to get there early in order to find a good, free parking space.

Insider’s Tip for the Aquarium: If you want to avoid the bulk of the crowds and see the animals at their best, either get to the Aquarium immediately after opening, or show up late in the day, between 4:30 PM until closing time. The animals that are shy, like the octopus and the whelks, tend to be more active when no one’s watching toward the end of the day.

Another Insider’s Tip for the Aquarium: Having a membership at the Aquarium is a terrific way to avoid lines and get a discount in the gift shops. Signing up to volunteer at the Aquarium is very popular among locals, but there are plenty of volunteers who commute from the Bay Area and the Central Coast. If you’re an ocean lover, you may feel like donating either your money or your time to the Aquarium. Volunteers get additional discounts in the gift shops, in the cafeteria, and get invited to the highly-celebrated Annual Volunteer Gala.

What The Locals Know–Hot Spots For Golf Addicts

The Monterey Peninsula is a world renowned golf destination, offering the most dramatic, natural settings for golf anywhere in the world. This breathtaking region host more world-class golf courses than any other with a beautiful year-round climate. For our fellow Golf Addicts, we thought we’d compile a partial list of the must-see golf courses in our area:

The Links at Spanish Bay: The course is beautiful, breath-taking, and is often on many golfers’ “Bucket List”. The course is very hard. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. It is all about course management on this course. Not a very long course, but you need to put the ball exactly in the right spot – especially on your approach shot. The greens are VERY undulating and FAST, and a miss by even a couple of yards can mean you find yourself either rolling off the green or putting a severe downhill double breaker. Don’t forget to spend time at Sticks, the club house – very old school, very chic and to top it all, they have almost a half dozen beers on tap. One last word – take our advice and walk the course, it is very walkable and you will enjoy the views even more, since they are absolutely spectacular.

Pacific Grove Golf Links: Visitors are often told: “It’s where the locals play.” The back nine have views of the Pacific on every hole, with six or seven holes right next to the beach. It is adjacent to Spanish Bay, but it is a municipal course. You will NEVER get this type of bang for your buck anywhere else, for its only $45 for the walking rate and priceless views.

Pebble Beach Golf Links: The most impressive thing about this course iss that they have so many “signature holes.” 11 holes were right on the cliffs and the other 8 holes also have nice views of the Pacific, the course, and the mansions. You really have to take a moment to appreciate the maintenance of the course – the fairways feel like carpet, the divots are already sprouting fresh grass, the crew was on the fairways fixing divots almost as they occur, the greens were smooth and perfect, the sand was soft and fluffy. Literally flawless.

The fifth hole was particularly awe-inspiring. A long uphill par 5, a lone cypress sits at the top of the cliff at the green. The hole doglegs to the right and your second shot is a risky uphill over the ocean. Once you get to the top, it is nearly impossible not to soak up the views of the famous par 3 sixth hole below, the 7th along the coast to your left, and the 18th fairway to the right. It is easily the best view in all of golf.

Bayonet & Black Horse Golf Course: The 36-hole course used to be a part of the old Fort Ord Military Base. Now, it is open to the public and can be added to the small handful of “must play golf” in the Monterey area. Bayonet is fairly narrow, very hilly, and has the hardest greens to play on. It’s a great course and great value.

Poppy Hills Golf Course: The course is a challenging, yet fair test of your golfing abilities. Course knowledge is definitely helpful and the greens can be very tricky. Playing safe may lead to a bogey, but taking chances leads to triple bogey. If you are a NCGA member you can play this course for a huge discount off regular rates, and the best value in the area. The course is also walkable, which adds to the experience. Due to the difficulty of the course, rounds here can go up to 5 hours. Try to play on a weekday when it is usually less crowded.

As you can see, our area is “Golf Heaven” for many. There are so many golf courses that we haven’t mentioned (because this is just a blog…not a book!) that are just as fabulous, but we thought we’d share with you some of our local favorites. Happy golfing!

What The Locals Know–Hot Spots For Young Families

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.

What The Locals Know–Sailing Races On Monterey Bay

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.

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