Monterey is one of the more beautiful coastal cities of California and can make for a great two day trip for those visiting San Francisco or a weekend getaway for California natives. It was originally the state capital of California, and has more historic buildings in its downtown than any other city west of Santa Fe. Today it is most commonly known for its beautiful coastline, its world-class aquarium and from the many John Steinbeck novels that used the town as their setting, including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.
Monterey is known for its magnificent natural beauty, world famous Aquarium, and temperate year-round climate.
The Monterey Peninsula has the largest population of sea otters on the California coast. The abundance of marine wildlife visible from the shoreline is one of the primary attractions of the region. Seals, sea lions, and sea otters are visible year-round, and migrating whales are commonly seen in the fall and spring months.
Alvarado Street serves as downtown Monterey's "main drag." It is along this road that you will find superb restaurants, a selection of bars, and many unique shops. Monterey's compact downtown is very walkable.
Monterey-Salinas Transit provides relatively convenient public bus service to the nearby towns of Carmel and Pacific Grove, as well as to historical Salinas and breathtaking Big Sur. MST also provides a "wine route" which stops at several of the area's most notable wineries. MST also runs a trolley like bus through Monterey's downtown during the summer months and especially busy weekends.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, 831-648-4888 (24 hour information), 831 648-4800 (switchboard) or 800-555-3656 (Spanish), 9:30AM-6PM May 29-Sept 6 and all holidays, 10AM-5PM winter, 10AM-6PM at other times. This large aquarium specializes in exhibiting local sea life and should not be missed. The best exhibits include a large tank of silver anchovies that swim around and around your head and three sea otters raised in the aquarium and now too tame to live in the wild. Feedings of the various tanks are scheduled throughout the day and are fascinating. Don't miss the 4 resident sea otters! Best of all, perhaps, are the tanks of large jellyfish lit up so that they fluoresce. Admission is steep at $29.95 adults, $27.95 seniors, $27.95 students, $17.95 children and disabled, but well worth it.
- The Carmel Mission, 3080 Rio Road, Carmel. +1 831 624-1271 (Fax: +1 831 624-8050). M-Sa 9:30AM-5PM, Su 10:30AM-5PM. One of the 21 Missions located along the California coast. Father Serra, the leader behind the greater Spanish mission to California, is buried along with his most faithful lieutenant at the front of the church. Self-guided tours take you through the remaining original buildings which now hold exhibits, a small museum, and a gift shop. Catholic Masses occur regularly. Keep in mind that the mission is a working Catholic church, so dress and act respectfully. Adults: $6.50; Seniors: $4; Children under 17: $2.
- Presidio of Monterey Museum, Corporal Ewing Road (from Lighthouse Blvd. heading east, follow the signs to the Museum), ☎ +1 831 646-3456 (fax: +1 831 646-3917), M: 10AM-1PM; Th-Sa: 10AM-4PM; Su: 1PM-4PM; Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Gives the history of the Presidio of Monterey from pre-history through the War on Terror. Free. edit
- Pacific House Museum, Custom House Plaza, Offers detailed displays on local history and Native American life.
- Maritime Museum of History, also at Custom House Plaza. Showcases exhibits that revolve around Monterey's history as a port, and the history of both seafaring and commercial fishing, from the whaling era to the present day.
- Don't miss the whalebone sidewalk in front of the Old Whaling Station , located near Custom House Plaza on Decatur Street. Whalebone was once a common material for sidewalks in seaside towns; it is very likely this is the last one of its kind
- Monterey Museum of Art, has two locations. The 559 Pacific Street location, across from Colton Hall, has eight galleries, with both permanent and rotating exhibitions. The La Mirada building is one of Monterey's Mexican-era adobes. Located at 720 Via Mirada, near Monterey Peninsula College, it has four galleries, plus great views of Monterey Bay. Admission is $10, with $5 admission for students and military. One Thursday a month, the Pacific Street location hosts "Art After Hours," with free admission, light appetizers and drinks.
- Dennis the Menace Park. A giant kids park that includes a full sized train, numerous bridges, ducks and geese you can feed and paddle boat rentals. One of the better free municipal parks in Northern California. It is located within a 10 minute walk south of Fisherman's wharf. The park is closed on Tuesdays.
- Sea lions at the wharfs. There are two piers and a breakwater that provide excellent viewing of sea lions. Fisherman's Wharf generally has a handful of sea lions lounging about, but a larger group can generally be found at the more industrial wharf that is a short walk to the east of Fisherman's Wharf. This wharf has a small fishing warehouse that is still in operation and so numerous sea lions that have made this wharf their home. Closer to Cannery Row near the coast guard station is a large breakwater (not accessible to foot traffic) that is generally occupied by a huge number of the marine mammals. Additionally, sea otters can often be seen in the bay, and harbor seals can be found west of the Stanford research station (west of the aquarium) or in the calm waters next to Fishermans Wharf.
- The Bay from a Sailboat. Monterey Bay Sailing offers tranquil sailing trips on Monterey Bay. Sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals swim by with only the sound of the water and sails. This is a safe and eco-friendly activity for all ages.
- Play on the dunes and the shore at one of the city's five public beaches. Enjoy a romantic or family style Monterey bonfire on the beach.
- Walk or bike along part of the 29 mile-long (47 kilometer-long) Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Bikes available for rent at several places along the path (and at some other places, e.g. Monterey Transit Plaza). Multi-passenger surrey bikes are particularly popular and available for rent
- Explore the unique estuary environment of Elkhorn Slough , either on foot or by kayak. (Very nice trip, but not in Monterey, 23 miles north on hwy 1 by car)
- Monterey Bay Kayaks, 693 Del Monte Avenue, offers kayaking equipment rentals as well as guided kayaking tours, classes, and fishing trips.
- Catch a performance at the historic Wharf Theater . Shows often include local interpretations of hit musicals.
- The recently refurbished Golden State Theatre offers diverse, family-friendly shows centering around the themes of classic cinema and musical theater. It's worth a trip just to see the ornate interior of the theater.
- Monterey County Fairgrounds, located at Fairgrounds Road, the fairgrounds hosts the annual Monterey Jazz Festival and hosted a one-time Monterey Pop Festival (in 1967). Other music festivals occur throughout the year, and the locally famous Monterey County Fair occurs every year in late August.
- Several companies offer year-round whale watching boat tours, departing daily from Fisherman's Wharf. The area is particularly famous for sightings of gray whales as they travel to warmer waters during the winter and early spring.
- Guide yourself through Monterey's historical heritage by following the Path of History. Follow the yellow plaques in the sidewalk to take in some of the town's most intriguing buildings. Informational signs are posted at each stop. Maps can be found at the California State Parks office near Customs House Plaza. Guided tours are also available.
- Get your wet suit on and go Scuba Diving. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has the most amazing kelp forests on the West Coast, and an incredible collection of marine life.
- Get a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay (and Carmel to the south) from Jack's Peak County Park , the highest point on the Monterey Peninsula and amazingly free of crowds.
- Watch the hang gliders at Marina beach (in the town of Marina about 10 miles north of Monterey), and the parasailers at Sand City beach (about three miles north of Monterey). Both are easily accessible by car via Route 1 and by the Recreation Trail.
- Laguna Seca Raceway, 1021 Monterey-Salinas Highway, in Salinas. Famous indy car and motorcycle race track.
- Golf at the local public courses Rancho Cañada, Bayonet and Black Horse, Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, Monterey Pines Golf Course. If you're lucky, you might be able to get a tee time at the world-renowned Pebble Beach.
- Find out about upcoming events on the events calendar of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
- Monterey Imports (Galarie Monterey), 482 Alvarado Street, Downtown Monterey, ☎ (831) 674-1773. assembles the finest examples of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan jewelry, statues, sculptures, incense, meditation tools, music cds, textiles (including yoga clothing, pashmina shawls and casual wear) and accessories to be found on the Central Coast. edit
- The Del Monte Shopping Center, 1140 Del Monte Center, Monterey, CA 93940 (off Highway 1 at Munras Avenue), offers a selection of typical mall chain stores, as well as several local restaurants and a large cinema complex.
- Fisherman's Wharf provides plenty of opportunities to find that perfect Monterey postcard or souvenir (who do you know who doesn't want a plush sea otter??). You can also buy the day's latest catch fresh off the boat.
- Cannery Row sports a Pebble Beach Golf shop, where virtually every item on display somehow incorporates the famous Lone Cypress (C) logo. It also has a number of overpriced, tacky specialty shops and overpriced, mediocre restaurants, including a Ghiaradelli store.
- The American Tin Cannery with outlets for several well-known brands.
The local specialties are artichokes and sanddabs. Artichokes can be found at nearly every restaurant - fried, grilled, broiled, boiled, in soup, on pizza and almost any other way you can imagine. The nearby town of Castroville is "the artichoke center of the world," and the local source for the wealth of artichokes. Sanddabs are a local seafood, often served fried. Clam Chowder in sourdough bread can be found at Fisherman´s Wharf. Abalone is available, too, but expensive. The area is notable for other seafood delicacies, including calamari and Dungeness crab.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium runs a "Seafood Watch" program, and keeps a list of which sea life is overfished and which are safe, and environmentally friendly, to eat. Pick a copy of the list up at the Aquarium, or around town. Many local restaurants have signed on to the Seafood Watch program.
Monterey's status as a tourist destination have provided it with a wealth of restaurants beyond what might be expected in a community this size. Almost every cuisine, from oriental to occidental, may be found represented - and usually represented well - in the local area, including the neighbouring communities of Pacific Grove, Seaside, and Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Carmel Valley.
Monterey has many superb vineyards located near the town. There are a number of tasting rooms located on Cannery Row, all within an easy walk. Some, such as Scheid Vineyards, Bargetto Winery, Baywood Cellars and Silver Mountain Vineyards provide wines from only one winery. A Taste of Monterey allows visitors to try wines from throughout Monterey County, while taking in a spectacular panoramic view of Monterey Bay through their windows.
In addition, the public bus service Monterey-Salinas Transit has a route, Number 24, that is also called "The Grapevine Express". This route leaves from downtown Monterey and stops at all the wineries in nearby Carmel Valley. A daypass on the Grapevine Express, which allows riders to hop on and off at will, is $4.50 as of December, 2008. Grapevine Express maps and schedules, which detail the wineries that the route stops at, are available at Monterey County Visitors Centers.
Alvarado Street has the densest collection of bars and pubs in the area. The Mucky Duck is famous for its weekly trivia nights, whileLalapalooza has the widest selection of martinis.