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Don't-Miss Attractions in Monterey

Don't-Miss Attractions in Monterey



With its plethora of historic sites, diverse cultural heritage, and the backdrop of a National Marine Sanctuary, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Monterey. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas or can’t seem to narrow them down, check out our top 10 list to add some inspiration to your Monterey travel plans.


1. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Beautiful displays, plenty of interactive exhibits, and the backdrop of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary make the Monterey Bay Aquarium one of the best aquariums in the country. Stop by the sea otter exhibit for a closer look at one of the most curious and beloved animals native to the Monterey coastline, and be sure to visit the Outer Bay exhibit where you’ll find sea turtles, enormous sunfish, and the occasional Great White shark.


2. Cannery Row

Officially re-named Cannery Row by the city of Monterey as a tribute to writer John Steinbeck, this waterfront street holds wide appeal for Steinbeck fans as the setting of one of his most famous novels. The defunct sardine canning factories are now home to a variety of shops, restaurants, hotels, art galleries, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. For a little luxury, stay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa and visit its Vista Blue Spa, which earned a spot on Conde Nast’s list of the top 75 spas in North America. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily, stop by the Sardine Factory, where you can enjoy $6 Happy Hour cocktails, a piano bar, and great views of the bay.


3. Fisherman’s Wharf

If you’re looking for whale watching, the best clam chowder in Monterey, and more saltwater taffy than you can eat, Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to be. Take a whale-watching tour (you sign up at the end of the wharf), then follow it up with clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at The Old Fishermans Grotto. While you can sit inside and order in the restaurant, we recommend grabbing a bowl to go and finding a bench near the water to watch the sea lions as you feast.


4. Dennis the Menace Park

Designed by Hank Ketcham, the creator of the classic comic strip and resident of Pebble Beach until his death in 2004, this is not your average playground. With slides, tunnels, bridges, a train, and paddleboats, your kids won’t want to leave and neither will you. Located at 777 Pearl Street, it’s less than a mile from Fisherman’s Wharf, making it a good spot to enjoy a picnic lunch after a morning of sightseeing. The best part? It’s free.


5. Garrapata State Park

This California State Park, located just off of Highway 1, is worth the short drive from Monterey. The park’s easy access to redwoods, beach trails, and the coastal headlands at Soberanes Point make it one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of the rugged and beautiful coastline of Big Sur.


6. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

If you’re a scuba diver, this is the place to dive in and experience the stunning kelp forests just offshore. If diving isn’t your thing, rent a kayak or take a kayaking tour with Monterey Bay Kayaks to get out into Monterey Bay and view the plethora of sea lions, whales, seals, and otters in this ocean sanctuary.


7. A Taste of Monterey - Wine Visitors’ Center

Located on Cannery Row, just down the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, A Taste of Monterey is the fastest way to familiarize yourself with Monterey wine country. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the visitors’ center has a picture-perfect view of Monterey Bay, so you can relax and soak in the natural splendor of Monterey while enjoying a variety of wines from more than 85 regional wineries.


8. Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove is a beautiful one-mile stretch of beach with a variety of recreational options. It’s a popular surf spot and the ideal place to explore tide pools. It’s also a fully accessible beach, featuring beach wheelchairs. Be sure to visit the grounds of the Asilomar Conference Center designed by legendary architect Julia Morgan.


9. Monterey Peninsula Trail

Join the tourists and locals alike who congregate at this popular coastal trail for the spectacular views and frequent wildlife sightings. Winding from Castroville to Pacific Grove, this 18-mile stretch of trail is designed for walkers and cyclists alike. Rent a bike at Bay Bikes on Cannery Row and head out to Lover’s Point for a picnic and—warm temperatures permitting—a dip in the ocean. Don’t feel like packing a lunch? Then stop for a quick bite at the Trailside Cafe four blocks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


10. Monterey Path of History

The Monterey Path of History takes visitors on a self-guided tour of some of the oldest and most significant buildings in California. Marked with yellow tiles set in the sidewalk, this two-mile walking tour reveals 55 historic sites including adobes, gardens, remnants of a whalebone sidewalk, and the site where Spanish explorers first landed in 1602.


—By Nikki Hodgson
Nikki Hodgson is a freelance writer and Bay Area native who resides in Berkeley when she's not bouncing around the globe. You can follow her at nikkitravels.com.










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