In the last five years at my job I have been lucky enough to be sent to Monterey Bay, CA annually for a produce foodservice conference along with a few other one offs for meetings and events. I will never complain about the long journey to the California coastal town. It only took one visit and Monterey Bay quickly became my absolute favorite town. I always thought if I found myself in a desperate situation I would pack a bag and apply at the Monterey Bay Starbucks and rent a little apartment. Now that I think about it the apartments there are probably a bit above the Starbucks salary price range but that would have to be figured out.
Regardless of the season I have always enjoyed temperatures in the 60s-70s, a bright sun and a salty breeze. Monterey Bay and its neighboring towns are, to me, the most authentic version of old California. Some of the box-y aspects that are so common in the planned communities up and down the coast are still apparent but well integrated into the coastal town, vintage feel. Every time I visit I love it more and more. Well worth the drive or connecting flight to spend a weekend away from some of the more popular California destinations. Here are a few of my favorite activities and most loved aspects of Monterey Bay:
- Walk, Bike or Run on the promenade towards the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Drive (in an open top car) or bike the 17 Mile Drive. Try to use jet lag on your side and go early in the morning because it can get quite crowded later in the day. The sun sets are something else entirely along the Drive. The view makes a run 100 times easier because there are a dozen things to distract you from seals to beach cafes. The well paved path along the water removes any stops or pauses allowing you to keep a nice pace while enjoying the scenery.
- Walk around town. The winding, historical streets are filled with little museums, boutiques and galleries. Grab an ice cream or coffee at the dozens of cafes sit outside and people watch.
- Delicious restaurants. Of course the sea food is amazing but the local produce in the produce center of the US is featured above all. Local artichokes, avocados, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms etc. are always highlighted in different ways on the menus. Some of my favorite restaurants are Montrio Bistro, Restaurant 1833, Tarpy’s Roadhouse, Alvarado Street Brewery and Passionfish in Carmel are some of favorites. This is a small town however and restaurants stop serving dinner much more than I am used to here on the east coast so keep in mind when planning a late walk in dinner.
- The Osio Theater is a quaint theater featuring indie films. The theater has a nice little cafe, Cafe Lumiere, where I usually pick up my morning coffee and a croissant and also offers a limited menu for pre or post cinema snacks.
- Visit a farm. Interested in where your produce comes from? Well more than likely a bunch of it is grown here in the central coast. There are hundreds of farms spotted around the coast. Looks like you can use this website to schedule a Farm Tour. I can’t recommend to someone enough how cool it is to see how our food is grown, harvested and packaged. A new appreciation will certainly result from a few hours visiting the stunning, vast central of agriculture. A private brunch in the middle of a strawberry field was a personal favorite tour of mine.
- Visit the adjoining towns. Aptos and Seacliff State Beach are another personal favorite for sleepy beach towns with gorgeous coastal walking/running paths.Pacific Grove was hosting the Feast of Lanterns which was an unexpected delight. Events and festivals fill the beach towns with entertainment throughout the year. The Gilroy Garlic Festival though often a traffic head ache when heading home after the weekend conference is also extremely tempting with food smells breezing through the highway.
- Hands down best view is from the top floor of the Monterey Marriott . I usually stay at the Marriott because I am points obsessed but have enjoyed relaxing, more authentic stays at the Hotel Pacific and Monterey Bay Inn. An honorable mention to the Seacliff Inn in Aptos for exceeding expectations.
- Golf – I have long pretended to golf but have never actually played a full round. I don’t need to tell a golfer that some of the most stunning courses are spotted along the coast. But a visit for lunch to enjoy the cliff scenery at some of the courses is highly recommended for non golfers.
- Drive down on 17 through Los Gatos for extraordinary, terrifying views of the redwoods. Stay on to Route 1 for stunning coastal views. You can fly directly to the small Monterey Airport which has connections in a few west coast cities but the two hour drive is filled with unique California scenery worth the extra time.
- Visit Big Sur or Santa Cruz while you are in the area for additional authentically California experiences. I am usually limited to the conference radius so haven’t spent too much time but have heard incredible things.
- While waiting for my red eye back home I have stopped for a quick In & Out burger and a manicure to kill time.