[Travel Advice] Monterey Bay

Random Observation/Comment #796: Daddy Daughter trips FTW!

Unlike my other trips that are usually jam-packed with activities, I really enjoyed the 1-2 broad strokes and just rolling with it on this 3-daddy-3-daughter trip. The girls were just having fun and I was perfectly fine spending time at the rental house cooking some fun meals.

Tips for Monterey/Carmel:

  • Definitely get a car – We drove from SF to Monterey (about 2 hours)
  • Don’t overthink your itinerary – You can just wander around these cute areas
  • If you’re traveling with kids, spend extra for a bigger place (even if it’s 20min from some of the destinations) – We were super lucky to get a place where we could cook and have a solid home base for the kids to run around and stay entertained
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium is amazing and well worth the trip, but you’ll probably only get 4 hours if you’re with kids
  • Carmel by the Sea was an even bigger treat for adults and wandering. I personally loved how it really felt like an old town with beautiful architecture and unique shops. Wine tasting for Dads!
  • Bring a Chromecast – I’ll probably write a separate post about advice for traveling with kids, but this one is a necessity. It avoids forgetting to logout from subscriptions and it’s super portable.

Itinerary

Thursday

Drive to Monterey from SFO – Flying in around 3PM, we did wind up hitting some traffic

Dinner at Cultura Comida y Bebida – Reservations recommended. This wasn’t exactly large group and kid friendly, but it worked out. They gave us an outdoor spot by the fire and we ordered lots of chips, rice, and random dishes for the kids. The pork mole was excellent.

Friday

Daddy work morning – Another reason for getting a big place is so the Daddy’s can work for the morning

Monterey Bay Aquarium – I would just love to sit and watch the Open Sea area for an hour. This is by far one of the biggest aquariums I’ve been to and there’s so many unique exhibits that smaller places won’t have. Lookup the feeding times and schedule to hear the really polished stories about the animals. The stations where you can touch the kelp and mollusks were a big hit with the kids. Note: Parking is very tough. I would recommend getting there very early or closer to 12:30PM when the early people and class fieldtrips start leaving. We stayed until closing at 5PM.

Wandering Canary row with chocolate and a mini beach – The Canary row street right next to the aquarium is filled with really cute shops and a little beach. This was more for the kids than for us.

Cooking dinner at the house – If you know me, you know I love to cook. Anything that goes with California wine works for me. We kept it simple with Garlic brown butter steak with roasted carrots potatoes.

Saturday

17 mile drive – This takes around 2 hours if you make most of the stops. There were quite a few detours because of the flooding from the week before. This is honestly more of a drive for a date than with kids. The pebble beaches were really fun. Kids just love sand. We stopped at the Spanish Bay viewing points, but once you see one of the beaches, you’ve pretty much seen all of them.

Carmel-by-the-Sea for the afternoon – Once you find a parking spot, you can just wander the streets and enjoy the different shops. We did wind up seeing a random sign for a wine tasting and popped into Galante Vineyards. The kids played a fairy game outside while we took our time going through some of their reds.

Forage in the Forest for a late lunch – This place was incredibly kid friendly and had perfect outdoor seating. I get the feeling it gets pretty busy during regular lunch hours, but we had just sneaked in around 2PM and got a big table. Definitely get the French Onion Soup. In fact, the secret is to always order the French Onion Soup when it’s available on a menu.

Carmel Sunset Beach with freezing water – We thought the kiddos would be freezing, and they were, but it was loads of fun. It’s probably not a bad idea to bring some coats on the walk back up the hill.

Wine tasting at Dawn’s Dream Winery – By the time we got to here, we understood the package is always a $30 per head for 5 tastings. The rose at Dawn’s was definitely the most flavorful. There’s a beautiful lemon and lime tree outside, so we picked a few limes for gin and tonics at home.

Cooking dinner at the house – While we could have had dinner somewhere, the kids looked exhausted and they were super sandy. I wound up cooking a lamb rack dinner.

Sunday

Drive back to SF area and hang out until the flight – We had grand plans of going to a children’s museum or doing some other things, but finding a playground was just as good. We found a really cool rec center in Millbrae Central Park.

~See Lemons Love Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea