We are so lucky to live within driving distance to some of the most beautiful travel destinations in California. My family made their way to Monterey and Carmel-by -the-Sea for the most wonderful weekend respite. The three-plus hour drive may turn folks off from visiting, but I promise I forgot all about the travel time once transported into these ocean towns. A good vacation for my family requires a relaxing visit to the ocean, new breweries to try, simple food in aesthetic settings and time outdoors. This vacation scored high in all categories!
We stayed at a wonderful hotel: the Casa Munras Garden Hotel and Spa in Monterey. The accommodations were spacious, reasonably priced and they allow dogs. You’d never know that there were dogs at the hotel – it was clean and quiet! The hotel is in walking distance to the charming downtown area of Monterey with plenty of clothing boutiques, a theater and a great selection of restaurants. Lunch at Alvarado Street Brewery and Grill was delicious and their outdoor patio was very family and dog friendly. As we ate lunch, played a card game and tried the bartenders favorite new brew, we slipped into a lull where time felt a little slower and work was far away. Worth mentioning is Fieldwork Brewing Co. in the same area. Great ambiance and great beer!
We visited Cannery Row out of the tourist obligation but if you aren’t looking for a souvenir shop or making a visit to the aquarium, you could skip it. Parking was hard to find and the crowds were overwhelming. We also visited Fisherman’s Wharf and felt the same way. Crowds were plentiful, food was overpriced and average at best. That is with the exception of Dustbowl Brewing Company, located near the wharf entrance. Their inside space was filled with couches and chairs, making it a comfortable spot to watch a game on one of their many screens. The outside was decorated with overhead string lights with picnic tables, heat lamps and a few games of corn hole. In hindsight, we wished we had stayed here for some tacos from the food truck instead of the pricey, bland dinner on the wharf.
Taking a break from the craft brew establishments, we wholeheartedly fell in love with Carmel. The beach is dog-friendly and large enough for a timid dog to enjoy his time there. Ocean Avenue has high-end shopping, boutique stores with unique merchandise and dozens of appealing restaurants to try. My son was captivated by the art galleries and each were all extremely welcoming, even to an 11-year-old boy who knew nothing of art except what looked nice. Don’t be afraid to explore the alleyways. They are charming, with overgrown vines and flowers, and sometimes lead to hidden a gallery, wine bar or coffee shop entrance.
Our favorite lunch spot in Carmel was Forge in the Forest. The patio dining was gorgeous and everyone was happy with their food. My husband and I had a date night at A.W. Shucks, where locals told us we may run into a celebrity or two. No celebrity sightings but the oysters were some of the best I had ever tasted. Sit at the bar for a more interactive experience with their knowledgeable staff.
My favorite morning of this quick trip was spent in Pacific Grove in the area otherwise known as Lover’s Point. Is there anything better than enjoying your morning coffee watching and listening to ocean waves? We were greeted with glorious sunshine and an awesome walking trail along the ocean. Unplugging with the family in the great outdoors unleashed silly antics and priceless time together. I am anxious to plan our next visit!