Best Things to Do in Monterey, California

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Are you visiting Monterey, California for the first time? Below is a list of Insider Tips and recommendations for things to see and do in Monterey.

When I have a visitor from out of town, I take them to Asilomar Beach and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. To get the most out of our aquarium visit, order tickets online in advance and arrive as soon as this world famous aquarium opens.

If you are looking for typical Monterey seafood, I head to Passionfish in Pacific Grove.

Looking for a quiet place to relax and recharge? Go to Accista Spa at The Hyatt Regency Hotel. Update: Accista Spa is now Marilyn Monroe Spa. For the budget spa experience, Massage Envy has a location on Munras Avenue.

For something completely different, visit Vision Quest Bed and Breakfast in Salinas.

If you come to Big Sur, get your picture taken in front of the Bixby Bridge.

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Horseback riding in Del Monte Forest with Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

The best item on the menu at Nepenthe in Big Sur, is the Ambrosia Burger, but the Long Island Iced Tea is a great way to drink in the view.

On your way back to Monterey, from a day trip to Big Sur, be sure to check out Carmel-by-the-Sea for their many art galleries.

When I’m low on money for dining out or want some of the freshest produce around, I go to the Monterey Farmers Market – every Thursday, rain or shine.

If you are looking for a great dinner out, where the locals dine,  go to Fandango Restaurant in Pacific Grove (their paella is amazing, while the rack of lamb is my personal favorite.)

In Monterey, take your picture down at the wharf with the year round resident sea otters and sea lions.

Walk to the top of the Point Pinos Lighthouse for a great view.

Personally, I’m never experienced the Tours of Monterey Ghost Tour. Let me know what you think.

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There are plenty of outdoor activities to discover in Monterey.  Besides golf and hiking, try horseback riding, kayaking or walking around the Monterey Bay.

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One of the best things to do in Monterey is visit the beach. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Looking for a little exercise? Walk the recreation trail that runs through the sand dunes in Marina to the rocky shore of Pacific Grove.

If you are a museum lover, Monterey’s best museum is the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

Enjoy a night out on the town? Go to the Hippodrome Nightclub and Lounge.

Are you a night owl? While Carmel shuts down early, the Cibo Ristorante Italiano is the spot for late night dining, and jazz music.

The Monterey County Weekly will keep you posted on local happenings in the newspaper.

You can tell a lot about Monterey from visiting and watching the Sloat Landing Ceremony. Full disclosure: I’ve never heard of the Sloat Landing Ceremony – something to check out.

The  Castroville Artichoke Festival takes place in the spring.

In the summer you should attend Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix & MotoGP World Championship at the Mazda Raceway.

If you are a jazz fan, come to Monterey in the fall for the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Come to Monterey  in the winter to experience  Christmas in the Adobes.

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Visit Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Nature Reserve for a day trip from Carmel or Monterey, California. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Insider Tip:  Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, outside of Carmel is a great day trip. Whaler’s Cove is my favorite spot.

Go to Toasties in Pacific Grove for a great breakfast that won’t break the bank.

If  you like antiques, nearby to  Monterey is Moss Landing, have lunch at Phil’s Fish Market. The cioppino is a local favorite. You can bring your own container and take it back to your hotel.

The best way to see Monterey is to walk The Downtown Historic Walking Tour in Monterey

Don’t miss: My Museum and Dennis the Menace Park if you are traveling with kids.  While my children are now teenagers, we spent many hours at My Museum and Dennis the Menace Park when they were young.

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Cypress Point Golf Course, one of the many golf courses in Monterey. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

What are your favorite things to do in Monterey, California?

Thanks to Jenna Palacio and the Monterey Convention and Visitors Bureau for assistance with this post.  All photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.

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