Take me with you! (Just kidding... mostly.)
Monterey has a special place in my heart: I met my husband while he was a student at the Defense Language Institute, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and there were two Trader Joe’s within a few miles of my apartment. I still miss the curry fries from the Crown and Anchor. And I haven’t completely forgiven the Navy for making us leave it for Georgia... but I probably will. Eventually.
If you're a newcomer to the Monterey Peninsula, here's what I think you have to do:
1. Hit up the Farmer’s Market on Alvarado Street. As a student at a school a few streets over, I spent more than my fair share of time on Alvarado Street. But my favorite was the Tuesday night Farmer’s Market. A lot of produce is grown locally, so you can get some great fresh fruits and veggies for fairly cheap while socializing, people watching, and breathing in the ocean air. Several local restaurants have booths out too, so you can even make it a dinner date if you want – my favorite were the naan wraps. Yum!
2. Try out one of the Trivia Nights at a local pub. All of them have a slightly different flavor, so shop around to see which suits you best. Our favorite locale was the London Bridge, which was a little quieter and ran trivia like pros. Other popular options include the Brit, which has a younger crowd and puts a more entertaining spin on trivia, and the Mucky Duck, which gets a little wild as the night progresses.
3. Check out Language Day at the Presidio of Monterey. The annual open house offers mini language lessons, cultural displays, performances, and ethnic food booths – it’s a good way to spend a few hours in the spring! Parking can be a hassle though, so be prepared to walk.
4. Embrace your inner tourist! Cruise 17 Mile Drive and admire the scenery, head down to Cannery Row for shopping and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (check their website because they occasionally offer free admission for locals!), stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf (psst… a tip from a former poor grad student – if you accept the samples of clam chowder as you walk down Fisherman’s Wharf, it’ll add up to a complete meal by the time you reach the end), go whale watching, walk down to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove to watch the sunset or play on the beach, and tour the Carmel Mission (especially if you’re a history buff!).
5. Have a bonfire on the beach. Some of the beaches in Monterey allow fires and some don’t, so make sure you double check before you head out. I can tell you with certainty that you are allowed to have fires on Carmel Beach south of 10th avenue until 10 PM and parking along the street above is free. A bottle of California wine, some sandwiches from a deli (may I recommend Compagno’s?), and the makings for s’mores – you’ve got a great night! Fair warning: the water is always freezing, even in the summer.
When you’ve got to get off the Peninsula (and that day will come), there are many great destinations within a short distance! Go to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing for some cioppino or head up to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for rides and funnel cake. If you’re a surfer, make sure to check out Mavericks. Gilroy hosts the annual Garlic Festival (worth it just for the garlic jelly beans), and San Francisco is an amazing place to explore for a day if you’re willing to make the two hour drive (which you should at least once!).
Have you been to Monterey? Did I leave out any of your favorite things?