5 Fun things to do in Monterey, California

Monterey, California, is home to one of the best aquariums in the country, but this coastal town boasts plenty of other great ways to spend the day. Check out these fun things to do in Monterey for a day of fish, fun and sun.

Monterey, California

Although spending the day at the beach with no agenda at all would be a perfect way to pass your time in Monterey, you don’t want to miss these local attractions.

When visiting the northern California coast, a trip to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium should be at the top of your list. After you’ve been awed at the aquarium, stroll down Cannery Row, drive the scenic 17-Mile Drive, sip wine in local tasting rooms or go on a whale-watching tour. You’ll need more than a day to fit all this in!

Take a drive down the coast for more fun in Santa Cruz >>

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Prepare to be amazed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has about 550 species on display in more than 100 exhibits. Don’t miss the Kelp Forest, one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world boasting an underwater forest like no other. Also on your must-see list: The Jellies Experience, an underwater world of jellyfish species that will astound you. You’ll also have the chance to see a giant Pacific octopus, sea otters and more. The aquarium took over the Hovden Cannery site after it closed and opened in 1984, thanks to a donation from David and Lucille Packard. This popular attraction gets about 1.8 million visitors a year, so try to visit in the winter months or in the middle of the week for fewer crowds.

Cannery Row

This historic waterfront district was made famous by John Steinbeck’s book of the same title. Now a bustling tourist destination, Cannery Row was once an industrial area with working canneries lining the street. Enjoy the history and ambiance of the old buildings that are now shops, restaurants and hotels. You’ll find everything from souvenir shops to candy stores and art galleries here, along with plenty of options for fresh seafood from dozens of restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bowl of clam chowder or a fine dining experience, you’ll find it on Cannery Row.

More California fun: Spend the day in Santa Barbara >>

17-mile drive17-Mile Drive

If you’re in the mood to drive, do it along the scenic Monterey Peninsula, from Pacific Grove to Carmel. The beautiful 17-Mile Drive takes you along the coast, through Pebble Beach and past several points of interest. Don’t miss The Lone Cypress, a Monterey cypress tree that has stood on its rocky perch for more than 250 years. For a great picnic spot, stop at Spanish Bay and enjoy lunch with views of the coastline that can’t be beat. Just remember to bring a sweater… even summer days on the coast can be a bit chilly.

Wine tasting

If you’ve driven 17-Mile Drive into Carmel, you might as well stop for some wine tasting! Just off Highway 1 in Carmel Valley, you’ll find several tasting rooms clustered within walking distance of one another on Carmel Valley Road, along with dining and lodging options. If you’re on Cannery Row, there are several places to sip Monterey’s wines, too. Visit A Taste of Monterey for incredible wines and an even more incredible view. This tasting room, which offers a menu of local wines, overlooks the water through floor to ceiling windows. Located within the same building, Bargetto Winery also has a tasting room.

In the mood for more wine? Visit California’s Napa Valley >>

Whale watching

Monterey Bay is a very active spot for marine activity, and you can see a variety of different whales here, along with dolphins and seabirds. Depending on the time of year, you might see blue, humpback, gray or killer whales. Go out to sea on a whale watching tour, complete with a marine biologist on board. Don’t forget the camera… this will be one trip you’ll want to remember!

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