A Family Weekend in Monterey & Carmel

When we were living in southern California, we missed plenty of family holidays.

In fact, this was the driving reason behind why we made the move back to Omaha. There were two exceptions, though, for holidays we never spent alone: Christmas, when we’d fly back home for a week or two, and Easter, when Matt’s parents would come visit us in California.

Matt’s mom, Judy, had always talked about how she missed those trips to Newport Beach, Ventura and Santa Barbara. I think she missed having the excuse to visit the beach every year more than anything. 🙂 So for Easter this year I proposed we do it again, this time in northern California with a trip to the Monterey Bay Area. It didn’t take too much convincing for David & Judy to accept our invitation.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

We picked up Matt’s parents from the airport in San Jose and made our way south for the 1 ½ hour drive toward the central coast, with Evelyn snuggled in the backseat between Grandma and Grandpa.

Strolling Old Fisherman’s Wharf

When we finally made it into town our tummies were grumbling, so we headed straight to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. We strolled past the harbor filled with boats and then onto the pier, lined with gift shops and seaside restaurants. We knew our food options would be sparse; most of the pier’s restaurants are overpriced for the average food they offer, but we were hungry for something simple and so we made our way into Domenico’s for some grub. “We’re child friendly!” the hostess outside declared, in hopes that we’d take her up on her offer of a free calamari appetizer.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

After lunch we peeked into a couple shops, all very touristy, and not finding anything of worth we decided to move on. We had about an hour to kill before our Airbnb would be ready for check-in, so we stopped at the local grocery store, Nob Hill Foods, to buy a few things for the weekend.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

The Beach House in Pacific Grove

As soon as we got the all clear to check in, we headed over to the rental to unload the car. It was in the perfect location: technically in Pacific Grove, but right on the border between PG and Monterey, and 4 blocks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I just loved it from the moment we stepped inside. The bungalow-style home from the 1920’s was recently renovated and had a mix of old beachy charm with modern finishes.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Seriously, how cute is this place?? It had everything I love about an Airbnb, right down to the local treats.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

Exploring Lovers Point Cove

After unpacking and taking a short rest, it was time to get to the beach! One of our favorite things to do with Matt’s parents when we lived in Southern California was searching for shells. Our Airbnb host had noted in her welcome book that her family loved to explore the tidepools at Lovers Point Cove, not too far away, so we got in the car and made the drive over.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

It was late afternoon, and even though the sun was still shining, it was starting to cool off. There was a strong breeze coming off the ocean, so we bundled Evelyn up and walked around the park area (our host noted they loved to picnic there too, and I can see why)! We watched as some people daringly climbed the massive Lovers Point rock, while another couple flew a kite, and a third man tried his hand at combo fishing/photography out on the rocks.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside family vacation // Travel with Kids | Family Travel | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

After exploring the park area, we took the steep set of stairs down to the beach. We carefully hopped from giant rock to giant rock, searching for shells in between, and after nearly losing my balance while holding Evelyn, I retreated back to the sand to wait.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

There were lots of shells to be found in and around the tidepools. And lots of sand to smush in our toes too!

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

We got back into the car with our shells (being careful not to take any live ones, of course!) and drove along the rocky shoreline of Ocean View Boulevard.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

The views at the edge of the peninsula are absolutely stunning. There were so many wonderful vantage points and places to turn off and take it all in. We drove until we reached the far northwestern tip, with the sun setting over the ocean.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Grabbing a Treat in Downtown Pacific Grove

By 6 o’ clock we were still pretty full from our late lunch, so we decided that a little ice cream for dinner sounded like a great idea! Back in downtown Pacific Grove, we spotted a place called “The Ice Cream Shoppe” and figured we couldn’t go wrong.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

When we stepped into the little shop it was like stepping back in time. The walls were plastered from floor to ceiling with 60’s and 70’s-era music memorabilia (mostly Beatles) and children’s books. It was one of the weirdest places ever.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

The owner told us all of the ice cream was homemade. Homemade from where exactly, I’m not sure, since all of the containers had a label on them from a company in the East Bay. But homemade somewhere I suppose. Ha.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

We enjoyed our treats and Evelyn got her first taste of the good stuff. She seemed to not be a fan at first, twinging from the cold, but then came back begging for more.

Breakfast at Red House Cafe

The next day we got up early and drove back over to downtown Pacific Grove for breakfast at the Red House Cafe, a corner cafe in a converted house. It was quaintly decorated, service was friendly, and the food was delicious. It was the perfect way to set us up for the busy day ahead.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Discovering the Monterey Bay Aquarium

After breakfast we parked the car back outside our Airbnb and walked down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, just a few blocks away. We spent a little over 3 hours exploring a world of jellyfish, sharks, octopuses and everything in between.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Hitting the Shops on Cannery Row

After the Aquarium, we took a walk down Cannery Row. The former warehouses that once housed sardine canneries are now long gone and turned into all sorts of gift shops and restaurants attracting the Aquarium’s visitors.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

I’m one to usually avoid tourist trap-type places, but it was fun to walk up and down the short street. We were also able to buy some souvenirs:  some sweet treats to share from the Ghiradelli Chocolate Shop, and a tiny Monterey t-shirt for Evelyn from California Classics.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

After a busy morning and afternoon, Evelyn was ready for a nap, so we ventured back to the house to rest. Later that evening we pushed through the traffic and drove to downtown Monterey for dinner.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Enjoying a Fancy Dinner at Restaurant 1883

From the road, you can hardly tell Restaurant 1883 is a restaurant at all. The Stokes Adobe house that it resides in is a Monterey landmark building, where the first newspaper in California was published and the first bakery in Monterey later established. It also happens to be the longtime residence of the fake Dr. James Stokes, who is said to still haunt the property. It’s a rather upscale place, something I didn’t really realize when booking the reservation for 4+baby.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

The restaurant has dining spaces on both the first and second floors, along with a private dining space and a “library”. It’s gorgeously decorated, even though the white linen chairs look like far too much of a chore to keep clean. We dined in the “sun room”, and Evelyn was in rare form that night, making it a stressful event trying to keep her occupied (note the cartoons). But we all loved our dishes, which ranged from seabass to sirloin.

Once home from dinner, I figured we’d better let Evelyn dig into her Easter basket while she was all dressed up. Matt and I had a fun time putting it together with a flash trip to Target as soon as we hit the ground in Palo Alto earlier that week.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Hunting for Seashells on the Beach

The next morning I hung back while Evelyn napped, and Matt, Judy & David headed out for a little more seashell hunting on the northern coastline of Pacific Grove. I told Matt my only request was that he take the camera with him and get some pictures.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

I’m thinking I need to leave him in charge of the camera more often. I still can’t get over how clear and calm this water is!

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Matt tells me climbed to the top of the above rock formation to get this hazy view of the shore:

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

Visiting the Village of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Once back at the house, we packed up the car one last time to visit the beautiful city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a short 20-minute drive south of Monterey. Carmel was unsurprisingly voted one of America’s best beach towns, and I have to say it is definitely one of my favorites. We spent the afternoon lounging on the beach with our own little homemade picnic.

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

With one final stop before heading home, we just had to find a book to add to Evelyn’s collection. So we stopped at a toy store we had spotted in downtown Carmel and picked up a “sea creatures”-inspired one; we thought it fit the theme of our trip well. 🙂 Then it was off to Monterey to get a good night’s rest before our flight home.

I wasn’t quite sure what we’d find in Monterey; if we’d have enough to do to stay busy or if the beaches would be like I imagined. But they were everything I’d imagined and more! We saw a little bit of everything while still being able to slow our pace for Evelyn and take in the beauty of our surroundings. How to accurately describe it? Well, you know when you’re in a place that is just so beautiful and you can’t get over how beautiful everything looks? That’s the Monterey Bay Area.

What are you favorite things to do in the Monterey Bay?

Read Next: Beach Day in Carmel-by-the-Sea

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What to see and do in Monterey & Carmel for relaxing seaside weekend with family // Travel with Kids | Family Vacation | California Road Trip

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