You’ve landed on the right page if you’re wondering what to do in Monterey with kids. California offers diverse environments and activities, but Monterey has it all in one place. It’s time to give your family an opportunity for a fantastic weekend in Monterey County.

The Monterey Peninsula is in the northern part of California’s Central Coast, and it’s an amazing place to explore. It includes cities like Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and the charming Pebble Beach, known for golf and resorts. This region is one of California’s most stunning areas, featuring rugged coastlines, lush Monterey Pine forests, and pristine sandy beaches.

My family and I were fortunate to call this place home for over a decade while raising three young children. It’s an ideal destination for families, and I’d love to share our top recommendations for things to do and see here.

What Makes Monterey So Great

Here are a few things that make this place a must-visit county in the USA:

  • Walkable City: Monterey is highly walkable, so you may not need a car. You can fly into Monterey and explore the top attractions on foot. Alternatively, rent a car for day trips to explore the surrounding area.

  • Chilly Temperatures: Despite its coastal location, Monterey can be cooler than expected, even in summer. Be sure to pack a jacket and layered clothing to stay comfortable.

  • Wildlife Watching: Monterey is teeming with wildlife, from sea lions and harbor seals to gray whales and various fish species. You can even snorkel to explore the underwater sea life or simply relax on the shore and spot creatures like sea otters from a distance.

  • Rich History: Monterey boasts a rich history that spans thousands of years, from Native Rumisen people to Spanish conquistadors. Explore this heritage at local museums or through historic walking trails to gain insights into the area’s fascinating past.

Must-See Places In Monterey Peninsula

Planning to visit or move to the Monterey Peninsula with your kids? Here are some places to be and things to see and do:

Monterey

Monterey

Monterey is a charming city located in Monterey County. It’s often regarded as one of the finest places to live in California. Living in Monterey provides a unique urban-suburban mix. The city has many dining options, coffee shops, and beautiful parks for its residents to enjoy. The public schools in Monterey are considered above average, making it an appealing choice for families.

Where to Stay

Monterey Plaza Hotel: When visiting Monterey with your family, consider the Monterey Plaza Hotel. It’s a perfect choice for families, located right on the coast. The hotel offers comfortable rooms and several kid-friendly dining options.

Places to Eat

  • The Sardine Factory: The Sardine Factory is a local institution with loads of character and charm. This family-owned gem serves up fresh, local seafood, making it a delightful dining experience.

  • The Fish Hopper: The Fish Hopper is a fantastic ocean-view restaurant that’s perfect for the whole family. This dining gem has been serving guests since 1950, dedicated to offering fresh ingredients, delightful culinary adventures, and breathtaking views of the bay. 

Activities

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium: The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-visit attraction. It’s not only one of the world’s best aquariums but also a hub for groundbreaking research and conservation. Don’t miss the captivating jellyfish section, and try to time your visit to catch the otters being fed.

  • Dennis the Menace Playground: This unique park is loved by kids of all ages. It’s not only free but also boasts slides and jungle gyms that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a great place for your kids to interact with local children. A great addition for the mums and dads is that you can also take a leisurely stroll around the nearby park or even rent a boat for a little adventure.

  • Old Fisherman’s Wharf: Suitable for all ages, this historic wharf offers a plethora of attractions. Here you can explore distinctive shops, embark on sailing adventures, go whale watching, and indulge in a variety of excellent dining options. It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of Monterey.

Carmel

Carmel

Carmel is a quaint and picturesque seaside village that feels like a fairytale come to life. It’s an ideal place to stay and use as a base for exploring the entire peninsula. You can conveniently walk to the beach, enjoy shopping, and dine with your children right from your hotel. Even if you’re not staying on the peninsula, a day is enough to explore everything that Carmel has to offer.

Where to Stay

  • La Playa Hotel: This turn-of-the-century hotel combines old-world charm with modern amenities. It’s a great choice for families as you can easily walk to Carmel Beach, shops, and restaurants in the vicinity.

  • Mission Inn: A historic ranch with stunning views of Point Lobos and Carmel River Beach. It’s a fantastic place to wander with kids and soak in the remarkable natural beauty.

Where to Shop

Take a stroll through the streets of Carmel and explore their unique boutiques, shops, and eateries. Don’t forget to visit the “House of Sweets,” a delightful Carmel cottage known for its handmade candies that have been a fixture for decades.

  • Carmel Bay Company: This locally-owned gift store offers a wide variety of items, including classic and educational toys that kids will treasure. Thinker Toys, another excellent independent toy store, is a must-visit.

  • Star Child and Heaven: These high-end boutiques for kids offer shoes, clothing, and accessories from around the world.

  • Paloosh: A locally-owned women’s boutique featuring beautiful fashion and accessories with a coastal California flair.

Places to Eat

  • Flaherty’s Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar: Indulge in some of the freshest seafood in Carmel. It’s a casual and delicious eatery that’s family-friendly, complete with fish tanks to keep little ones entertained.

  • Casanova: Arguably the most romantic restaurant in Carmel, it was even visited by Van Gogh. Offering French-Italian cuisine in a historic setting with a charming backstory.

  • La Bicyclette: An adorable and cozy bistro with casual French-Italian fare, serving the freshest in-season ingredients. It’s a great choice if you have toddlers, as the restaurant is small and cozy.

Activities

  • Point Lobos: This state park is one of the most beautiful in the area. Explore winding paths along the rugged coastline with breathtaking views. You’re likely to spot otters in the blue waters.

  • Carmel Beach: Grab a picnic lunch at Bruno’s Market, a local establishment, and head to the white sugar sands of Carmel Beach for a relaxing picnic.

  • Carmel Mission: One of California’s prettiest missions, Carmel Mission boasts beautiful gardens, artifacts, and an impressive basilica. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of California.

Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove, a coastal town on the Peninsula, is brimming with charm. It features an old lighthouse and scenic bike paths. This place also hosts two unique annual events: the Butterfly Parade, celebrating the return of the Monarch butterfly, and the Feast of Lanterns.

Where to Stay

  • Seven Gables Inn: This charming historic building in Pacific Grove sits right on the coast. It’s a Victorian structure offering sweeping views of Monterey Bay. The property is conveniently located near the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Trail, offering access to marine wildlife viewpoints, golf courses, art museums, and beaches. 

Places to Eat

  • Pavel’s Bakery (Pavel’s Backerei): An incredible place to stop for pastries in the morning. Pavel’s Bakery is renowned for serving exceptional European-style breads and pastries. Their offerings are popular for their generous size, delectable flavors, and affordable prices. Their cinnamon rolls and doughnuts, shareable bear claws, and moist farmer’s bread is a must-try. 

  • Happy Girl Café (Happy Girl Kitchen Co): A lovely local spot for a delightful lunch. The restaurant features seasonal, organic dishes sourced from local farms. You will also find their own Happy Girl Kitchen Co. line of artisan preserves, pickles, and shrubs. The breakfast and lunch menus offer organic and vegetarian options, including gluten-free breads and baked goods.

Activities

  • Picnic at Lover Point Beach: Located just a few steps from downtown, this is an excellent place for kids to explore and run around. Locals often relax at this 4.4-acre park, known for its well-manicured grounds. You can also climb the rocks at the point for a spectacular view of Monterey Bay. Don’t miss the annual Feast of Lanterns at the end of July.

  • Walk along the beach path and explore the tide pools at Asilomar Beach: Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove is a hotspot for nature walks, surfing, and kayaking. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beach path and discover the wonders of the tide pools, perfect for a family adventure. Despite its modest mile-long stretch, it boasts stunning views and rich natural diversity that rivals much longer beaches.

Carmel Valley

Carmel Valley

Just a short drive inland from the coastal town of Carmel, you’ll discover the beautiful Carmel Valley. This location enjoys sunshine year-round, even when the coast is foggy. Here you’ll find rolling hills, oak trees, and the warm, golden Californian sunshine.

Where to Stay

  • Carmel Valley Ranch: One of the best family-friendly stays on the Central Coast. Set on a sprawling 500-acre hillside, this resort offers activities for the whole family. You’ll find fantastic swimming pools, miles of hiking trails, an incredible organic garden, and beekeeping classes for kids. The food is fresh and organic, and it’s a wonderful place for kids of all ages to explore.

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Places to Eat

  • Earthbound Farm: A sprawling farm with a café that’s a must-visit for families. They serve delicious organic food, snacks, and a favorite soft serve. You will also get a chance to explore the rock labyrinth and beautiful organic gardens within the farm.

  • Corkscrew Café: This family-owned café deep in the valley is a delightful dining spot for families. Here you can enjoy deliciously authentic and organic cuisine. You can even enroll your little ones in cooking classes.

Activities

  • Garland Park: A fantastic spot for a family hike, complete with scenic views. You can bring your dog and even take a dip in the river on a hot day, making it an ideal outdoor escape for all.

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea: Explore the adorable coastal village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Stroll through the village, explore its numerous shops, and visit art galleries. Don’t miss the beautiful white sand beach in Carmel.

Best Time To Visit

The best time for a Monterey visit is from April to July when the weather is delightful with moderate temperatures and minimal rain, and it’s before the major tourist influx.

Prices are reasonable during this period, but be cautious during event weekends when prices may surge as tourists flock to Monterey. The weather remains around 55°F most days; it won’t get below freezing, but even the warmest days reach only about 66°F in July. Expect partly cloudy skies, low humidity, and pleasant water temperatures.

Make the most of your visit in spring and early summer by indulging in outdoor activities. Explore the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail for hiking or biking, and delve into local history along the Path of History trail.

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Conclusion

Monterey offers a remarkable blend of natural beauty, rich history, and a multitude of activities for visitors of all ages. Monterey has something to offer at any time of the year. With cool temperatures year-round, it’s wise to pack layers, even in the warmest month. 

For an ideal visit, consider spending at least a week in Monterey Bay, where you can explore the top sights, indulge in delicious cuisine, and do fun activities with your kids. Monterey promises an unforgettable journey, perfect for families, history enthusiasts, nature lovers, and everyone in between.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the warmest month in Monterey?

The warmest month in Monterey is October, with highs around 67°F. Afternoons peak at around 4 pm, while evenings are pleasantly cool at approximately 50°F. Monterey doesn’t experience a hot season, so be prepared for cool temperatures year-round. Even in October, the warmest month, it’s advisable to have a sweater handy, especially on cooler days.

How Many Days Are Ideal for Exploring Monterey Bay?

Monterey Bay offers an abundance of activities, making it perfect for a week-long vacation. Spending seven days is ideal, allowing you to explore top attractions, savor the finest dining, and fully immerse yourself in the region with your children.

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