10 Reasons to Spend a Weekend in Monterey

Courtesy of InterContinental The Clement Monterey

Revered for its stunning natural beauty, historical significance and literary connections (don’t forget this is John Steinbeck territory), Monterey, once a bustling commercial fishing village, offers a treasure trove of cultural activities and a rich heritage that makes for a wonderful weekend away. And, of course, the food and wine are worth the trip. Later in the year hotels fill up fast when the car shows and jazz festival return, but right now is the perfect time to get a taste of Monterey.


Alta Bakery & Cafe

502 Munras Avenue, Monterey

The bakery and cafe is located in the historic Cooper Molera Adobe, and chef Ben Spungin has worked at some of the most revered eateries up and down the coast. He brings his refined skills to the mouthwatering offerings here. Try the figs and labneh paired with a blood orange wine spritzer.


Asilomar Dunes Natural Preserve

Sunset Drive, Pacific Grove

Take a short ride to Pacific Grove and explore the dunes. Located between Asilomar’s main beach and the conference grounds, the quarter-mile stroll offers breathtaking ocean vistas, native wildlife and those not-to-be-missed wildflower blooms.


Cella Restaurant & Bar

525 Polk Street, Monterey

Co-owned by chef Ben Spungin (Alta Bakery & Cafe), this is definitely a locals’ spot and chef Cal Stamenov takes full advantage of the bounty of the Peninsula. The seafood offerings are balanced with plentiful options for meat lovers (steak, venison, lamb and rib-eye, to name a few). The charming setting can’t be beat.


Gael Gallagher’s Monterey Tours

21047 Geyserville Avenue

Whether you are a history buff, a Steinbeck fan or wanting to learn more about the monarch migration, Gael will regale you with facts and entertaining stories galore. She knows everyone and everything and makes the entire area come to life. You will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the entire area.


Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant

1180 Forest Avenue, Ste. F, Pacific Grove

A hidden gem, this plant-based eatery is tucked away in a parking lot in Pacific Grove. But don’t let its unassuming surroundings fool you; the food here is wonderful (carnivores and vegans will be easily pleased as well). With an emphasis on wild foraged mushrooms, it’s an unexpected delight. Check the website for foraging expeditions — weather permitting, they may still be happening this month.


Monterey Bay Aquarium

886 Cannery Row

Touted as the best aquarium in the world; one step inside and you will see why. The nonprofit institution offers a magical glimpse into the underwater world of the Monterey Bay and plays a major part in ocean conservation and sustainability. If you can, plan a weekday visit as it does get busy on the weekends — but even then, it is worth braving the crowds.


The Wine Experience

381 Cannery Row, Monterey

Ever dreamed of being a winemaker? Try your hand at blending and take a deep dive into your own palate as well as the many grape varietals you’ll be able to play with. You’ll create your own bespoke blend and take a bottle home with you. This is especially fun for groups.


Wild Fish

545 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove

This charming eatery offers freshly caught, sustainable seafood with a menu that changes with the season. There are a ton of wonderful restaurants in the area, but this one is a must-visit. Fine dining quality and service without the stuffiness. The spot also has live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights, a musical cherry on top.


For the Foodies

Jazz and car shows aside, Monterey offers food and wine festivals that call for a trip down south. Mark your calendar.


April 4–7

Pebble Beach Food & Wine


June 8

Monterey Winemakers’ Celebration


June 8–9

Artichoke Festival


June 15–16

45th Annual Monterey Wine Festival


July 6

Monterey Beer Festival


Monterey aquarium jellyfish
Courtesy of See Monterey