Carmel Valley Ranch cultivates "a sense of wonder and play" with luxury accommodations, family-friendly activities, agritourism, and exceptional dining.
Photo courtesy Carmel Valley Ranch
With its warmer climate and rustic accents, Carmel Valley is an unforgettable scenic refuge for outdoor activities, wine tasting, and passionately prepared cuisine that caters to regional ingredients.
At Roux, chef Fabrice Roux combines locally grown ingredients and a French take on food preparation to give you luscious small plates and entrées that are destined to be paired with the region’s best wines.
Café Rustica’s Alsatian dishes are a Tuscan wonder. Our picks? The rich capellini or butternut squash ravioli. Valley Kitchen, situated within the confines of Carmel Valley Ranch, boasts the tagline: “It doesn’t get more local than this.” The self-described “unfussy” outpost uses ingredients from its own organic garden. There’s even a dog menu with treats like Beef Bone Marrow.
Affordable country breakfasts (the artichoke Benedict, biscuits and gravy, buttermilk pancakes, and the like) are yours at Wagonwheel Coffeeshop.
Heading out and need to pack a picnic meal? Earthbound Farm’s Organic Farm Stand offers a bounty of organic fruits and vegetables; consider venturing into its café for a well-prepared snack or meal.
The Lemon Tree, run by mother and daughter duo Jayne and Kathryn, is a rare gift shop in that the proprietors have traveled to a variety of destinations worldwide to fill their store with one-of-a-kind treasures.
Handcrafted jewelry, paintings, and other home furnishings beautify Avant Garden and Home. Meanwhile, for a unique olive oil experience, try Quail & Olive’s California-sourced olive oils, vinegars, and specialty oils. But also consider their other olive-related gift items, such as skincare products, kitchenware, and cookbooks.
Abundant art is so indicative of the Central Coast and equally so in the valley. Visit the Carmel Valley Art Association to peruse fine art, jewelry, watercolor, and mixed media by local artists. (They also boast one of the largest collections of original greeting cards in the valley.)
Nightlife & Entertainment
The great thing about Carmel Valley is the down-home experience. Locals make you feel welcome, and the nightlife scene is casual yet festive. Trailside Café & Beer Garden tops the list for memorable places, offering an ongoing and eclectic lineup of live entertainment in its beer garden and dining room that ranges from acoustic folk music and country to blues and rock/Americana.
The Running Iron, a fiery cowboy bar, also impresses with grilled delights and cold drinks (plus a lively night scene). Glance at the ceiling and you’ll chuckle at the bounty of farm- and ranch-related items hanging above.
Holman Ranch Tavern is filled to the brim with locals. They swap stories, share dreams, and welcome you into the fold too, especially during happy hour (4–6 p.m., Monday–Thursday), when half-off well drinks and draft beers are popular.
There’s nothing like a country drive. Heading into the Carmel Valley Village from Highway 1 is something special. The lush mountains — so green and pristine — are enchanting, and pit stops along the way provide plenty of photo ops. We suggest Hacienda Hay & Feed. Here, families and kids bask in an exciting experience that involves interacting with animals such as donkeys, emus, goats, and turtles.
Garland Ranch Regional Park is the majestic centerpiece of the area. Make it your go-to for breathtaking landscapes and hikes of all kinds — the elevations range from 200 to 2,000 feet here. Make a day of it and you will experience the Carmel Valley River and the northern crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Cowboy Pete is a pioneer around these parts. The outgoing local has weaved together a memorable outing with his popular Happy Trails Wagon Tour. It takes you through and around the entire village — and all aboard his 10-passenger vintage McCormick International to boot. The antique tractor drops you off to dine or embark on river excursions and also visits the valley’s 14 tasting rooms (to learn more about the region’s wine scene, flip to page 50).
Monterey County is home to more than 80 wineries, many of which are located in the Carmel Valley AVA, known for its outstanding cabernet sauvignons and merlots.
Photo courtesy Bernardus Lodge.
Passionate chili chefs and savvy bartenders compete for a people’s choice award, as well as the coveted top prize, the “Golden Ladle.” Dig in.
Celebration of Harvest
Hosted by the Carmel Valley Wine Experience, the annual food and wine event presents a wondrous array of Monterey County wines and some gastronomical delights, plus live entertainment.