Red bottlebrush flowers in front of Fisherman’s Wharf, originally constructed in the 19th century for passenger and freight service.
Photo courtesy Alli & Bobby Talley/Traveling Newlyweds
Long ago, Monterey was the capital of California. Its regal allure remains intact. These days, the seaside haven is the go-to for the great outdoors, ocean conservancy, fresh seafood, and a reinvented downtown scene.
Victorian-inspired designs brighten The Monterey Hotel in historic downtown Monterey. The boutique inn charms with its hand-carved wood furnishings and plantation shutters.
Portola Hotel & Spa is a Four Diamond swirl of splendor and bay adventure. Outdoor romps like scuba diving can be arranged here, as well as wine and beer tastings. For a complete decompression of the body and mind, there’s Spa on the Plaza, a 6,000-square-foot oasis.
New to the scene and already a hot spot thanks to chef Thomas Snyder is Cella Restaurant + Bar. With its brilliant France and northern Spain influences, as well as ingredients from local farms, this exciting eatery goes for a “globally inspired and locally sourced” menu. It also builds upon the property’s storied history as a fonda, a small inn that provided accommodations and meals.
Located several miles east of the downtown hub, Tarpy’s Roadhouse is known for its fresh salads, bountiful burgers, and sandwiches as well as an exquisite brunch menu (shared plates like the popcorn prawns and spicy tuna tacos stand out).
Don’t leave the area before sipping a glass of syrah or pinot at The Sardine Factory, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. The restaurant’s wine list is one of the most awarded in the country, featuring more than 1,600 labels and 12,000 bottles. Chef Bert Curtino’s menu is peppered with an appetizing array of sustainable seafood and USDA prime beef, among other notables, such as a lobster ravioli with housemade truffle cream sauce. Take note of Prime Rib Nights every Friday and Saturday, and enjoy the eight-hour, slow-roasted, Omaha-raised prime.
Over at Monterey’s Fish House, classic seafood dishes (including salmon, sole, snapper, and swordfish) get a homestyle twist, thanks to the DiGirolamo family, the longtime owners who have been preparing seafood in the area for decades. Often voted Best Seafood Restaurant in local publications, the spot has even appeared on chef Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
No trip to Monterey is complete without a trek to Fisherman’s Wharf. The bustling thoroughfare offers a bounty of candy and souvenir shops (T-shirts, magnets, signature glasses, and the like), as well as exceptional dining choices.
Del Monte Shopping Center is the area’s favorite outdoor mall, where larger retailers like Macy’s, Gap, Banana Republic, and others attract shoppers of all kinds (you’ll also find stores in the mall that are unique to the area). The shopping outpost also hosts fun community events, including a weekly farmers market.
Outlet mall lovers can head to American Tin Cannery near Cannery Row, home to the popular Cannery Row Antique Mall, boutiques, and other specialty shops, as well as restaurants and entertainment.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Over the last few years, many Monterey food establishments have branched out to include weekly or nightly entertainment.
Bull and Bear Whiskey Bar & Taphouse gives you a patio and live music alongside classic American eats and sports fans wanting to catch the latest game. Trivia (and beer) lovers flock to London Bridge Pub or Britannia Arms Pub & Restaurant. Both venues offer an impressive lineup of brews and nightly entertainment. Safari Club wins points for its intimate lounge and live music in Bay Park Hotel.
In between, savor Cibo Restaurant Italiano, which has entertained locals and visitors with its memorable Italian food and live jazz for decades.
If you’re in the area for a few days, catch a local show. Golden State Theatre hosts concerts (from big-name acts to popular regional performers) that ignite this one-time historic movie palace-turned-performing arts center.
Two musts are Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. Their allure lies in a breathtaking sense of local history and deep commitment to ocean conservancy and marine life. Don’t leave the aquarium without experiencing the giant squid, jellyfish, and sea otter exhibitions. Gift shops and incredible views of local sea life make Cannery Row worth the trek. But don’t only stay on land; head out onto the ocean with Monterey Bay Whale Watch or Chris’ Fishing and Whale Watching for rare marine sightings. Love the water? Turn to page 42 for additional sea excursions.
All things artichoke are yours to savor, from the culinary star itself to cooking demos, a farmers market, and a wine expo. Held at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center. artichokefestival.org
3 Questions For:
Director of Brewery Operations, Alvarado Street Brewery
If somebody is a craft beer newbie, what should they know?
Drink fresh beer. It’s always better at the source. And if you like hoppy beer (IPAs, pale ales, etc.), try to keep them cold; it preserves the aroma.
Great happy hour bites?
Seventh & Dolores in Carmel is a treat. I also love visiting chef Tony and our neighbors at Montrio Bistro, and I love tiki drinks at Hula’s Island Grill in Monterey.
What’s one little-known fact about Monterey Bay?
For kids, Monterey has it all.
You can start the day at Dennis the Menace Park or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, then cruise around Del Monte Beach before grabbing fresh seafood from the source at Wharf 2 to grill later at home.