Downtown brims with quaint mom-and-pop gift shops and boutiques with Victorian façades.
Photo by gettyimages.com/frankix
Charming Victorian homes and a monarch butterfly habitat turn heads in this small town that thrills with a thriving dining scene and an eye-catching, historic coastal trail.
La Mia Cucina, an 11-table bistro that exudes European elegance, reaches the top of our dining list this year. Every dish is prepared from scratch (with many ingredients sourced from local farmers markets), and homemade pastas are created daily.
The family-owned Fandango rests in the heart of downtown Pacific Grove, and its fine dining options — everything from lamb chops, steaks, fresh fish, and housemade pasta to a strikingly extensive wine list — leave a lasting impression. (There’s an unforgettable Sunday Brunch to be had here, too.)
Big draws with budget-friendly menus include Petra Restaurant, a longtime family-run venue famous for its brilliantly prepared, homemade traditional Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine (and the best hummus and baba ganoush around the bay).
For more global flavor, venture to Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar, an alluring Spanish bistro with small plates like the charred octopus and lamb meatballs and Mediterranean meals.
Antique shopping is a thing in Pacific Grove, and two specialty shops stand out. A visit to Pacific Grove Antiques takes you back in time with a vast selection of tables, cabinets, chairs, wall furnishings, and mementos. At Fat Willy’s Antiques, all things “unique and unusual” are promoted, and its owners, who have been collecting antiques for 45 years in nearby San Juan Bautista, found success in Pacific Grove when they brought the business here almost eight years ago.
At The Bookworks, one of the first bookstore-coffeehouses on the scene before larger behemoths took over, consider local literary gems like For the Love of Carmel, Monterey and Pacific Grove Scenic Natural Cookbook, or My Peaceful Forest for gifts. Order a handcrafted espresso or tea, and check the establishment’s website or bulletin board for special events.
Marita’s Boutique has become a mainstay in the heart of Pacific Grove, where three side-by-side storefronts present a variety of contemporary menswear, women’s clothing and shoes, and locally crafted merchandise.
Unique collections from local artists and artisans fill the beautifully designed Tides Gift Shop, while a plethora of color and creativity makes up the finds at Biba, a popular women’s clothing spot. Also not to be missed: Butterfly By The Sea. The butterfly-themed gift shop is a rare gem if you fancy works by local artists, painters, sculptors, and photographers.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Late-night soirées in lounges and DJ clubs are more of a Monterey thing, but that doesn’t stop Pacific Grove from being festive. Dance Jam Pacific Grove offers local dance and entertainment events (visit their Facebook page for detailed event listings).
More hometown community spirit comes to life at the Pacific Grove Hootenanny, a sing-along event at the Pacific Grove Arts Center. While you’re there, peruse local art and be sure to check out the center’s calendar for updated listings of art openings or mixers taking place during your stay.
Get your phone or camera ready for the mesmerizing views along the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail, especially at Lovers Point Park and Beach. Consider walking or biking east along the trail — the sites are remarkable eye candy, and the trail leads you nearly a mile away to Hopkins State Marine Reserve and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The western end of the path winds around the breathtaking coastline, and by the time you hit Asilomar State Beach, you’re bound to catch an ocean spray or two (and an eyeful of surfers).
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, which has held its own since 1883, is one of the country’s finest natural history museums. Learn more about rare birds, wildlife, plants, and geology here. It’s also the perfect spot to book a Monarch Butterfly Tour at the area’s pièce de résistance, the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, a preserve with pine, cypress, and eucalyptus trees sheltering thousands of monarch butterflies October through March.
Lovers Point Park and Beach.
Photo courtesy Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce.
Gold Old Days
Small town. Big festival. Actually, it’s one of the largest events of its kind in the county with a parade, live entertainment on five separate stages, myriad arts and crafts vendors, food booths, carnival rides, and a classic car show.
Feast of Lanterns
For more than 100 years Pacific Grove has celebrated its history and culture with this weeklong summer fest. It all culminates the last weekend of July where, at Lovers Point, a fabricated Chinese fable is re-enacted to much delight — plus an annual pet parade.
3 Questions For:
Owner, Fandango Restaurant
No. 1 thing to experience in Pacific Grove?
The beautiful scenery and golf course.
Favorite dish at Fandango?
Either the rack of lamb, paella, or scallops. These are three signature dishes at Fandango and overwhelming favorites.
When you’re not working, what do you love to do?
Stroll around downtown and Lovers Point Park and Beach.