Monterey County (What’s New And Noteworthy)

STEWARDS OF THE SEA: Monterey Bay Aquarium delivers adventures for the eyes with new $19 million debut of “The Open Sea” (fall/2011).  On tap at this new exhibit is the vast world of the deep open sea featuring sandbar sharks, rays and deep-sea jellies in a sweeping realm of rhythms in a million-gallon tank.  Tuning up for 2012 and the 45th anniversary of San Francisco’s “Summer of Love,”  “The Jellies Experience” opens March 31st showcasing 16 species of graceful drifters that dance, pulse and glow in a multi-sensory six exhibit show.  

PASS THE PINOT… NEW: CARMEL WINE WALK BY-THE-SEA combines the pleasures of the Pacific with a tight combo of 12 wine tasting options laced within four tasty blocks.  New venues include Wrath Wines in a sleek setting comparable to its single vineyard tasting from the Santa Luca Highlands (SLH); Caraccioli Cellars raises the bar with a stellar selection of SLH sparkling wines and evening hours in a salon-like setting while Figge Cellars sports top-flight tastings inside one of Carmel’s 100+ galleries

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: Unleash that inner animal with a stay in a tricked-out safari bungalow at Vision Quest Ranch , a one-of-a-kind bed & breakfast where resident elephants deliver breakfast.  This magical site, tucked deep in Steinbeck Country on 50 acres, has recently doubled its capacity to eight bungalows, allowing room for guests with children (4+). Next door, Wild Things , an exotic animal training facility and sanctuary with 100+ critters, is breaking ground on a larger ranch layout for its wild kingdom, as well as extended hours (early/2012).

NEW HAUTE SPOTS FIRE UP THE STOVES: Fork in hand, foodies on the fast track for an epicurean adventure have good reason to dig into Monterey County. New: The minds behind Pebble Beach Food & Wine kick up the heat with Restaurant 1833 , a 164-seat gem set in an historic adobe featuring top-flight mixology and menu notables such as family-style whole roasted lobe of foie gras ($200) deftly prepared by chef Levi Mezick.  In Carmel, Salumeria Luca takes dried meats to an ethereal state in an authentic Italian deli setting while Vesuvio restaurant and rooftop Starlight 65 degree lounge cranks things up along the Pacific. Hot Stops: Big Sur Chanterelle Festival (Feb.), Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions (May), Castroville Artichoke Festival (May).

ROMANTIC ROMPS WITH A NATURAL TWIST:  Fan the Flames this February with a round-up of romantic jaunts spotlighting the region’s natural assets.  1) Floating Safari & Aphrodisiac Dinner, 2) Tandem Kayak & Bagpiper Bliss; 3) Poet’s Passion & Beach Bonfire, 4) Romance in the Redwoods & Tub for Two and, 5) Ponies & Privacy. Info: . Round out a visit with a few pop icons: Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein showcased at the Monterey Museum of Art through February.

TEE UP TO DEALS & STEALS:  Sure Monterey County sports the holy grail of golf, but tee times at courses rich in history, stirring scenery and club-throwing challenge can be had without the requisite down payment.  The Short List:  Pacific Grove Golf LinksGolf magazine’s “top 50 courses under $50,” Laguna Seca Golf Ranch , Black Horse Golf Course , Poppy Hills Golf Course and Rancho Canada Golf Club are all sure bets for well under a Benjamin.

WORK IT OUT:  Similar to singing for your supper, Walk the Bay is the new trend showcasing Monterey Bay in a beach trek, inn-to-inn getaway. Fitness buffs can tap into a training session with Spartan Death Race winner Joe Decker via the Gut Check Fitness boot camps in Carmel Valley.  More trivial pursuits can be had at the 88-par Ryan Ranch Disc Golf Center in Monterey. Surf’s up with new Carmel Surf Lessons , $100 provides all the equipment and instruction from local surf guru Noah Greenberg. Monterey County is beloved by runners, who travel from around the world to participate in the Big Sur International Marathon (April/2012); throw in the spectacular 28-mile Monterey Bay Recreation trail that spans from Marina to Pacific Grove and it’s easy to see why the area is nationally acclaimed for runners of all levels.

BIG SUR BLISS: The buzz around Big Sur continues with the film adaptation of Kerouac’s Big Sur due to debut starring Kate Bosworth and Henry Miller Memorial Library’s annual summer concert series ramping up for 2012 following its recent showcase of Arcade Fire and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Add to that a new (2011) bevy of chic little cabins set along the Big Sur river retooled with a green sensibility.  The 22-room Glen Oaks Big Sur delivers a crisp combo of lodging options swathed in recycled stone floors, natural woods, and top-of-the-line bedding – and of course towering redwoods.  Opt for guestroom #12, which features an indoor/outdoor gas fireplace overlooking the courtyard.

COUNTER COUTURE: Travelers looking to swipe their cards are in for a bevy of shopping experiences in Monterey County. Back by popular demand, Stella Page Designs has reopened its doors in the charming village of Moss Landing.  This boutique offers exclusive designer hand bags that have graced Hollywood A-listers such as Angelina Jolie.  Upgrade your home to a stylish, eco-friendly living space at Homescapes , in the Carmel Plaza shopping center.  This sustainable home and garden Mecca imports furniture from around the world with diverse styles, textures and materials. Looking to spice things up? Head to the Northridge Mall in Salinas, where shoppers can enjoy Latino-inspired entertainment on the weekends such as mariachi music and traditional dancers.

GOT AN APP-ETITE? Techie travelers can download the new mobile application, “Explore Monterey,” free at .


Monterey County is located 120 miles/192 km south of San Francisco and 345 miles/552 km north of Los Angeles along the classic California corridor.  The region boasts 99 miles of prime Pacific Coastline, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, three historic missions, 40,000 acres of premium vineyards, 24 golf courses and over 250 lodging properties.  Monterey County includes the Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, North County and the Salinas Valley.  The Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY), just three miles from historic downtown Monterey and minutes from the area’s major attractions, is served by non-stop flights to and from Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Phoenix (PHX), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN) and San Francisco (SFO).