Get Outta Town: Monterey Day Trip

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Martinez

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Martinez

Looking for an easy getaway with great sites and delicious eateries? As a local from the San Francisco Bay area, you already know about one of our most popular gems — Monterey. It’s famous for Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium as well as 17-Mile Drive, which winds through Pebble Beach into Carmel-by-the-Sea and back again. It’s perfect for a day-trip, or even a short overnight stay with or without kids.

Avoid the Traffic
If you like the route from Highway 17 to Highway 1, leave before 10 AM. During the warmer seasons, beach traffic on Highway 1 can be more stop than go.

Stop to Shop
An alternate and less crowded route is 101 South, which also provides a little shopping distraction at the Gilroy Outlets. From 101 South, take 156 through Castroville or cross through Salinas into Monterey. On the way, you’ll pass Laguna Seca and Tarpy’s Roadhouse. This journey is longer yet less windy, which may make it easier for those with little ones who get carsick.

Dinner on the Way Back
On the way back to the Peninsula, Highway 1 North through Aptos and Santa Cruz offers you the option of stopping for dinner on the way home.

Eatery Ideas
Bring-your-own-lunch is a fun family activity as there are many places to relax and enjoy a casual picnic. For a special treat, visit the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop on Cannery Row. They have inside and outside seating, which is perfect for larger parties or strollers. On the way home through the beach cities, stop at Manuel’s (fun Mexican food) or The Crow’s Nest (for a little music and a view).

Watch the ocean break and scuba divers congregate at San Carlos Beach Park or visit Dennis the Menace Park for an exhausting time with the kids. Wonderful play structures with lots of choices keeps little ones occupied and you on your feet for a couple of hours. There are grassy shaded areas perfect for a blanket picnic as well as picnic tables if desired. Benches surround the park for arm’s-length supervision. Parking is free.

Take a stroll down Cannery Row, stopping for your favorite tourist gear or wine tastings at the Bargetto Winery tasting room, and finish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The website offers plenty of tips for when to visit (check out the FAQs like “Best times to avoid crowds”) and hotel packages for those that do want to stay overnight). Their free mobile app (only available in the App Store) is also a great option for the frequent visitor.

Best time to visit?
Consider the season. During the colder months, the traffic is reduced but the misty fog might get to you. While nice weather makes for a beautiful drive, it also increases traffic on either route. So if a getaway is in the works during warmer weather, get the kids up early, load up with coffee in hand, and take off for an adventure of great sites and tasty foods. Enjoy!


Kelsey Combellick is a career-loving parent who is passionate about travel, food, wine and her family.  Email her at

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