Family Vacations to Monterey

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Monterey – Family Vacation Guide

It’s a perfect destination if you’re looking to show your family some iconic coastal California scenery and it is bursting with activities for and sights for the entire family.

Why Go

  • Monterey County is a beautiful destination on the central coast of California, known for it’s jaw dropping beauty.
  • With towns like Monterey, Pacific Grove, Big Sur, Salinas, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and more there’s sure to be something for everyone to enjoy.
  • There are plenty of big name hotels that are family-friendly in the area, as well as many quaint seaside motels that will take you back to simpler times.

What to Do

There is so much to do in Monterey, that you may need a lifetime to do it all, but here are some of our favorites:


  • Probably the most iconic drive in all of California, 17-Mile Drive is a 17-mile stretch along the coast through the most beautiful scenery and stunning mansions, some belonging to celebrities and other rich and famous Californians. There is a $10 entrance fee that is well worth it. You can exit and reenter throughout the day. I suggest going from Pacific Grove to Carmel-by-the-Sea and then back up again. You can see the Lone Cypress here that has been growing on a cliff rock for over 250 years! Kids will love the beaches along 17-Mile Drive. Take a picnic and stop to play at the nearly untouched beaches.
  • Upon exiting 17-Mile Drive you can hop on Route 1 and drive down the coast. Just like 17-Mile, it’s a stunning drive. There isn’t much between Carmel and Big Sur, so grab snacks and a good playlist and head on down! Luckily there are about 100 porta-potties between Monterey and Big Sur. This is where you will see the famous Bixby Bridge. Kids will love the windy roads, be sure to drive with the windows down.
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  • Big Sur Station is an adorable town nestled in a redwood forest. Stop and grab a bite to eat or hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Kids will love having a picnic by the town Library.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea is quaint European village meets California surf town. You can stroll along the adorable streets and stop to shop, dine, or head to the beautiful sandy beach. The best part might just be imagining that one of those charming houses is yours. Kids will love the cute candy shop!
  • Pacific Grove is a small, whimsical town just north of Monterey. Wander main street, stop in quirky shops and charming cafes and wander the coastal walk around the Point Pinos Lighthouse.  Kids will love the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary.
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Carmel Mission

This mission was the headquarters of the Alta California missions founded by Saint Junípero Serra and founded in 1771. Stop in and learn about their importance in the colonization and founding of the state of California. Father Serra, who was recently canonized in 2015 as a Saint in the Catholic church, is buried here. Kids will love the fountain, open courtyard, and antique children’s artifacts.

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Activities for the Family

  • Dennis the Menace Playground: This will undoubtedly be a favorite for the kids! Dennis the Menace playground is no ordinary playground. A community favorite since the 1950s, this huge park has provided over half a century of entertainment for kids.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium: This will probably be the most incredible aquarium you’ve ever seen. It is massive and so well done. Kids will love the jellyfish, touch pools, and the wave room.
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Fisherman's Wharf

This is a fun place to hang out, people watch and grab a bite to eat. Kids will also love watching the seals.

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Go to the Beach

Monterey has some of the best beaches in California. Hitting the beach makes the perfect family day out. Even if it’s a little chilly, don’t skip going for a dip in the Pacific.

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Getting Around

The closest international airports are San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco. Getting around Monterey is best done in a car. There is so much to see in such a large area, and many of the attractions are actually “drives.”

If you’re coming to California, don’t skip Monterey. It’s a lovely place with fun and excitement if you want it and relaxation and nature if you want it. It’s the best of both worlds!

Vanessa Hunt is a full-time traveling mama who is passionate about world-schooling and food. You can find her sharing all about her travels with her family of six (her four children are 4, 7, 9 and 11), as well as her favorite recipes at WanderlustCrew.

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