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Guide to Monterey for Families

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Monterey is perfect for families! The Cannery Row area is compact, with lots to do and see, including plenty of kid-friendly food options — and of course the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. A short drive from there, you can wow the kids with spectacular outdoor wonders including tide pools, whale watching, and sailing cruises!

Good for
  • Family
  • History Buff
  • Nature Lover
  • Foodie
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Beach Goer
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

12 Places

4 City Tips

Print
Map

12 Places

Cannery Row

Points of Interest & Landmarks, Historic Walking Areas, Historic Sites

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Aquariums

Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

Restaurants

Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail

Biking Trails

Adventures by the Sea

Bike Tours, Eco Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Private Tours

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Restaurants

Princess Monterey Whale Watching

Dolphin & Whale Watching

Old Fisherman's Wharf

Piers & Boardwalks, Neighbourhoods

Dennis the Menace Park

Parks

Point Pinos Lighthouse

Lighthouses

Monterey County Youth Museum

Speciality Museums

cara f's City Tips

  • Check the weather! Monterey can be cool and foggy or sunny and hot — sometimes all on the same day. It's wise to travel with layers and sunscreen.
  • Before you go, make a list of everyone's "must do" sights, so that you can prioritize your time or renegotiate along the way.
  • Parking can be difficult in downtown Monterey. If you get stuck, the Cannery Row garage is close to the aquarium and charges a flat fee to park all day.
  • If you have adventurous eaters, this is a perfect place to try some fresh seafood — and don't forget to pick up some saltwater taffy while you're out and about!
  • Cannery Row
    Points of Interest & Landmarks, Historic Walking Areas, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    Cannery Row is the heart of Monterey past and present. Beloved writer John Steinbeck beautifully captures this area's lively past in his 1945 novel by the same name, which was largely based on Steinbeck's experiences growing up nearby, and his adventures with 'Doc' Ricketts, a local marine biologist. Walking along Cannery Row, you will see many murals and plaques that commemorate both Steinbeck's work and the area's history as a hub of the fishing industry.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • If you can, read Cannery Row as a family before you visit. It's a beautiful story and it will build some excitement about the history of this area.
    • Monterey is very casual and you will do a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 80 things to do in Monterey
    • TOURIST TRAP!!! 09/06/2021
    • Fair restaurants. 06/06/2021
    • Cannery Row
    Address:
    Cannery Row & Wave Streets
    700 Cannery Row
    Monterey, CA 93940
    Phone:
    +1 831-649-6690
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    12:00 a.m. - 11:59 p.m.
    Other:
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
    Aquariums
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    It is no surprise that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the most popualr things to do and see in Monterey. The combination of world-class facilities, exotic animals, and state-of-the-art displays will just take your breath away. From petting pools and penguins to sharks and furry sea lions, there is something fascinating for everyone here.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Kids (and big kids) love watching the animals at feeding time (the penguins are especially adorable!). Feedings usually happen twice a day, so check the schedules.
    • The aquarium can get very busy — go first thing on a weekday for the calmest experience.
    • Don't miss the "Splash Zone," a special interactive aquarium experience.
    • The cafeteria inside the aquarium has a great selection, reasonable prices, and quick service.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 80 things to do in Monterey
    • So glad I was finally able to experience this aquarium! 20/06/2021
    • Even better a generation later! 18/06/2021
    • Monterey Bay Aquarium
    Address:
    886 Cannery Row
    Monterey, CA 93940-1085
    Phone:
    +1 831-648-4800
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Other:
  • Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
    Restaurants (American)
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    During the Gold Rush days, Italian-born Domingo Ghirardelli, noticing that gold miners needed some luxuries on which to spend their gold dust, opened a confectionary shop in San Francisco. Ghirardelli chocolate has been a California tradition ever since, and the Cannery Row shop makes for an ideal family treat. A delicious ice cream sundae with amazing ocean views? Talk about a cherry on top!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • The chocolate squares are Ghirardelli's signature item. Stock up on them to enjoy later!
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 239 restaurants in Monterey
    • Awesome Chocolate Delicacies! 19/06/2021
    • Still as good as ever! 21/05/2021
    • Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
    Address:
    660 Cannery Row
    Monterey, CA 93940-1055
    Phone:
    +1 831-373-0997
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
    Mon - Thu
    12:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
    Fri
    1:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
    Sat
    11:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
    Other:
  • Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail
    Biking Trails
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    The Monterey Recreational Trail is a multi-use paved trail that goes from Seaside through Monterey and onto Pacific Grove. Rent a bikes or a surrey and cruise along.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The most scenic part of the recreational trail is from Cannery Row to Lover's Point, about 3 miles round trip.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 80 things to do in Monterey
    • QUITE A WALK 02/03/2021
    • 18 miles of Monterey Scenic Beauty 23/08/2020
    • Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail
    Phone:
    +1 831-646-3866
    Other:
  • Adventures by the Sea
    Bike Tours, Eco Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Private Tours
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    Monterey is chock-full of outdoor adventures, and there are a variety of companies where you can rent everything from bikes to kayaks to stand-up paddleboards. Choose your activity and have a fun family outing!

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Beach Goer
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Monterey municipal beach is a great place to kayak with the kids. It's got calm surf and a wide sandy beach.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 56 Outdoor Activities in Monterey
    • Fun for the Entire Family 14/06/2021
    • 17 Mile Private Bike Tour 19/05/2021
    • Adventures by the Sea
    Address:
    299 Cannery Row
    Monterey, CA 93940-1442
    Phone:
    +1 831-372-1807
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
    Sat - Sun
    9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
    Other:
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
    Restaurants (American, Seafood, Contemporary)
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    Themed after the acclaimed film Forrest Gump, Bubba Gump is a fun-filled restaurant that caters to families. The movie-themed decor is entertaining, and the menu, featuring everything from popcorn shrimp and fish tacos to chicken strips and pizza, has options for adult palates and fussy eaters alike. Delicious view of the bay add to the fun.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Bubba Gump has a gluten-free menu for those with dietary restrictions.
    • Kids will love the table signs, which say "Run Forrest Run" when you don't need anything, or "Stop Forrest Stop" if you need your server's attention.
    • Try to sit out on the patio for the best bay views. (You're more likely to get tables here if you come for lunch or an early supper.)
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #56 of 239 restaurants in Monterey
    • Great food and service 29/05/2021
    • Better than we expected for a chain restaurant 21/05/2021
    • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
    Address:
    720 Cannery Row
    Monterey, CA 93940-1025
    Phone:
    +1 831-373-1884
    Price range:
    US$25 - US$25
    Hours:
    Mon - Thu
    11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
    Fri - Sun
    11:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
    Other:
  • Princess Monterey Whale Watching
    Dolphin & Whale Watching
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    Monterey Bay is one of the best spots for whale watching in California. Nearly every month of the year, some species is migrating through the bay, so (depending on luck and the time of year) you might see see humpbacks, grays, blues, fins, orcas, and more. And that's to say nothing of the abundance of other resident marine animals, such as otters, sea lions, and ocean birds.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Although whale watching is a great family adventure, kids generally have to be older than 5 to go out on a tour, and pregnant women are not allowed.
    • Book your tickets, and then spend some time at the Fisherman's Wharf while you wait for your cruise.
    • Book ahead in the off season, as fewer cruises per day are available.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 28 Boat Tours & Water Sports in Monterey
    • Summer vacation 22/06/2021
    • Amazing 19/06/2021
    • Princess Monterey Whale Watching
    Address:
    96 Fishermans Wharf # 1
    Monterey, CA 93940-2429
    Phone:
    +1 831-372-2203
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
    Other:
  • Old Fisherman's Wharf
    Piers & Boardwalks, Neighbourhoods
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    The Old Fisherman's Wharf is a crazy, noisy, colorful collection of shops, restaurants, and amusements. In short, it's the perfect place for some boisterous family fun! Shop for souvenirs and gifts, grab a snack, or have a full sit-down meal — it's all here.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Sea lions love to hang out among the boats that are docked. Count how many you can see!
    • Stop into Carousel Candy for some saltwater taffy!
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 80 things to do in Monterey
    • Visitors' Treat! 22/06/2021
    • Fun to Visit 14/06/2021
    • Old Fisherman's Wharf
    Phone:
    +1 831-649-6544
    Other:
  • Dennis the Menace Park
    Parks
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    Situated in El Estero Park, Dennis the Menace Playground is an ideal place to picnic and then play off some energy. Definitely one of the coolest parks in existence, it was designed by the creator of Dennis the Menace and boasts lots of fantastic slides, tunnels, and attractions. It's long been a local favorite and chances are you will see as many locals as tourists.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • El Estero Park offers a number of other entertainments as well. Older kids will enjoy the skate park, and there is also an outdoor exercise course and a ballpark were you can toss around a softball.
    • You can fish in the lake (a fishing license is required), or rent paddle boats.
    • The park is a birdwatcher's paradise.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 80 things to do in Monterey
    • Easy to fins picnic spot with parking. 23/11/2020
    • Picnic Lunch at Dennis the Menace Park, Monterey, CA 27/05/2020
    • Dennis the Menace Park
    Address:
    Pearl Street and Camino El Estero
    Monterey, CA
    Phone:
    +1 831-646-3866
    Other:
  • Point Pinos Lighthouse
    Lighthouses
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    Built in 1855 and one of six lighthouses on the coast, Point Pinos is a charming, petite model perched on the edge of Pacific Grove, near Lover's Point. Tours are limited, but even it the lighthouse is not open, it's worth walking around to take in the beautiful architecture. The tide pools below the lighthouse are excellent and there is a lot to see even at high tide.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • If the tide is low, go out and play in the tide pools. There are so many living beings to see (but please ask the kiddies to refrain from touching the creatures!).
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 39 things to do in Pacific Grove
    • Classic California Lighthouse 31/12/2020
    • Historic and Still Functional Lighthouse - Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove, Ca 25/05/2020
    • Point Pinos Lighthouse
    Address:
    80 Asilomar Blvd
    Pacific Grove, CA 93950-2015
    Phone:
    +1 831-648-5716
    Price range:
    US$2 - US$2
    Hours:
    Sun - Mon
    1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    Thu - Fri
    1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    Sat
    10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    Other:
  • Monterey County Youth Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    cara f Says:

    The Youth Museum is more of a party place than stuffy museum, with nearly a dozen hands-on, interactive exhibits. It's mostly geared towards kids aged two to nine, but there is enough fun to keep the whole family interested.

    Good for
    • Family
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Look for special "Make-n-Take" mornings, when the kids can create a special project and take it home.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #25 of 80 things to do in Monterey
    • Great Safe Place for Play Time 15/01/2019
    • For crafters 21/11/2018
    • Monterey County Youth Museum
    Address:
    425 Washington St
    Monterey, CA 93940-3023
    Phone:
    +1 831-649-6444
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