If you knew that the most beautiful hiking trails and picturesque views were just a car-ride away from home would you go? Pacific Grove, Monterey’s lesser-known neighbor, truly has it all: hiking, views, and family-friendly fun. It’s time to throw the kids in the car and head to Pacific Grove, aka “Butterfly town USA,” for a family fun-packed weekend.
When to go: Year-round. It’s best to go in the summer for outdoor activities and in the winter to see the butterflies.
Travel time: Pacific Grove is located 115 miles south of San Francisco.
What to see/do: Asilomar Beach is great for tidepooling with the little ones but Point Lobos State Reserve has so much to offer for all ages, it’s a definite must-see in Pacific Grove. Get a $1 map from the park ranger and stroll down the kid-friendly trails with the littles, keep your eyes open for wildlife (adorable sea lions, otters, and even deer) and enjoy the breathtaking views of the coast. Don’t forget your camera and keep the kids away from poison oak!
For a little history (and if it’s too cold on the trails), bring the kids to the beautifully restored Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, and visit the charming Museum of Natural History — free and small enough for kiddos to enjoy– which features tons of stuffed animals, and even whale bones!
Possible lunch spots: Voted best breakfast place in Monterey County since 2006, First Awakenings has an enormous selection of eggs, omelettes, pancakes (try wheat germ or go for the delicious berry, banana, walnut or raspberry-coconut pancakes –Yum!). They also carry a variety of salads and sandwiches to make the whole family happy. After, stop by Patisserie Bechler for a look at impressive wedding cakes and have the fam share a pastry or a cake. Pizza fanatics should head to Pizza My Way, for some gourmet goodness.
How to dress: It tends to be windy by the coast and it can also get foggy in the summer, so bring some layers and comfortable shoes for the hike.
Bonus: Pacific Grove hosts two festivals every year: “Feast of Lanterns” in July and the “Butterfly Parade” the first weekend of October.
Where to stay: If you’re thinking of spending the night, Pacific Gardens Inn with its family rooms and suite and its close proximity to Asilomar Beach is perfect for a family stay. Looking for something more romantic? Then splurge on the gorgeous Victorian Centrella Inn, a National Historic Landmark built in 1889.
Cost of trip: Cheap to moderate, depending on if you stay the night.
Online: pacificgrove.org and seemonterey.com/pacific-grove-california
– Anne Sheldon