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Save Money, Have Fun With Kids in Monterey, CA

photo credit: Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau
photo credit: Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau

-Entertain the Kids without Selling the Farm, 401k or First Born-

MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIF. — Creative travelers know the value of a dollar when it comes to cash-strapped, time-starved vacations for the family.  Unleash that inner explorer with a quintessential California getaway – Monterey-style.  From economy-priced excursions to offbeat treks and nature adventures, this region can tee up with the best of them.  Cash in on this season’s top steals and deals with these timely treks.


1)      MY Museum – From harvesting faux crops and processing them through a giant maze machine to tweaking hand-eye coordination on the MY Go-Fore Golf Exhibit, this 8,500 sq. ft., menagerie of play is the top stop for families looking to tap off steam.  Kids can assist the x-ray tech in the MY Hospital exhibit, put together a play complete with costumes and makeup at MY Theatre and create sandcastles at MY Day at the Beach, a special arts and crafts area for kids under three.  New 11/2008.  $7.00 adults/$7.00 kids.  www.mymuseum.org.

 2)      Big Sur Guides Family Treasure Hunt – Strap on those boots and binoculars for a family outing certain to kick socks.  This new hike – kids go free – combines an easy excursion through the redwood forest and along the spectacular Pacific shoreline in search of lost treasures (strategically placed, of course) with prizes for the top hunters. “It’s the perfect mix of adventure and exercise,” says owner Steve Copeland. New 6/2009  $75.00/adults, kids free.  Lunch $15.00/person.  http://www.bigsurhikingguides.com.

 3)      Stand Up Paddle (S.U.P.) – Water lovers can tap into this exciting sport that is easy to grasp and achieve a sense of accomplishment.  Surfer Laird Hamilton’s newest thrill has now hit the waves running with classes in S.U.P. – or stand-up paddling.  The trend combines surfing with canoe-style paddling in a stand up position, exercising the core and sense of balance.  Learn to walk on water via classes covering the basics of balance, strokes and paddling techniques. New 2008. $55.00/person, including equipment. www.kayakconnection.com $50.00/person, including equipment.  www.adventuresbythesea.com.

 4)      Monterey Bay Aquarium/Secret Lives of Seahorses – What’s snouty, sexy and can change color in an instant?  April 6, 2009 marks the debut of the Secret Lives of Seahorses, showcasing 15 species of seahorses and a bevy of relatives including sea dragons, ribboned pipehorses, dragon pipefish and shrimpfish. Meander through four multimedia galleries and discover how these shy and secretive animals grow up, attract mates and give birth—this is the only family in the animal kingdom in which the males get pregnant!  New 4/2009.  New: Make ocean-friendly seafood choices via the Aquarium’s new iPhone application housing instant Seafood Watch recommendations (free).  $29.95/adult, $17.95 (kids 3-12).  www.montereybayaquarium.org.

 5)      Astronomy Hikes/Pinnacles National Monument – Get into the wild with an evening exploring the home of the California Condor and Townsend Big-Eared Bat.  Seasonal guided night hikes at Pinnacles National Monument kick off with a moderate 1.6-mile trek along the Balconies Trail followed by a sky talk and telescopic views of the heavens courtesy of Hartnell Planetarium and Astronomy Department.  Located off Highway 101 outside of Soledad, the 23 million-year old volcanic rock formations and hidden talus caves that make up the Pinnacles offer an inside look at nature at its naked best.  Free.  www.nps.gov/pinn.

 6)         Tee Time on a Dime – Who says Pebble Beach requires a down-payment?  Just across the street from the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links lies the Peter Hay Golf Course, an executive nine-hole, 27-par gem delivering great scenery and manicured greens, with the longest hole – #7 – tapping out at 104 yards.  Added bonus:  It’s just a hop to The Tap Room for some adult post-game chill and swill.  $25.00/round.  www.pebblebeach.com.  Other greenback deals for families: Laguna Seca Golf Ranch fires things up with a stunning 71-par, 6161-yard dream course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Jr., overlooking the scenic Santa Lucia Mountains.   Teens can tackle the course’s 13-acre natural grass practice facility (voted Monterey County’s finest) before going green.  $65.00/round.  www.lagunasecagolf.com.  Pacific Grove sports the “poor man’s Pebble Beach” – Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links – with an incredible back nine fronting the Pacific.  $40.00 round/midweek; junior can tee up for just $20.00.  www.pacificgrove.org.

 7)      Salinas Rodeo – Pack those cowboy boots and saddle up the family for the 99th Annual California Rodeo Salinas – an edge-of-your-seat thrill set in Steinbeck Country.  Free and definitely frivolous are the two Rodeo Horse Parades held in Old Town Salinas with 300+ prancing steeds topped with costumed riders.  On tap throughout the week are top pro competitions in steer wrestling, bull riding, tie-down roping, bareback bronc riding and barrel racing.  July 16-19, 2009. $13.00/adults, $7.00 (kids 12/under).  www.carodeo.com.

8)         Earthbound Farms – Get downright dirty with all things squirmy via a Bug Walk or mix it up with a local chef or florist at Earthbound Farm, the nation’s largest producer of organic greens.  Flowers, herbs and vegetables steal the show on 30 sun-drenched acres in Carmel Valley.  Saturdays are a true beehive of activity; morning tours start at 11:00 a.m.  (May – September).  $5.00/child. http://www.ebfarm.com/.

 9)    Lighthouse Tours – Set on the edge of the Pacific, Monterey County boasts two stunning light houses, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In Pacific Grove, Point Pinos Lighthouse (1855) holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating light house on the West Coast. Make a day of it by renting bikes on Cannery Row and hitting the Recreation Trail to Pacific Grove, then circle back with a scenic 17-Mile Drive loop.  For a more offbeat excursion, catch a star-studded peek of historic Point Sur Lighthouse via the seasonal moonlight tours.  A silent sentinel to a by-gone era, Point Sur Lighthouse is the only complete turn-of-the-century light station open to the public in the Golden State.  Built in 1887-1889, this stone lighthouse still guides ships through an automated system.  The one-mile hike rising 360 feet in elevation delivers an eerie tale of ghosts and lost souls of the sea.   April – October.  $15.00/$10.00 adults/children. www.pointsur.org.  $2.00/donation. www.pgmuseum.org.

 10) Outdoor Forest Theater – Carmel has a wealth of alfresco charms, from dog-friendly beaches to scouting some 40+ courtyards, each with its distinct character.  As the sun sets, families can tap into another adventure – the Outdoor Forest Theater.  Pack a picnic and fleece for seasonal screenings of Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Jurassic Park and Horton Hears a Who at the oldest outdoor community theater West of the Rockies.  It’s hard to beat the fresh scent of pine trees and crashing surf, even if Gidget is in a skimpy suit.  May 26 – July 22.  $6.00.   www.foresttheaterguild.org.


                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, 25 golf courses and over 200 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).  www.SeeMonterey.com.


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