Monterey vacation with a toddler
June 26, 2015 7:50 AM   Subscribe

What are toddler-friendly things to do in the Monterey area?

Our son is almost 2. Our family of three will be going to Monterey for six days in July and are looking for ideas of toddler-friendly things to see and do around Monterey. I have never been to the area before. Our kiddo has never seen the ocean.

We are flying in and out of San Jose, so suggestions for stops along the way would be great. We are considering cutting our stay in Monterey short and checking out another place for a few days too, so thoughts on that are welcome. The kiddo is not that great in the car, so I'd like to avoid driving a few hours out of the way if possible, though we might do it once or twice.

What (besides the aquarium) are the best toddler-friendly things to do in the area? What are good family-friendly places to eat?
posted by whimwit to Travel & Transportation around Monterey, CA (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The aquarium is a great choice. Go to Fisherman's Wharf. You can see otters and sea lions from FW, the aquarium, and all along the road in Monterey/Pacific Grove. If you want, pay to get into Pebble Beach and marvel at the multimillion dollar homes and great beach views. Although the ocean views are just as good from Monterey/PG/Carmel and the houses in PG and Carmel are neat to look at also. Archie's American Diner near the aquarium is a good place to get breakfast or a burger, it has an across-the-street ocean view and you can draw on the tablecloth.

You could consider a whale-watching trip (several hours) or a sailboat ride to get up close with the otters.

If you want to take a break, your toddler can play at Dennis the Menace Park.

You can drive south on Highway One through Big Sur. The views are spectacular (high cliffs here). There are not many amenities but there are a few state parks and a couple of pricy restaurants. It is well worth driving the hour or so to Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP. There is a short walk under the road to the incredibly beautiful McWay Falls.

There are some places you can see redwoods, either Pfeiffer Big Sur or Henry Cowell Redwoods state park are two good ones.
posted by tracer at 8:14 AM on June 26, 2015

Children's museum! Our 2 year old had a great time here a couple of weeks ago. We went back every day.
posted by yogalemon at 8:52 AM on June 26, 2015

Best answer: As a toddler, I remember enjoying Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz (there are a few others that might be good for kids closer to Monterey, like Lovers Point in Pacific Grove or Carmel Beach). It might be fun to bike along the bike path by the ocean with him in a child's seat on your bike. I think it starts in PG but then goes fairly far south.
posted by three_red_balloons at 9:04 AM on June 26, 2015

In San Jose proper, I highly recommend the Children's Discovery Museum. I have great memories of going there myself, and have enjoyed rediscovering it with my niece and nephews. Maybe a nice place to tire out your son after the plane ride and before the drive over the hills to Monterey? I've also heard good things about the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose, but have never been myself.
posted by Jaclyn at 9:29 AM on June 26, 2015

Best answer: My kids love Monterey, and we've never even made it the children's museum or Dennis the Menace Park. One thing to look at is buying a family membership to the aquarium instead of day passes -- you break even pretty quickly if you go over multiple days (which is much easier with a toddler, the place is huge and has multiple areas intended for little kids, but of course they wear out quickly). The membership cost is tax-deductible, unlike daily entry fees, plus you get to go in the short line. We always buy a membership even though we only take one Monterey trip a year.

Cannery Row is kind of a bust with my kids but they love Fisherman's Wharf, the farmer's market, the history walking tour, the public gardens, and those goofy bike surreys that run along the shore. My husband and I resisted those until the end of our trip, but the kids loved it so much that we wished we'd done it sooner.
posted by xeney at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2015

Oh, and I also have a kid who is not good in the car, and the beautiful but windy and slow Highway 1 route is absolutely miserable for her. We love it ourselves, but try to avoid it for now. Pre kids we liked to go up and down the coast but for now we tend to stay near the wharf, park our car in the hotel garage, and not use it until it's time to leave. The Monterey city buses are pretty good and my kids enjoy them.
posted by xeney at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2015

Best answer: Go to Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, it's just down the road. We took my toddler-age nephews there, and they would happily have spent 12 hours just playing in the sand and dabbling in the waves and looking for critters in tidepools.

You can get a LOT of quality standing-around time watching the kid play on the beach.

Also, walk along the really nice pedestrian trail along the shoreline west of Monterey proper: it's quite nice and you can watch for dolphins and sea otters.

Go to Point Lobos State Park. Again, great views, many opportunities to look for sea otters and play along the shoreline.
posted by suelac at 12:48 PM on June 26, 2015

Santa Cruz Boardwalk has a kids section.
posted by gudrun at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2015

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