Wanderlust: 48 Hours In Monterey

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Megan MacNee

By Megan MacNee (Guest Blogger)

When I first moved to Sacramento, I like many transplants had the initial feeling that I moved to the middle of nowhere. What I quickly began to realize was instead I moved to the middle of everywhere. Sacramento is the perfect home base for anyone looking to explore California and the Western U.S. The amount of places you can get to within a couple hour drive or flight seem endless.  

If I had to pick one destination for weekend trips from Sacramento it would have to be the Monterey area. Whether it’s the aquarium, beaches, wine country or food, there is always more to explore.

Monterey is just far enough away that staying Friday night makes a huge difference, especially if you aren’t good at getting an early start. If you can, leave mid-afternoon Friday or as soon as you’re off work. Pack an audiobook, good music and snacks for the ride.

Monterey Weekend - Aquarium
Monterey Weekend – Aquarium

Where to Stay

On the high end, but not always pricey, is the Hyatt Regency Monterey. This spot feels like you’re tucked away on a resort while just a couple miles out of downtown. The property includes pools, comfortable rooms and a fireplace lounge. Rooms run high in the summer, but you can find them on Priceline Express Deals for as low as $90. A perfect evening can be spent with a glass of bubbly, sitting by the fireplace and listening to the jazz bands in the lounge they have on weekends.

If you’re not as interested in glamor and prefer being closer to the water Lover’s Point Inn is a motel style property just off the bay in Pacific Grove where you are even more likely to find rooms around $100.

Monterey Weekend - Carmel Beach
Monterey Weekend – Carmel Beach

Where to Drink & Dine

Breakfast & Brunch

For a good breakfast, you can’t miss Lou Lou’s Griddle in the Middle. Their pancakes are bigger than their plates so you might want to share. A diner on the pier in Old Fisherman Wharf perfect for breakfast or lunch. Note that they are strict about switching to lunch at 11 am.

If you’re thinking about brunch head to Pacific Grove and visit the Red House Café. A restaurant tucked into an old house, with a beautiful backyard garden. Their weekend menu includes a crab cake benedict that is one of the best I’ve had.

Lunch & Snacks

Over in Carmel stop for lunch at Carmel Belle. A farm-to-fork café where you can find delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches that are more casual than what you’ll often find in Carmel.

Dinner & Drinks

The perfect spot for drinks and appetizers is the Taste of Monterey, a restaurant with a 180-degree view of the bay featuring wines from the region. Plop into one of their cozy chairs along the window; order a flight and appetizers or dessert.

If you’re looking for something a little elegant or romantic, I recommend Fandangos over in Pacific Grove. This French/Italian restaurant is tucked into an old house and each room is a little different. If you make a reservation for two you have a good chance of being seated by the fireplace. My favorites are their Caprese Salad and Salmon Fettuccini.

If you want something a little more casual swing by Gianni’s Pizza.  When you walk in you get the feel of an old school American Italian place, with red and white checkered table clothes, little wine glasses, and incredible food. Don’t forget to order some garlic bread, you’ll regret it if you don’t.

Monterey Weekend - Hahn Winery
Monterey Weekend – Hahn Winery

What to Do

You shouldn’t skip the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Watch the otters play, the sharks swim, and the anchovies in their giant schools. Take your time wandering around or hop on one of their tours. The tickets might not be cheap, but you are supporting a great research and wildlife organization. Even consider becoming a member if you want to come back later in the year.

One of my favorite places to wander in the area is Carmel-by-the-Sea. The main drag is full of art galleries, boutiques, and old buildings to explore. Right off the main drag at the beach is a beautiful view of Pebble Beach, but you’ll find even better views of the bay if you take a walk down Scenic Road. This street is one block up from the beach, when you first take it you will see houses, but walk a block or two for a better view and less crowded beaches.

Another great short walk is down to Lover’s Point Beach. This spot, right across from the Inn, has a beautiful view of the bay where you can walk along a trail and find seals lying all over the beach. At sunrise and sunset, this spot can produce some of the best color filled skies you can find.

Head into Wine Country

You can’t visit the Monterey area without hitting one of the many wine regions nearby. Drive out to Soledad Wine Country; take the Monterey Salinas Hwy (HWY 68). Pick up lunch from the Corral Market & Deli, they have delicious sandwiches and all the fixin’s you could need.

Take your lunch over to Hahn Family Winery. On their beautiful porch, you can enjoy your lunch while taking in the view across the Salinas Valley of the Pinnacle hills. You might have seen Hahn in stores, but at the winery you can taste from their three different labels and find something for anyone’s pallet.

Afterward, wander over to Wrath Winery. Closer to the bottom of the hill it has a different feel. They have a variety of Pinot Noir that are fun to try and compare. Grab a glass and sit in one of their deck chairs overlooking the pond on the property.

A Weekend Blending Exploring and Relaxing

For me, a trip to Monterey finds the balance of relaxing and checking out, while exploring something new. Just far enough away and different from Sacramento, but still within our reach, makes Monterey the perfect weekend getaway.

We have a habit of splurging a little in Monterey, but keep the costs down with the rooms. Overall the weekend cost us about $570 for two of us.

  • 2 Nights at the Hotel – $200
  • Drinks & Appetizers at Taste of Monterey – $35
  • Dinner at Gianni’s – $30
  • Breakfast at Lou Lou’s – $25
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Tickets – $80
  • Carmel Belle Lunch – $25
  • Splurge Dinner at Fandango’s – $120
  • Lunch at Corral Market – $15
  • Hahn Winery – Free as wine club members
  • Wrath – $40 or so buying a bottle

Did we miss any of your favorite Monterey area spots? Or do you have another weekend getaway you love? Let us know so we can add them to our to-do list.

From nine to five Megan works for a trade association here in Sacramento, but on evening and weekends spends time exploring the West Coast and more. All while encouraging others to join in on the adventures. You can also find Megan over at her personal blog Traveling Nine to Fiver. You can follow her on InstagramFacebook or Twitter

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