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Monterey: Recreation


Monterey's Cannery Row, popularized by the books of Nobel and Pulitzer award winner John Steinbeck, is one of America's most famous streets. Today Cannery Row features a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions, including American Tin Cannery Premium Outlets and A Taste of Monterey Wine Tasting Room. The Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards overlooks Steinbeck Plaza and offers a panoramic view of Monterey Bay and Cannery Row. Steinbeck's Spirit of Monterey Wax Museum recreates the history of Cannery Row through life-sized characters and narration. The Edgewater Family Fun Center, across from the Cannery, has the area's largest video arcade, a snack bar, old-time photos, a magic shop, and bike and surrey rentals. Other amusements in Cannery Row include a shop which rents reproductions of old roadster convertibles, an old-fashioned portrait studio, and a ceramic painting studio.

Fisherman's Wharf and Wharf #2 stretch side-by-side into the Monterey Harbor. Fisherman's Wharf is lined with seafood restaurants, fish markets, art galleries, shops, candy stores, a theater, and fish and diving companies. Municipal Wharf #2 is a working fish pier where commercial fishing boats can be seen unloading their daily catch. On holidays, the fisherman often decorate their craft with colorful strings of lights.

Cannery Row's Monterey Bay Aquarium features marine life ranging from playful sea otters to drifting jellyfish, octopuses, giant ocean sunfish, green sea turtles, swirling yellow-fin tuna, and hundreds of other creatures. A recent addition is a white shark, the only one on exhibit in the world. Slated for a May 2005 opening is a new exhibit entitled,"Ocean's Edge: Coastal Habitats of Monterey Bay." The aquarium showcases the largest ocean sanctuary in the United States in a three-story-tall living kelp forest, the million-gallon Outer Bay exhibit, a jellyfish gallery, expanded touch pools, and dozens more recently renovated galleries and exhibits.

Monterey State Historic Park downtown marks the spot where the U.S. flag was first officially raised on July 7, 1846, heralding California's statehood. Ten buildings, including the Custom House, California's first theater, and several former 1830s residences, now museums, preserve the area's heritage.

Tours are available of Colton Hall, a local landmark from the time when Monterey was the capital of Alta California. The hall was built to serve as a public school and town meeting hall and now is a museum. California's first Constitution was drafted there 150 years ago.

Visitors to the area enjoy whale watching (best in winter) and fishing trips. Other popular tours departing from Monterey can be guided or self-guided. Wine tasting, sightseeing, and agricultural education tours are available, as well as movie tours of scenes from popular movies filmed in the area. Point Pios Lighthouse at the northernmost tip of the Monterey Peninsula is open for guided tours. The 17-mile drive along the coast through Pebble Beach affords spectacular views of rugged coastline and animals in their natural habitats.

Arts and Culture

The Monterey Museum of Art has a fine collection of early Christian, Asian, American folk, ethnic, and tribal art. It also offers photographic exhibits and rotating exhibits of major American artists. The museum is housed in two facilities, Pacific Street and La Mirada. Pacific Street, located across from Colton Hall in the historic center of Monterey, includes eight galleries as well as the Buck Education Center and Library. The Monterey Museum of Art at La Mirada is situated in one of Monterey's oldest neighborhoods and is surrounded by magnificent gardens and picturesque stone walls. It began as a two-room adobe structure and later became an elegant home where international and regional celebrities were entertained. Visitors today experience the same exquisitely furnished home and spectacular rose and rhododendron gardens. Visitors view the museum's permanent collection and changing exhibitions in four contemporary galleries, including the Dart Wing designed by renowned architect Charles Moore, that complement the original estate.

The Monterey Conference Center features impressive permanent and rotating collections. Sculptures, paintings, and tapestries from contemporary local artists adorn its walls and public spaces. Visitors are greeted by Two Dolphins , a nine-foot-tall sculpture composed of thousands of pieces of inlaid wood. The work, created by Big Sur artist Emile Norman, depicts two dolphins in flight as they dance across the sea. On the center's second floor, the Alvarado Gallery presents an ever-changing array of art from Peninsula artists.

Festivals and Holidays

Colorful events fill Monterey's calendar throughout the year. In January the annual migration of the gray whales is

Steinbeck Plaza at Cannery Row contains many specialty shops, cafes, and galleries.
Steinbeck Plaza at Cannery Row contains many specialty shops, cafes, and galleries.
saluted through a variety of events such as art projects, story telling, whale watching, and exhibits. The sounds of Dixieland and Swing fill the March air during the three days of Dixieland Monterey, held in various venues with dance floors and special events.

The spotlight is on young, up-and-coming musicians during the three-day Next Generation Jazz Festival held annually in April. The Annual Sea Otter Classic, the largest bicycle festival in the country, features road cycling, mountain biking, downhill, and BMX events. Original hand-made arts and crafts are for sale at the Spring Arts & Crafts Fair. The Old Monterey Plein Air Painting and Art Promenade showcases artists of all ages busy at work on the streets of Monterey. The Monterey Wine Festival, held at the end of April, featuring California wines exclusively, consists of tastings, educational seminars, and cooking demonstrations.

On May 15, Cannery Row celebrates the life and times of Ed "Doc" Ricketts, a revolutionary marine biologist and mentor of John Steinbeck. Mountain bikers can race solo or team up to ride as many laps as possible in the 24 Hours of Adrenalin Cycle Race. "Back to the Boatyard" Beer Festival is a lively celebration of great beers in May. Three days of blues music on three stages is the focus of the Monterey Bay Blues Festival at the Monterey Fairgrounds in June.

July's big events include the Community Fourth of July Parade, picnic and fireworks, the commemoration of John Drake Sloat's landing in Monterey on July 8, and the Obon Festival at the Buddhist Temple. August is enlivened by the Annual Winemaster's Celebration, the Turkish Festival, the Monterey County Fair, and the Historic Automobile Races. Crowds dine and dance at September's Annual Bay ReggaeFest, Rock and Art Festival, Annual Greek Festival, Festa Italia-Santa Rosalia Festival, the Cherry's Jubilee classic car show, the Fishermen's Fiesta and the Monterey Beer Festival. The world-famous Monterey Jazz Festival offers non-stop jazz by top performers as well as food, art, and jazz clinics. Fresh seafood, music, and crafts are the focus of October's Old Monterey Seafood & Music Festival. A re-enactment of California's first Constitutional Convention takes place each October on California Constitution Day. International Day in October celebrates cultural diversity in entertainment, food and cultural demonstrations from 35 countries. A week-long focus on the history of Monterey is History Fest Monterey. The Monterey Sports Car Championships features Le Mans style racing as the main event at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

November's annual Great Wine Escape Weekend showcases the products of local vintners. Runners of all ages participate in the Big Sur Half Marathon and 5K Run, and the Cannery Row Christmas Tree Lighting welcomes the arrival of Santa Claus to the city. Christmas in the Adobes showcases Monterey's historic buildings illuminated and decorated for the holidays. December also brings the Annual Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival. First Night Monterey draws crowds throughout the city to music, dance, and poetry events to welcome in the New Year.

Sports for the Spectator

World-class automobile racing events are held at the Laguna Seca Raceway, east of downtown Monterey. The raceway also hosts five major racing events annually including Indy car, motorcycle, and historic automobile events. The World Superbike Championships and the Honda Grand Prix are also held at the Raceway.

Sports for the Participant

The City of Monterey Sports Center is the largest family fitness facility on the Monterey Peninsula, offering a full range of fitness activities, as well as two pools and a water slide. The city has several neighborhood parks. The El Estero Park complex, a 45-acre city-wide multi-use recreation area in the center of the city, offers paddleboats, swimming, picnicking, and an exercise course. Located in the park complex are a number of recreational facilities including the Dennis The Menace Park, designed by the popular cartoon character's creator Hal Ketcham. It features a steam engine, sway bridge, a sandy hills slide, a rollers-slide, sun bridge, garden maze, and a handicap play area. The Monterey Youth Center is a multi-use recreation facility for youth and adult activities. The Monterey Youth Center Dance Studio is a professional dance studio with a wooden floor, wall mirrors, ballet bars, and a public address system. Located next to Lake El Estero is the Monterey Skate Park designed for skateboarders and inline skaters. The city also boasts two ballparks.

Monterey Bay Waterfront Park/Window on the Bay offers4.1 acres of turf and landscaped areas adjacent to the beach that feature five sand volleyball courts and picnic and grill facilities. The Monterey Tennis Club has six lighted tennis courts and a pro shop.

Private sea kayak outfitters help visitors discover Monterey by sea, by paddling through the kelp forest along Cannery Row and observing sea otters and the abundant marine life. Diving, skydiving, and sailing are all available to sports enthusiasts on Monterey Bay.

Shopping and Dining

Del Monte Center, Monterey's traditional regional shopping center, anchored by Macy's and Mervyn's, has approximately 90 businesses offering a wide variety of goods and services. Recent additions to the center include California Pizza Kitchen, Ann Taylor Loft, and a Century 13 Theatre. Monterey has a busy downtown shopping area. The Old Monterey Market Place is one of the largest in the United States, attracting thousands of tourists and residents downtown every Tuesday afternoon. New Monterey, an emerging commercial area with an eclectic mix of new businesses, includes Lighthouse Avenue, and is located three blocks up the hill from Cannery Row. The former sardine canning factories of Cannery Row have become the center of more than 50 factory outlets. North Fremont, adjacent to the Monterey Fair-grounds, is a high traffic area and serves the many tourists who attend activities at the Monterey Fairgrounds.

Monterey's extensive marine life, along with the native American, Spanish, Mediterranean Rim, and Asian heritages of its citizens from various eras has influenced the local cuisine. Restaurant choices run the gamut from American Regional to Asian, British, California, Continental, French, Indian, Island Grill, Italian, Mexican, Swiss, and seafood cuisines. Monterey restaurant chefs are inspired by the abundance of robustly flavored signature area crops such as lettuce, artichokes, garlic, strawberries, and a variety of mushrooms.

Visitor Information: Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 150 Olivier St., PO Box 1770, Monterey, CA 93942; telephone (831)649-1770; toll-free (888)221-1010.