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NorCal Road Trips: Monterey Coast

Ahoy Mateys!  Kidding around on Monterey's Cannery Row.

Ahoy Mateys! Kidding around on Monterey’s Cannery Row.

Near the end of my pregnancy with Baby #2, my family took a quick overnight trip down the coast to Monterey.  Monterey is a great day or weekend trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, and has lots to do for kids as well.  Here are the highlights that make it a great destination when traveling with your children.

In Monterey:

1) Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Aquarium

There is a reason this is one of the most famous aquariums in the country — it is nothing short of amazing.  You can easily spend a full day here and still not see everything.  The aquarium can get a bit packed on weekends, so be patient and bring your most nimble stroller (or better yet, a baby carrier) if you have little ones who are still stroller age.

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2) Cannery Row

Cannery Row

Cannery Row is a bit of a tourist trap (like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco), but it is nice for a stroll and maybe an ice cream or a meal when you visit the Aquarium.

3) Dennis the Menace Park

Dennis the Menace Playground

This is the most amazing playground my daughter has ever visited.  It is huge, and has multiple play structures of various heights so that every child can find one that provides the right challenge.  Why is it called Dennis the Menace, you ask?  Because it was built by the man who created the Dennis the Menace comic strips.  Go figure.

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Other kid-friendly stops near Monterey:

1) Gilroy Gardens

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Just about 40 miles north of Monterey is the town of Gilroy which is famous for its garlic (it even has a garlic festival every July that is one our travel to do list for the future).  Gilroy has an adorable little amusement park that is great for toddlers and younger kids.  This is one of our daughter’s favorite stops and is reasonably priced for a day trip.

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2) Big Sur

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Just south of Monterey is an expansive coastal preserve with waterfalls, beaches, and state parks.  Big Sur is a great weekend getaway all its own, but if you just have time for just a taste of Big Sur, it is great to drive a little further south from Monterey to admire the ocean views from Highway 1.

(For those of you looking for more information about Monterey, one of the best travel bloggers in the biz, Loyalty Traveler, just happens to call it home.  He has a lot of posts about Monterey that are worth perusing.)

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