Wild Things Animal Ranch, Salinas Valley
The most successful family vacations keep one essential component in mind: the grown-ups in the group have to feel as engaged, as excited, and as happy as the young ones - and vice versa. Monterey County's edu-vacation offerings like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Steinbeck Center, Carmel Mission and MY Museum are all loaded with activities that appeal to children as well as the child at heart.
Activities for Young Children
Monterey has so many intriguing options, your most difficult moment will be deciding what to do each morning. There's MY Museum, a real hands-on place where kids can make a TV program or run a country store, and the adventure playground of Dennis the Menace Park (created for the city by the creator of Dennis, Hank Ketcham).
Children can learn about marine wildlife at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, weave in-and-out of the Monterey Mirror Maze, then play ‘eye-spy' during a drive through Pebble Beach's 17-Mile Drive, home to shoreline birds, harbor and elephant seals, and more. Kids can even have an encounter with a kangaroo, elephant or monkey at Wild Things. You may never hear them say ‘are we there yet?' again - at least until you leave Monterey.
Thrills For The Whole Family
Pack your sunblock and don your sneakers. Monterey County has outdoor activities to thrill the whole family. Dip your toe in with a kayak tour on Monterey Bay, a surrey ride on the Monterey County Coastal Recreation Trail, a segway tour along Cannery Row or a ghost tour trolley ride through Oldtown Monterey. Crank up the adventure with a hike on rugged Big Sur's trails or a family surfing lesson on Carmel Beach. Turn on the full adrenalin kick with a whale watching sail on Monterey Bay or a thrilling motor race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Great Shopping Compromise
Children can be reluctant shoppers. To coax a little cooperation, choose a destination that makes browsing as much fun as possible: Cannery Row. The old canneries are now packed with a dazzling array of shops, galleries and places to eat. You can reward patience while you do some bayside wine tasting at the end of Steinbeck Plaza by sampling every known flavor of saltwater taffy, or honor their good humor while you try on sportswear and silver jewelry in the American Tin Cannery with a kite or wind toy.
Who knows? You might even pique their curiosity about how the Row got its name: buy them a copy of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row to read on the way home.
Lay of the Land
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