Salinas in Two Days

Start the first day of your tour on Main Street in the city's historic Oldtown Salinas district. Stop in for a country breakfast or a cup of gourmet coffee at one of Oldtown's restaurants or coffee houses. After breakfast, shop or walkthrough Oldtown's unique shops, antique stores and art galleries.

Continue your visit at the National Steinbeck Center, the centerpiece of historic Oldtown. The National Steinbeck Center is a fun, creative museum that highlights the life and works of author John Steinbeck and offers three distinct visitor experiences (1 to 2 hours recommended for visit). Through interactive exhibits & games and themed theaters, visitors explore literature in the John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall, art and culture in the Gabilan Gallery and history and agriculture in the Center's Rabobank Agriculture Museum. This wing includes an additional 6,500 square feet of permanent exhibits that explore the stories of Salinas Valley agriculture "from field to fork." Increase your knowledge of John Steinbeck and Salinas Valley agriculture by viewing the two orientation films in the museum theater, spend time walking through the exhibits, participate in one of the Center's many celebrations and browse through the exceptional gift store, which features unique gifts and collectibles in addition to Steinbeck books and movies.

Break for lunch at the one of the many restaurants in Oldtown and enjoy the historic sights of this quaint neighborhood.

Later, take a walk on the wild side with a visit to Wild Things, an exotic/wild animal facility. Catch the daily 1 and a 1/4 hour tour starting at 1 p.m. Wild Things is located on Vision Quest Ranch and is home to a number of "animal stars" as well as more than 100 other wild and exotic animals, birds and reptiles. Tour the facility and see "Josef" the lion, the live model for Disney's The Lion King and star of George of the Jungle; Chui the Leopard, who appeared in Disney's Mighty Joe Young; and Brandi the Black Bear, who starred in Grizzly Mountain. Other tour times are available to groups by appointment.

Start your second day in Steinbeck Country at The Farm for a behind-the-scenes look at life on a working farm (approximately a hour tour). Guests will enjoy the variety of fresh produce available at the farm stand, and children will love The Farm's tractor tours, 30-foot tall farmers, petting the numerous farm animals and exploring the fall corn maze.

Next, visit the Salinas Sports Complex (by appointment only), home of the California Rodeo and the Heritage Museum. Take a tour of the complex, located on 80 acres at Sherwood Park in the City of Salinas. The Salinas Sports Complex is also home to a number of community and sports events including concerts, football games, soccer games, motor events, festivals and graduations. Heritage Museum, on the Salinas Sports Complex grounds, is an historic museum housing Rodeo collectibles in four themed rooms, including a Saddle Room and Rodeo Clown Room. Guests will marvel at the authentic Abbott Downing Wells Fargo Stagecoach on display in the museum.

Later, swing by the Steinbeck House, John Steinbeck's boyhood home, for a memorable lunch. Recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places, the house is now a restaurant where docents serve a prix fixe menu Tuesday through Saturday. Tours are available with advanced notice.

Spend the afternoon on a journey into the "Salad Bowl of the World," the fertile Salinas Valley, for a unique agricultural/educational experience. Learn about the row crops, vineyard technology and innovations that have made Monterey County agriculture a $3.5 billion industry. Take a self-guided tour, stopping at points of interest along the way such as winery tasting rooms (Steinbeck Wine Country map available through the Monterey County Vintners & Grower Association), the Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum and the San Antonio and Soledad Missions. For an interesting guided tour, book a ride with Ag Venture Tours. This tour service will customize a tour that focuses on award-winning wineries and farms.

Encourage guests to mark their calendars for much-anticipated annual events such as the California Rodeo and California International Airshow, the Steinbeck Festival, races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and outstanding cultural festivals.

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