Photo courtesy of Devon Seefeldt
As we bid farewell to summer, the fall brings to Monterey County our ‘second summer’ and our warmest temperatures of the year. These optimal conditions and fewer crowds make it the perfect season to explore the amazing natural beauty of this iconic central coast destination. To help you plan your perfect getaway, here are the top 5 things to do in the destination this fall.
#1 Indulge in Local Food and Wine
Photo courtesy of Cherrie Lynn
Monterey County is known for its agricultural bounty, the catalyst to an amazing culinary and wine scene. A must-visit stop on any trip should include Pezzini Farms in Castroville. The 80-year-old staple gives guests the opportunity to taste the quirky green vegetable – the artichoke – for which the town is celebrated. Visitors can also set their sights on new dining options that have popped up all over the county in recent months. From Taco Shack Vegan Kitchen in Monterey’s historic Cannery Row to multiple additions in Carmel-by-the-Sea, including women-owned Village Gem, fueled by local farmer’s markets, and Edwin’s Carmel, specializing in Southeast Asian fare, there is something for every taste bud.
Carmel Valley is a wine lover’s paradise, with newer tasting rooms including Albatross Ridge’s Tasting Cottage and Scratch to more established spots like Folktale Winery & Vineyards – with the latter working on a soon-to-launch wine that has been aged under the Monterey Bay. Take advantage of the last days of September to celebrate California Wine Month at other notable wineries including Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room, which offers a low-calorie/low-alcohol content wine with zero residual sugar, and the newer Lepe Cellars Tasting Room, both in Carmel-by-the-Sea. In Salinas Valley, family-owned Rustiqué is the newest addition to the River Road Wine Trail.
#2 Book An Experiential Tour
Visitors can work up a sweat on the new Handcar Tours at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Marina. Ride-goers chug along the former Monterey Branch rail line that once connected Monterey to San Francisco on this scenic tour. Head further inland to explore the area’s lush vineyards on the VineCycle Tour, or sample local food and drinks as riders cycle from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Point Lobos State Park on the Carmel Bikes, Bites & Bevs tour – both of which use electric assist mountain bikes (e-bikes), making the tours accessible for any fitness level.
For sea lovers, head to Moss Landing to experience Sea Goddess Whale Watching, which offers guaranteed whale sightings year-round thanks to its Monterey Bay Canyon location known to attract an abundance of sea life. Or for an educational tour by land, take a step back in time with a tour of King City’s Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum (MCARLM). The museum’s grounds include a 19th century schoolhouse, one of the last remaining Southern Pacific railway depots and an early 20th century blacksmith shop.
#3 Enjoy Unmatched Scenery
Get outside and explore the area’s natural beauty by golfing Bayonet & Black Horse in Seaside, paragliding atop the sand dunes in Sand City and Marina, hiking Toro Park in Salinas, or kayaking at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. No trip to Monterey County is complete without a stop at one of the area’s stunning beaches, like Del Monte Beach in Monterey or the pet-friendly Carmel Beach.
Those who prefer the wind in their hair will love to see Monterey County’s 99-miles of coastline by car along the iconic US-1 coastal highway or 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. Classic cars are available to rent through Monterey Touring Vehicles, with choices from a 1954 Chevy Bel Air Convertible to a 1938 Rolls Royce Phantom III.
#4 Check Out Fall Events
Several of Monterey County’s beloved events are back in action this year, including the California Rodeo Salinas (Sept. 23-26), one of the top 10 rodeos in the United States and largest in California featuring hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls. In Monterey, there is the cycle-filled Sea Otter Classic (Oct. 7-10), and the two-week Carmel Bach Festival at the Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea (Oct. 23 to Nov. 5). While the Monterey Jazz Festival (Sept. 24-26) is sold out, visitors can still check out the MJF After Hours program that extends the live jazz to hotels, restaurants and other venues throughout the city each evening.
Late in the season, the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival (Nov. 4-6) gathers the best and brightest chefs and winemakers on the central coast in one of the world’s most ruggedly beautiful locations.
#5 Spot Local Wildlife
There is no better place to spy sea life than the world-renown Monterey Bay Aquarium, packed with penguins, sharks, jellyfish and more. Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept. 19-25) with a visit to the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing, home to the highest concentration of the cute and playful animals in Monterey County, along with tons of migratory birds, sea lions and other wildlife. Fall is the ideal time to visit the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, as they flock to the region beginning in October and stay for the winter.
Visitors are encouraged to travel responsibly in Monterey County by following all current health and safety guidelines and respecting the area’s iconic landscapes by staying on trails and leaving no trace behind.