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

Maligne- Photo Credit Maligne
Maligne - Photo Credit: Maligne

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 vegetable with the rough exterior but has a heart of green gold – the artichoke – for which the town is celebrated. The Artichoke Trail incorporates over 20 stops, including restaurants, farm stands, and attractions that highlight the numerous ways visitors can enjoy and experience this unique vegetable in Monterey County.  Visitors can also set their sights on new dining options that have popped up all over the county in recent months. From Maligne in Seaside, which has been recently recognized as a Bib Gourmand by MICHELIN, to Bistro Moulin in Monterey that is now under new ownership and serves signature dishes with European cuisine. 

Carmel Valley is a wine lover’s paradise, with  tasting rooms including Corral Wine Co. to more established spots like Folktale Winery & Vineyards, which recently opened The Annex at their restaurant Seventh & Dolores which focuses on a specially curated food menu and local wines by Folktale group in a cafe-style setting.  Be sure to celebrate California Wine Month this September at other notable wineries including Holman Ranch and Scheid Vineyards

#2 Book An Experiential Tour

Handcar Tours

Explore the Fort Ord Dunes State Park with Handcar Tours in Marina. Handcar Tours offers regular handcars and electric rail bikes that pedal over 6 miles. The tour travels alongside the sand dunes, coastal shrub, and Monterey Cypress groves. 

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

Lover's Point

Get outside and explore the area’s natural beauty by golfing Bayonet & Black Horse in Seaside, paragliding atop the sand dunes in Marina, hiking Garland Ranch in Carmel Valley, 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 1964 Chevy Corvette Stingray or a 1969 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400.

#4 Check Out Fall Events

Monterey Jazz Festival stage and crowd at nightPhoto Credit: Monterey Jazz Festival

Several of Monterey County’s beloved events are happening this fall such as the Monterey Jazz Festival (Sept. 22-24) that celebrates America's creativity and cultural heritage by presenting legendary jazz musicians, composers, and young rising stars. Shortly after, Rebels and Renegade Music Festival will be making its way to the Monterey County Fairgrounds again! 

Late in the season, the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival (Nov. 3-5) 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

A group of sea ottersThere 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. 24-30) 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.

Travel Responsibly

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.