Archive for the ‘Explore Monterey’ Category

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, “The Serengeti of the Sea”

Monday, June 3rd, 2013
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For locals and visitors alike, the Monterey Bay offers something for everyone. Whether a source of income for local fishermen, recreation for kayakers and scuba divers, a muse for artists or an educational opportunity for students and scientists waters surrounding the Monterey Peninsula are near and dear us all. But who helps to monitor and protect this iconic part of the Central Coast?

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is 276 miles of coastline and 6094 square miles of ocean stretching from Marin in the north to Cambria in the south. The Sanctuary was established in 1992 by the Federal Government for the purpose of protection, education, public use and research. The area includes one of the United States’ largest kelp forests, one of North America’s underwater canyons which is part of the closest deep ocean to shore ecosystems in the continental U.S. This rich and diverse area which features 33 species of Marine Mammals, 94 species of sea birds and 345 species of fish and countless invertebrates and plants has earned the MBNMS the moniker, “Serengeti of the Sea”.

Visitors to the Sanctuary can experience its beauty in a variety of ways. Organized kayaking, boating, diving and camping are all available to the general public, as are wildlife tours and whale watching. A great way to experience the wonders of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is through a series of virtual tours and live web cams. The Monterey Bay Aquarium features a live cam from within its kelp forest exhibit as well as one from its observation deck. Educational opportunities also abound as classes, tours and exhibitions are featured year round through a variety of local, regional and national agencies and organizations.

So experience one of the most important ocean areas in the world as you visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It’s “fin-tastic”

Memories Are Made of This

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
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With its breathtaking shores and beautiful foothills, the Monterey Peninsula has long been known as one of the country’s foremost places for a destination wedding. Thousands of couples, their families and friends flock to Monterey and beyond to celebrate their nuptials and enjoy the wide-ranging choices in location, world class food and other activities. Everyone knows Pebble Beach of course,  and if you are Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and Facebook’s first president you can pretty much build your own venue in Big Sur. (Yes, he is actually doing that to the tune of $10 million!) A special perk, however, for those who make the Peninsula home is the “insider” knowledge about some of the most beautiful locations that fly way under the radar.

 

One of those hidden gems is the Memory Garden located at 20 Custom House Plaza in Monterey. The garden, located just outside the Portola Hotel & Spa, was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead Jr. in 1927 and is enclosed by eight foot adobe walls which gives this venue a peaceful and private tranquility. The Garden is managed by the California State Parks and counts the Monterey State Historic Park office and the historic Pacific House Museum as part of the property. Featuring a 15-foot diameter fountain, a beautiful historic flower garden and a 5×16 foot barbeque, the garden has Southern Magnolia trees throughout the grounds that offer peaceful shade and lend to the park-like quality of the venue. The grounds also include a small dressing room and bathroom, but with its proximity to the Portola Hotel, wedding guests will often make their way directly from the hotel. The natural beauty of the garden juxtaposed with the historic adobe of California’s first state capital create a photographer’s dream and a location that can serve as wedding or reception location, or both!

The staff at the Portola Hotel can provide you with information on group rates for you and your guests and the folks at the State Parks can offer additional information on the Memory Garden itself. So if you are looking for something more intimate than Pebble Beach and don’t quite have the coin to build your own venue in Big Sur, consider the Memory Garden on Monterey’s Custom House Plaza. As the song goes, Memories are made of this!

Summer Festivals in Monterey

Friday, May 10th, 2013
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As many know, the Monterey Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places on earth. From the rugged coastline of Big Sur and the serene inlets of Moss Landing’s Elkhorn Slough to the winding trails of Carmel Valley and the Fort Ord National Monument, there is something for everyone. While those attractions are available throughout the year, some of the Peninsula’s most popular attractions only come around every 365 days.

Monterey and the surrounding area have long been synonymous with music and art of many kinds and nothing exemplifies that better than the summer festivals that make Monterey their home. The granddaddy is the Monterey Jazz Festival September 20-23, 2013. The longest continuously running jazz festival in the world, the MJF has continued to hold its September dates since 1958 and has features some of the biggest names in Jazz and popular music. Not to be outdone is the Carmel Bach Festival which is celebrating its 76th year with 15 days of performances, talks and educational events July 13-27, 2013.

 

Monterey stamped itself on the counterculture scene with the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, which was the blueprint for future musical spectacles like Woodstock and Lollapalooza and continues the tradition today, although with a slightly mellower vibe. The California Roots Music & Arts festival gets the summer started right, Memorial Day Weekend May 24-26, 2013. The good times continue August 9-11, 2013 with the Monterey Bay Reggaefest. In its 18th year, the festival is one of the largest in Northern California and features over 20 performers.

The ear has been satisfied, but how about the mouth? The food festival season kicks off with Cooking for Solutions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The three day event, May 17-19, 2013, focuses on sustainability and environmental stewardship in the food and beverage industry.  Also that weekend is the 54th annual Castroville Artichoke Festival. Celebrate California’s newly crowned State Vegetable and soak in a bit of history as the Festival counts a young Marilyn Monroe as one of their first “Artichoke Queens.” Memorial Day weekend features the Great Monterey Clam Chowder & Calamari Festival as two of the peninsula’s favorite seafood dishes collide at Custom House Plaza behind the Portola Hotel & Spa. If you are a wine lover, the area also plays host to the Monterey Wine Festival, June 7-8, 2013 and the Winemaker’s Celebration on August 10, 2013.  Both showcase the best of Monterey County’s vast winemaking region which was recently named one of the “Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Ear; check. Mouth; check, but what about your eyes? Monterey also hosts a number of summertime art festivals and while music and food are certainly considered art, these are the traditional forms are highlighted at events like the Carmel Art Festival May 16-19, 2013. With its origins as a bohemian artist colony, Carmel-By-The-Sea plays host as the 20th annual event that showcases visual arts, sculpture, a judged plein air painting competition and much more. Three weeks later, the Valley gets into the act with the Carmel Valley Art & Wine Festival June 8, 2013. Carmel Valley Village comes alive as over 60 artists and art galleries display their works. Sand City, Monterey County’s hotbed of alternative art and vision hosts the Sand City West End Celebration August 23-25, 2013. Known for its independent and irreverent artistic atmosphere, the West End Celebration features and open air artist’s fair throughout the streets and the public is invited into the many studios and creative spaces that call Sand City home.

So if the dog days of summer are getting you down or you need to break for the coast to beat the heat, cruise into Monterey County and enjoy the eclectically rich summer festival scene. There truly is something for everyone!

How to Pack For A Monterey Vacation

Thursday, April 18th, 2013
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Visiting the Monterey Peninsula is one of the country’s great vacations. Whether you are on a weekender from the Bay Area, a mid-week business trip from the East Coast or are traveling internationally and spending a couple of weeks, the wide ranging beauty and landscape of the area make each day a unique adventure. It also, however, makes packing for the Monterey Peninsula somewhat of a challenge.

American author Mark Twain once wrote, “The coldest winter I ever experienced, was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” San Francisco’s location usually means a foggy day on their peninsula and warm sunny one slightly inland and the Monterey Peninsula is no different. In Pebble Beach it could be foggy and windy while in Monterey the conditions could be and sunny and mild. Meanwhile, as you move into Carmel Valley, you could experience clear skies and temperatures in the 80’s!

With so many microclimates within a few miles of each other, what’s a visitor to do? Layers are the key, but more than layers, are multi-functional pieces that can keep you warm on an early morning walk along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, dining al fresco at Jacks Restaurant & Lounge or Peter B’s Brewpub at the Portola Hotel & Spa, but then can easily fit in a backpack as you explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A light wind & water resistant jacket is a must, as are a couple of sweater options. Shorts and comfortable pants are also important as visitors often will spend time walking and sightseeing. A good pair of trail sneakers/shoes will be a savior for your feet whether you are hiking at Garland Ranch in Carmel Valley or strolling through Pacific Grove’s historic downtown. Don’t forget to bring a swimsuit. While the water can be chilly, the beaches of the Monterey Peninsula are fantastic and there are many spa options that offer Jacuzzis, saunas and more. Finally, don’t forget to bring something nice to wear. With a fantastic array of nationally recognized restaurants, art galleries and cultural events you’ll want to have the option of dressing up to enjoy your experience.

The Monterey Peninsula has something for everyone and with the some thoughtful packing, visitors can enjoy it all with ease!

Sea Otters

Thursday, March 21st, 2013
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Of all the wonderful and exciting things to experience on the Monterey Peninsula, perhaps one of the most cherished and beloved is the Sea Otter. Standing (well, laying, really) only three and a half feet long and weighing in at about 75 pounds, the Sea Otter is the Monterey Peninsula’s furry mascot, welcome wagon and tourist attraction all rolled into one.

A part of the weasel family and owner of the densest coat of fur in the animal kingdom, the Sea Otter makes it home in the fish rich kelp forests of the Northern Pacific Coasts. A veracious eater, the Sea Otter is widely recognized for their use of tools, using rocks to break open shellfish and crustaceans. Although still an endangered species, the Sea Otter population has rebounded since the early 1900’s making it an important success story for marine and ocean conservation.

One of the greatest joys of visiting the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is the many ways to observe our furry fish eating friend. There is of course the Monterey Bay Aquarium where you can not only observe, but learn about this important member of our ecosystem (re-opening their Otter Exhibit March 23!). For the more adventurous, Adventures By The Sea offers kayak and stand up paddle board rentals for individuals and  groups which bring you close enough to see the Otters in their natural habitat without disturbing them. You don’t have to go out of your way, however, to catch a glimpse of the Sea Otter. Simply stroll along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, just outside the Portola Hotel & Spa and with a pair of binoculars or even a sharp pair of eyes, chances are you’ll see an otter or two playing or dining in the kelp beds just off shore. It’s truly an amazing experience and one ALL visitors to the Monterey Peninsula should not miss.