Which of the following words does not belong: a) kids, b) travel, c) relaxation? Any parent who has traveled anywhere with kids knows that c) relaxation is the answer. Sure, it can be enjoyable to watch the smiles on your kids’ faces as they explore new places and experience new adventures, but what about you? If you’ve ever experienced the “I need a vacation after that vacation” let-down…
As a single working mom in Marin County, weekend getaways are like a lifeline for me, a great way to recharge the batteries, rejuvenate the soul, and reconnect with the world—primarily those at the heart of my world, my kids. So when choosing where to go and what to do, it’s paramount that I find that “happy medium” that we can all enjoy.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my secret “finds” for creating a fun family getaway to one of my favorite locales, the Monterey Bay Area. In fact, I’m writing this column from my beachfront Monterey pad right now, listening to the waves crash below after a week of true “R&R”. Here’s a few of our family getaway highlights that I highly recommend:
POINT LOBOS STATE RESERVE
Just three miles south of Carmel is “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world”, the crown-jewel of California’s state parks, Point Lobos State Reserve. We started with tide-pooling along the rocks and sea, and then watched the scuba divers at Whalers Cove. We were so inspired by the natural beauty surrounding us that a “quick” look down a hiking path turned into a spontaneous three mile, tree-lined, oceanfront hike, complete with sunbathing sea lions and playful otters. My kids didn’t want to turn around to head back, we were having such an exhilarating experience. This is truly a place that all can walk gently, breathe deeply, and reflect.
“ME” TIME AT MONTEREY SPORTS CENTER
Getting even a few hours of “me” time can make a world of difference, and one place that can make that happen is the Monterey Sports Center. Open to the public for a very low drop-in fee, this expansive family fitness facility has something for everyone. While the kids play in one of the two pools (one 85 and one 92 degrees) or shoot down the 112-foot waterslide (don’t worry, there are always at least two lifeguards on duty and they’re fantastic), you can enjoy a guilt-free workout, yoga or dance class, and more.
The Kids Zone offers onsite babysitting service for kids under 8. When I stopped in, there were a handful of happy toddlers playing in the big, bright room with an assortment of books, games, toys, and supervised projects, with two very attentive and nurturing attendants. And we all loved the center’s Sports Cafe (How did they know exactly what my kids favorites are?). And everything at the Monterey Sports Center is very reasonably priced. Rainy day or not, check this place out!
GOOD EATS IN MONTEREY
Picture this: Watching the sunset over the Carmel Coastline, sipping a glass of wine on an outdoor deck with two crackling fireplaces, chilling out to views of green pastures and grazing sheep, as you dine on delicious American cuisine. The Restaurant at Mission Ranch, part of Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch resort, is kid-friendly with a great children’s menu, ensuring a wonderful dining experience for everyone.
Another favorite is Monterey’s Fish House (831/373-4647), a small former house that’s been converted into one of the best seafood restaurants around. I had the oak-grilled salmon one night, and it was so good I had to go back with the kids the next night. We sat at the oyster bar, as this neighborhood joint gets very busy, often with lines out the door. The food and service are outstanding!
FUN IN THE SUN
I highly recommend heading to Pacific Grove’s Lover’s Point, an oceanfront enclave that will keep everyone busy for the day. First, if you haven’t been to Pacific Grove, just minutes from Monterey, you’ve got to check out the delightful Victorian “downtown” village. Down the street from the town is Lover’s Point, which has great tide-pooling for the kids, a grassy picnic area, a sheltered sandy beach, and a beach hut offering all types of water sports. Rent a kayak, paddle board (I’ve got to try this next time), scuba & snorkeling gear, surfboards, and for those who don’t want to get their tootsies wet, a four-wheel “bike” that seats four. Take in the beautiful coastline while cruising with the kids along the oceanfront bike path. It’s great exercise too.
With kids or without kids, the Monterey Bay Area is full of fun and interesting things to do. Don’t miss exploring the Carmel Mission right around the corner from the Mission Ranch), roller skating at Del Monte Skate , and relaxing on the white, sandy beaches of Carmel. We can’t wait to get back! – Sally Newson
If you have your own tips and recommendations on great kid-friendly getaways throughout Northern California that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.