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A California coastal vacation is great for families looking for beaches, outdoor adventures, and great food. When traveling along the coast of California, Monterey is a popular destination to visit since it’s home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Cannery Row is where the aquarium is located, as well as being a destination with other fun adventures for families. Let’s look at what there is to do on a short trip to Cannery Row in Monterey, California.
Family Coastal Getaway to Cannery Row in Monterey, California
Have you ever heard of Cannery Row? Perhaps you read the famous John Steinbeck novel in school? Cannery Row is a beautiful tourism district on Monterey Bay, filled with shops, restaurants, beaches, and amazing waterfront hotels. Its small town charm and family-friendly attractions bring a wide range of visitors, including many families. Here’s a two-day getaway plan for families ready for a California coastal adventure.
Day 1 – Adventure Outdoors
Kayaking on Monterey Bay
For your first day, I recommend getting out and exploring the beautiful nature around Cannery Row. If you have older kids who enjoy kayaking, definitely look at booking a kayaking tour in the bay with Adventures by the Sea. The guide will lead you out onto the water, where you’ll paddle through kelp fields and likely spot some adorable otters floating on their backs. During my kayak trip, the guide pointed out a momma otter with its baby resting on her belly.
You’ll venture down towards the wharfs and jetty to spy on some of the plentiful sea lions; perhaps you’ll even hear them bark and call. The guide also can share information about the local wildlife and ecosystem. Monterey Bay is a marine preserve, making it a protected and valued natural area.
TravelingMom Tip: even though the water may look smooth, there can be some swells, so I recommend taking motion sickness meds if you might suffer from seasickness.
If hitting the water is not really your thing, how about hopping aboard two-wheels. My friend and I rented a tandem bike with Adventures by the Sea and headed northwest along the bay on the Cannery Row bike path. The tandem bike actually worked well as long as we communicated. It was a first time experience for both of us.
While we biked, we loved stopping along the way and snapping photos. We spotted a whole group of sea lions basking on a private beach during one stop. We biked up to Lover’s Point Beach, where we locked up the bike and then walked the remaining way up to the Point Pinos Lighthouse. The coastal landscape along this path is breathtaking; rocky outcrops and small beaches with tide pools are great for getting family photos and collecting seashells.
TravelingMom Tip: the main bike path ends at Lover’s Point Beach, and you have to go on the road at that point. If you have young kids or worry about kids biking along a two-lane road, consider locking the bikes at Lover’s Point and walking along the coastal footpath for more exploration. Just be sure to get a bike lock from your rental place (Adventures by the Sea at Cannery Row had a lock for us to use).
TravelingMom Tip: many families seem to be drawn to the four passenger surrey pedal cars, but beware they’re heavy and hard to move. We saw a few families struggling with getting them going.
Beaches of Cannery Row
No trip to the California coast would be complete without some beach time. The Cannery Row area has two main beach areas, McAbee Beach and San Carlos Beach Park.
San Carlos is definitely the spot I’d recommend since it is a beach park, so has more green space as well as bathrooms. There’s also a fun learning rock area at the top of the beach where kids can search for metal sea creatures hidden around on the rock surface. This beach is located
McAbee Beach is located in the heart of Cannery Row. It’s a bit smaller in area, but still has great sand and seems to be a popular spot for harbor seals and sea lions to hang out. It’s also reported to be a good spot for some tide pool exploring if you time it right.
TravelingMom Tip: the Pacific Ocean can be cold, so be sure to pack a wetsuit if you have kids who really want to get in the water. Or just pack some sand toys and keep the play along the beach.
Dinner at The Fish Hopper or Cannery Row Brewing Company
There are plenty of delicious Cannery Row restaurants, many with waterfront views. For families ready for dinner after a day of exploring I’d recommend heading to The Fish Hopper or Cannery Row Brewing Company.
The Fish Hopper is directly on Cannery Row and features many great seafood dishes. They also have a fun open pier vibe that fits well for families. See if you can snag a waterfront view table so kids can keep their eyes peeled for wildlife; we spotted a pod of dolphins while we ate!
Cannery Row Brewing Company is a block up from Cannery Row and has the classic casual brewpub restaurant feel. Families can relax and parents can enjoy a glass of their favorite beverage while they unwind from their active day.
Day 2 – Touring and Learning
Monterey Bay Aquarium
The big draw for Monterey, California is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s located on Cannery Row, and worth the visit for aquarium fans. In addition to the amazing sealife on display, kids can also participate with hands on learning sections made just for them. There’s a whole food counter V show setup to help educate kids, and adults, about sustainable seafood.
Monterey Mirror Maze & Lazer Challenge
After your visit to the aquarium, just a few stores over is the Monterey MirrorMaze and Lazer Challenge. While my girls weren’t with me on this trip, I knew they would have been begging me to keep trying the mirror maze over and over again. Hey, they might even have learned the secret trick I figured out to help get me through the maze without issue!
I also recommend the Lazer Challenge if they want to burn off some energy. There are two laser games available; one has the player break as many beams as possible in a set time. The other has kids trying to sneak like spies over and under the lasers without touching the beam of light.
Lunch at Lalla Oceanside Grill
After your busy morning on Cannery Row, next head to family-friendly Lalla Oceanside Grill for lunch. Get a table with a water view, or one of the fun retro style booths and settle in for some good food. They have a big menu, so there’s sure to be something for everyone. The servings are generous too, so perhaps families might consider splitting plates if you don’t want leftovers.
Stroll to Monterey
After eating, you might want to take a break back at your hotel for a rest or a swim. Or perhaps even head down for another beach visit. The great thing about Cannery Row is everything is so close and walkable, making it great for families who need to take breaks or want to do it all.
When you’re ready to explore again, I recommend hitting the trail again and this time heading south towards the city of Monterey. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk, again right along the coast. There’s a famous tourist wharf you can explore, or perhaps you just want to enjoy the scenery with a nice walk. We spotted some harbor seals while strolling, so have kids keep their eyes ready while you walk.
TravelingMom Tip: to keep the kids entertained, consider packing a kid’s pair of binoculars for the trip. They’ll come in handy for spotting sealife as well as keeping the kids entertained while you enjoy a leisurely stroll.
Where to Stay
InterContinental The Clement Monterey
For a luxury family vacation, look into staying at the InterContinental The Clement Monterey. I was given a tour of the facility where I spotted many families in the lobby and halls. The rooms are decorated in a clean, coastal theme while remaining family-friendly in comfort. The hotel does offer family suites if you’d like, and the oceanfront rooms even have small balconies. Kids and adults alike will most likely ooh and ahh when they see the special under the sea hall that was designed by a former Disney Imagineer.
If you’d like to stay in Cannery Row and have a complimentary breakfast, consider the Victorian Inn. This is a Best Western Plus hotel and where I stayed while in Cannery Row. It’s a block up from the main Cannery Row street, so you can save a bit of money since you avoid the oceanfront premium price.
The rooms are nicely laid out for families; my second floor double queen was open and spacious with vaulted ceilings and even a table with four chairs. The rooms also have a refrigerator. As I mentioned the hotel offers a complimentary breakfast, as well as a wine and cheese reception in the early evenings.
Do I have you dreaming of a California coastal trip now? Truly Monterey is a lovely spot for families, and Cannery Row is perfectly situated for families looking for a coastal vacation.