Staying in the city for the holidays? Longing for a weekend away, but looking to avoid the throngs of holiday travelers? Monterey Bay offers a humble selection of charming and cheerful options, whether you're in search of a respite or on the hunt for Yuletide activity. Adapt this three-day itinerary to suit your holiday wish list.
Head down the coast and set your destination for Monterey. If you've got an extra hour to spare, take Highway 1 through Pescadero and Santa Cruz and enjoy the sweeping views of the Pacific as you travel.
Snack: Stop for lunch at Monterey's Alta Bakery, where you can grab a salad, sandwich, "obligatory avocado toast", or hand-tossed pizza, all crafted to perfection with artisanal care. Enjoy dining al fresco while sipping a garden herb mimosa or craft beer.
Play: Whether you have kiddos along or you're a child at heart, there's merriment to be found at Old Fisherman's Wharf. Visit Christmas on the Wharf for song and dance performances from nearby performing arts groups, see a 19-foot Christmas tree surrounded by illuminated sea creatures, and get photos with Santa (through Dec. 19). Grab a sweet snack or hot chocolate from local vendors, including specialty s'mores hot chocolate. A short walk from the Wharf, glide along to seasonal tunes at Ice Skating by the Bay, the annual ice rink located in the Custom House Plaza, behind Portola Hotel and Spa. Once you're done on the ice, wander into the Portola lobby where seascape decor makes for a merry oceanside Christmas. With 379 recently-renovated guest rooms, the LEED Certified property features a gorgeous bar and views of Monterey Bay. For a full schedule of Monterey events, visit SeeMonterey.com.
Dine: After four years vacant, the famously-haunted former home of Restaurant 1833 recently re-opened as namesake Stokes Adobe. Inside you'll find clever cocktails that riff on classics, like the Negroni, and G&T, thoughtful shared plates (like portobello mushroom and artichoke salad), and comforting entrees, including duck confit and truffle chicken. Enjoy stellar service and creative decor.
Do: Explore the 41 passageways and courtyards that comprise the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea. You'll find ample opportunities for window shopping (or actual shopping) in the town's art galleries and arcades. Snatch a sweet treat at the fairytale house that's home to Cottage of Sweets. Find imported home accessories and hand-crafted furnishings at Carmel Bay Company or browse fine pens and journals at The Pleasure of Writing. You'll find an array stores, and a microbrewery to boot, when you wander the three floors of Carmel Plaza.
Snack: Dive into fresh salads, creative pizza, and decadent sweet treats of Rise + Roam bakery and pizzeria. Try the signature butternut squash and pear soup along with a half pizza or a savory tartine, all made with organic ingredients and unbleached flour.
Drink: Take your time "wine-ing" your way along the Carmel wine walk. Choose from over 20 unique tasting rooms. Enjoy the holiday decor and award-winning Pinots at Dawn's Dream and be sure to snap a pic in the trademark copper bathtub. For more structured wines, and the "cowboy philosophy" that goes with them, visit the tucked-away tasting room of Galante Vineyard. And don't miss the elegant bubbles and guava-forward Sauv Blanc from Kori Wines.
Stay: Catch an early-evening sunset at Carmel Beach, then wander into one of Carmel-by-the-Sea's cozy inns. The Carriage House Inn offers a secluded stay that's a stone's throw from town. All rooms include luxury bath robes, gas fireplaces, a fresh tray of happy hour snacks, breakfast delivered to your door. You'll also get special discounts (free drinks, dessert, etc) at nearby partner restaurants, like Mission Bistro, which offers a rustic-romantic setting for New American and Mediterranean fare, including steak and lobster Christmas Day special.
Do: Enjoy breakfast in bed, then check out of your inn and pop over to Pacific Grove. Get in some movement and take in the views of the 3.6-mile Asilomar CoastalTrail, located in the heart of Pacific Grove, where you can slip in some last-minute (or post-Christmas) shopping at unique local shops including Wooden Bowl, The Quill, and The Rabbit Hole.
Eat: Order brunch on the green at the Grill at Point Pinos. Choose from a handsome selection of generous plates, including chicken and waffles, a veggie frittata, and breakfast croissant sandwich. The signature Bloody Mary is a meal unto itself, garnished with pickled veggies, fried chicken, and thick strip of bacon. Be sure to grab one of the restaurant's famous cornflake-marshmallow or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the road.