sees what he sees,
the tourist sees
what he came to see."
come away from the Monterey Peninsula with
an real understanding of what makes it so special, one must
get away from the Tourist Attractions and experience what the local
folks enjoy in their daily lives. Tourist Attractions have little in
common with the Real Life of the community. Locals generally stay away
from them because they tend to offer mere superficial representations
culture, if they represent it at all. Moreover, many Tourist
Attractions are simply places that try to sell you things you wouldn't
consider buying if you were home. (See the note at the bottom about
souvenir shops). Should you avoid Tourist Attractions? No, but Mr. Toy
advises that you take
them in relatively small doses.
Here's a simple guide to
which areas of the Monterey
Peninsula are Real Life and which are Tourist Attractions. Some areas
are an odd mixture of both:
Wharf - Map
Here you'll find a heavy concentration of mediocre overpriced
restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. You'll also find tour boats for
whale watching and other things. You can also just take in the great
views and save your money.
Row - Map
Except the aquarium (see below). Once this was a busy and smelly
sardine packing area. Since the '60s the canneries have either burned
down or been converted to souvenir shops. In recent years a few of the
shops have become a bit more upscale, but the area still has a carnival
atmosphere which bears little resemblance to local Real Life.
- Monterey State Historic Park,
Hall (upstairs) Map
These are Tourist Attractions that try to show what Real Life used to
be. The State Historic Park includes a wide variety of historic
buildings and homes converted into museums using authentic period
furnishings to replicate the past. Colton
Hall's second floor is set up to appear exactly as it did the day the
California State Constitution was ratified there in 1850. These sites
are certainly interesting, and even educational, but we list
them as tourist attractions instead of real life because they feel
sterile and lifeless. Fortunately, many other historic buildings in the
still used for real life purposes, providing a genuine connection
between real life of the past and real life of today.
Carmel's main street is the focal point for
tourist activity there. It
wasn't long ago that Ocean Avenue had an interesting mix of resident
and visitor-serving businesses, but no more. It has now been taken over
almost entirely by upscale art galleries, cutesy gift shops, high-end
clothing stores, and trendy restaurants. Nice ones, to be sure, nice
enough to bring in the locals now and then, but not the sort of
establishments that have any practical value for everyday life. There
are a handful of exceptions. One is the Carmel Drug Store, one of the
oldest businesses in Carmel, which still has a functioning pharmacy.
Another is the
public library on the corner of Lincoln (see below). A notable element
of Ocean Avenue is the architecture, much of which was created by the
town's artistic pioneers.
The Best Beaches
Art & Entertainment
Sports & Recreation
- Municipal Wharf
Also known as "Wharf II." See Real Life
commercial fishing activity here. Enjoy some terrific harbor views as
you walk around the fish processing plant at the
far end. Look for the boats with the big light bulbs on their masts.
They're used to attract the calamari (squid) you'll get at dinner.
Guard Pier -
The rescuers' headquarters. You'll find it at the south end of Cannery
Row, projecting into the harbor off of Foam Street. There are great
views and you can see lots of sea lions at the end on the breakwater,
if it isn't closed for security reasons. A public boat ramp is
Monterey - Map
A small, but
downtown, known as "Old Monterey" to the marketing folks. It includes
the usual resident-serving businesses (drug stores, banks, offices,
etc.) along with some of the oldest and most significant historic sites
in California. Alvarado Street is the center of things, and the much of
the rest is
within two or three blocks. A great selection of trendy and
traditional restaurants can
be found here along with the Osio Cinemas, and the grand old Golden
State Theatre, to fill your evenings with fun. On Tuesday
evenings they close Alvarado Street to
for a public marketplace of produce, food, art, and gifts.
Avenue - Map
This is the main
drag and primary business district
in the area known as New Monterey. It runs three blocks inland from the
shoreline parallel to Cannery Row. Here you'll find a variety of
hole-in-the-wall restaurants, thrift shops, used book and record
stores, and more. Its a great place for treasure hunting. Don't confuse
it with the other Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove.
Hall, (downstairs) - Map
The lower level of this famous old building is still used for city
offices, creating a real life connection between the government of the
past, and the government of today. After you've seen the museum
upstairs, go down into the Planning Department and see the panoramic
aerial photo of Monterey.
Naval Postgraduate School -
east of downtown Monterey on Del Monte and
Sloat. The centerpiece is the old Hotel Del Monte, now known as Hermann
Hall. It is a large white building with a red tiled roof that can be
seen for miles around. Two wings of the building date back to 1888,
while the center section was rebuilt after a fire in the mid 1920s.
Del Monte is where the rich and famous came to play before WWII. Since
then it has been owned by the US military. The Monterey
holds a "Concert on the lawn" on Memorial Day that is open to
the public. Otherwise access is usually restricted,
but you can see the grounds from Del Monte or Sloat Avenues.
of Monterey - Map
Home of the
Defense Language Institute.
Located between downtown Monterey and Cannery Row. Great views of the
bay. Unfortunately, thanks to the nutcases running loose in this world,
most of the Presidio is now off limits to the public. There is a
visitor's center and museum off of Private Bolio Road, which can be
accessed from the southbound lanes of Lighthouse Avenue.
Monte Center - Map
Munras Avenue near Highway 1. It's your
basic mall with the same stores you see everywhere else. But this one
is much prettier than average. Their gardeners have made some wonderful
Pacific Grove -Map
Residents call it "The Last Hometown." It has a grocery store, a drug
store, a hardware
store, a shoe store, barber shops and several surprises.
Downtown P.G. is much like downtown Carmel was
in the '60s, but without the hippies. The antique mall in the old
Holmans Department Store
building is a great place for browsing. So are the various thrift
shops. The intersection of Forest and Lighthouse Avenues marks the hub
of the business district.
Memorial Library -Map
It's in downtown Carmel on the corner of Ocean and Lincoln. Cozy and
inviting. It even has a fireplace to read by. Also, the Park Branch at
Mission and 6th has local historical resources.
Once scorned by residents of other Peninsula cities, Seaside is now the
up and coming place. During the heyday of Fort Ord, Seaside was a seedy
town, with a reputation for drugs, prostitution, and gangs. When the
military base at Fort Ord closed, the illicit activity lost its
customer base and the problems went away. It quickly became desirable.
Housing there now is almost as unaffordable as every other
Unlike the rest of the Peninsula, which is largely populated by
caucasians, Seaside has no ethnic majority. Seaside provides many
essential businesses and industries necessary to the preservation of
life on the rest of the Monterey Peninsula. The city is not
particularly attractive, but it enjoys a great community spirit. The
front lawn of City Hall often hosts a variety of free outdoor music and
cultural events. It is also the only city on The Peninsula with a
formal program to honor Martin Luther King day.
An enclave between
Seaside and the bay,
Sand City is mostly industrial, the centerpiece being a large cement
plant. However, the most visible feature to most people is the large
shopping center (two actually, but they sort of blend together
visually) at the north end of town. In the older neighborhoods,
scattered among the auto body shops and warehouses, a handful of
artists have taken refuge from the high rents of the other peninsula
towns and opened studios. On the west side of the freeway, you can
enjoy panoramic views of the bay from the Recreation Trail. You'll
find the path at the end of Playa Avenue behind Orchard
Supply, or gain beach access at the end of Tioga Avenue. You get into
Sand City off of Del Monte Avenue in Seaside. Take any street north of
Broadway that turns west. Once you cross the railroad tracks, you are
in Sand City.
Blends of Tourist Attractions and Real Life:
Bay Aquarium -Map
qualify as tourist attractions, but
they are of such high quality that even local people are proud to claim
this attraction as their own. The real life occurs behind the scenes in
the form of scientific research. Although the admission is
expensive, it's worth it. You'll come away thoroughly entertained and
enlightened. The food is pretty good, too. Allow 3-4 hours to see it
all. It's that big.
Real Life natural
Tourist Attractions clothing. The famous 17 Mile Drive also includes a
look at how the rich and famous people live. After you're done, take a
drive through Seaside and see the opposite end of The Peninsula's
Carmel, (off of Ocean Avenue) -Map
Sprinkled among the
visitor lodgings, art galleries, restaurants and women's clothing
stores you can still find a substantial number of resident-serving
businesses. Among them are banks (with their all-important ATMs), a
liquor store, a drug store, a couple of mom & pop grocery
stores, gas stations, a hardware store, a full service camera store
with photo lab, a toy store, churches, offices, and other useful
establishments. The degree of Real Life increases as you get farther
from Ocean Avenue. The post office at Dolores and 5th is the
social gathering spot.
See The Best Beaches.
A sampling of barns with all sorts of shops and restaurants inside.
Most are locally owned.
This property was a 19th century dairy ranch which is now a 21st
century resort. Most of the original buildings still stand, thanks to
Clint Eastwood. In 1986 he bought the property from developers who were
planning to destroy it all and build condos. What a guy! Mission Ranch
has great views of a sheep pasture, wetlands, Point Lobos and the
ocean. Mr. Toy would spend the night there if he didn't live here. He
eats there when he can. The rustic restaurant features a piano bar and
you can partake of their Sunday Jazz Brunch after church. You'll find
it behind the Carmel Mission where Lasuen Drive meets Dolores.
Where Carmel began. Relax. Look around. Stay for Mass. Rio Road at
- Point Lobos State Reserve
The most spectacular state park in the universe. Just a few
of Carmel on Highway 1. It's 97.4% Real Life!
about souvenir shops:
Many souvenir shops sell things that have little or no connection to
the Monterey Peninsula. You'll find little trinkets and shirts that say
"Carmel" or "Monterey" on them that are just like the ones you can buy
in New York that say "Honolulu." And they're probably made in China. By
all means, take home some souvenirs. But buy something real and useful
from the local crafters, or maybe a book about our fascinating local
history. If you can afford it, buy an original work of art. Whatever
you get, Mr. Toy hopes it will be something meaningful that will show
your good taste.