"I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people's accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man's failures."
Are you ready for some fun in the fog? Then you've come to the right place! The Monterey Peninsula isn't just for artists and insanely rich people. Reg'lar folks of modest means can enjoy a good day of solid adventure in this here town. If you're more of a watcher than a doer we can accommodate you, too.
A little disclaimer: Mr. Toy is not much of a sports & recreation person. Though he has been known to enjoy a game of Giant Spaceball from time to time, his interests generally lie elsewhere. He rarely, if ever, participates in these activities so his credibility on this particular page is somewhat suspect.
We'll begin with the organized spectator sports. If recreation is more your style, just skip on down to the Personal Play Area.
Spectator sports on the Monterey Peninsula have a long history. Golf and motor racing have been the most prominent, and human racing occurs from time to time. We also have a number of auto shows, and if you don't mind going a little way out of town, nearby Salinas has a very exciting annual air show.
Anyone with any interest in golf has heard of Pebble Beach and the famous AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournament which is usually held early February. When the tradition began in 1937 (at its original location in Rancho Santa Fe) the tournament was known as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, having been named after its crooning movie star founder. The tournament was moved to Pebble Beach in 1947. The event benefits local charities. In 1986 AT&T came in as the first corporate sponsor. Bing's widow, Katherine, objected to the corporate sponsorship as contrary to the original spirit of the tournament and removed the Crosby name from the event. In Mr. Toy's estimation the event has lost some of its spark and spontaneity in recent years as the tournament has turned its focus from the participating celebrities to the more serious matter of the professional leader board. Still, the spectacular Pebble Beach coastline, unpredictable weather, and the blimp overhead make for an exciting week.
From time to time Pebble Beach also hosts a few other major and minor tournaments.
A few miles east of Monterey along the Monterey-Salinas Highway is the famous Laguna Seca Raceway. They hold a half dozen or so major races each year involving either cars or motorcycles. Check their website for details for we have none.
Every August the Monterey Peninsula becomes saturated with classic car events. It all started in 1950 with the Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance, a display of the best of the best classic automobiles known to mankind. Famous people sometimes show up with a vehicle entered in the show, which benefits local charities. They also hold a classic car auction at which millions of dollars change hands in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the admission price has become so ridiculously high that a typical family of four would need to take out a second mortgage to get in. So most of us who live here just skip it.
Over time a few dozen other auto shows have been scheduled to ride on the coattails of the Concours, creating what is now known as Monterey Car Week. Some events are free, while others charge for admission. They include auctions, races, and static displays. One event even spoofs the whole hoity toity scene with a Concours D'Lemons, a display of old, junky cars. At some point many of the classic cars go out on the road to show off which is great for those of us who prefer to see them in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, with all of these events going on simultaneously, traffic around the Peninsula is terrible all week long. And just try to get a hotel room! To be frank, we'd prefer these events were staggered throughout the year so as not to clog things up so much.
Every year the nearby Salinas airport hosts an aviation extravaganza known as the California International Airshow. This one has everything that flies. You'll see stunt pilots, military displays, historic aircraft, and more. The whole thing climaxes with a performance by a military aerobatic team such as the USAF Thunderbirds or the Navy's Blue Angels. Often these teams will stage at the Monterey airport, where you can watch them for free, albeit briefly cuz they move so darned fast! Scheduling of this popular event varies from year to year, so we'll refer you to their website for upcoming dates.
Photo tips: Have a camera with a telephoto zoom lens for capturing the aerial entertainment. Your phone's camera won't be up to the task. A pocket point-and-shoot camera that zooms from a wide-angle to a modest telephoto magnification will work well when photographing static displays. Focus on details so you can get some clean shots without a lot of other people in them, as Mr. Toy did with the accompanying photo of a WWII TBM Avenger, which [ahem] you can purchase here.
The biggest, most famous Human Race in the Monterey Bay area is none other than the thrilling, action-packed, splendiferous, foot pounding, sweat generating, exhausting, and ever-so-spectacular Big Sur International Marathon. Unlike those other famous marathons, which herd their runners through smog choked city streets, we do ours in the fresh air of the California coast, topped off with a touch of unique Monterey County culture. The 26 mile foot race begins each spring in the redwood forests of Big Sur. Participants run past Point Sur before climbing to the summit of Hurricane Hill and looking straight down some six hundred feet to the ocean below. They then get to run across the famous Bixby Bridge on their way up the coast towards the finish line on the fringes of Carmel. In addition to the obligatory Gatorade stands, runners are entertained at various points by the best local musicians that money can buy. The Marathon people manage a few smaller events during the year as well, including a half-marathon in Monterey. Check their website for details.
Other human races pop up on The Peninsula from time to time, including triathlons and bicycle racing. If you're the type who is genuinely interested in that sort of thing you probably already have better information than we do.
This image from Mr. Toy's Photography Gallery and Picture Shop almost makes you feel like you're soaring over the dunes of Monterey Bay. Hang it on your wall or have it printed on a variety of home decor and gift items. Every purchase, big or small, helps support this website.
"They call it golf because all of the other four-letter words were taken." -Raymond Floyd
Golphers are little furry creatures who live in holes dug in the lawn. If you are one of those creatures you'll find plenty of lawns scattered all over the Monterey Peninsula. Some of these lawns, commonly called golf courses, are known throughout the world and cost a whole lotta money to play on. These are the places where doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, and CEOs spend their free time. For everyone else there are affordable options in this land of plenty. Monterey Peninsula Golf has a complete list of local courses for every budget.
If you're reading this segment you may have had fantasies about playing Pebble Beach with its spectacular ocean vistas. Then reality set in when you realized you could either play or remain financially secure, but not both. Your dream is ruined! Or is it? We have wonderful news for you. You can play golf on the spectacular shores of the Monterey Peninsula for a small fraction of the cost if you go to the Pacific Grove Golf Links. The course wraps around the Point Pinos lighthouse and through residential forests, complete with deer, much like Pebble Beach (which doesn't even have a lighthouse, so there!).
Kayaking on Monterey Bay waters is one of the most popular recreational activities our visitors engage in. Peacefully paddle your way around the bay and see our little corner of the world from a fresh perspective.
We have two major providers of kayaks for rent. Both have solid reputations and your choice will be determined by where you wish to go. Monterey Bay Kayaks serves the beach immediately east of Monterey's municipal wharf, and Elkhorn Slough at the nearby town of Moss Landing. Adventures By The Sea provides similar services on Cannery Row (near the Monterey Plaza Hotel), at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, and (by reservation only) at Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach. Both outfits also offer guided kayak tours and group outings.
Please note that kayakers are required by law to stay at least 50 feet away from sea otters and other marine mammals. Also be aware that there is no shade on the water, and the sun can get hot.
If you want to get onto the bay, but prefer to stay dry and let others do the driving, there are several boat tours available at Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. If it isn't whale season you can see other wildlife or go fishing. Here are some of our local tour operators:
If you've seen our extensive Shoreline Recreation Trail, and want to explore as much of it as you can, you can pedal your way down the path and beyond.
Adventures By The Sea (yup, them again) can help you do just that. They have multiple bicycle rental outlets in Monterey and Pacific Grove. In addition to bikes, they also rent surreys, which are two or four passenger pedal cars suitable for coordinated exercise on the recreation trail.
But what about Carmel? Mad Dogs & Englishmen have that rental market covered. They're on Mission Street just south of Ocean Avenue, tucked safely away under the building on the southwest corner of those two streets. Just remember, unlike Monterey's recreation trail, Carmel is quite hilly - the business district is more than 200 feet higher than the shore - so you may have to do some hard pedaling to get back to the shop. If you approach the business district from the south (via Lincoln, Dolores, or San Carlos streets), rather than from the west (Ocean or 8th Avenues), you'll have a much easier time of it as that route has the most gradual climb.
For detailed information on this subject from local bicycling experts, Mari Lynch's Bicycling Monterey offers abundant tips and ideas to make the most of your bicycling experience. Of particular interest to Toy Box readers may be her page about Bicycling Pebble Beach (i.e. 17 Mile Drive), which we hear a lot of visitors asking about.