45 miles S of Santa Cruz; 116 miles S of San Francisco; 335 miles N of Los Angeles

Local hero John Steinbeck captured the gritty lives of the working class in Cannery Row, when Monterey was the sardine capital of the Western Hemisphere. After the sardines disappeared, Monterey was forced to fish for tourist dollars instead; hence, an array of boutiques, knickknack stores, and theme restaurants now reside in converted sardine factories along the bay. Distance yourself from the Row, however, and you'll discover Monterey is a serene seaside community with magnificent vistas, stately Victorians, and a number of quality lodgings and restaurants.

Things to Do

When visiting Monterey, it has to be done: Stroll down Cannery Row for a historical journey in search of Steinbeck's muse (and a stuffed sea otter for your niece). Then sashay over to Fisherman's Wharf to nosh on little cups of ceviche, crab, clam chowder and shrimp. Journey inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the #1 aquarium in the world.

Active Pursuits

We beg of you: Take a sea kayak tour of placid Monterey Bay and get eye-to-eye with a sea otter. Next, rent some bikes and cruise the Coastal Bike Trail while keeping an eye out for sea otters, sea lions, dolphins, and whales. After scuba diving, paddle boarding, deep sea fishing, and whale watching, take a scenic drive to nearby Carmel, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur.

Nightlife & Entertainment

Monterey host's the world's longest-running jazz festival, so there's always live music somewhere in town. Pubs include Mucky Duck and Crown & Anchor. A nightcap at Schooners Bistro overlooking the Monterey Bay is always a pleasure. Or join the spirited crowd at the piano bar at Restaurant at Mission Ranch.

Restaurants & Dining

You'll find everything from greasy (Bubba Gump's) to gourmet (Montrio Bistro). By day nothing beats lunching at the seaside cafes atop Fisherman's Wharf. By night, it's Papá Chano's for chilies rellenos and local fave Tarpy's Roadhouse for meatloaf and mash. Rise and shine at Rosine's for belly-filling breakfast plates.