Where to Get Info
See what’s happening in local dining, nightlife, lodging, and a multitude of activities by visiting the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCCVB) website http://www.SeeMonterey.com/. For additional information, including the latest nighttime entertainment highlights, check their daily posts at BlogMonterey.com. Other entertainment leads and local things to do are published, online and in print, in the Monterey County Weekly and the Monterey County Herald’s GO.
A jewel of Monterey County is our Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, which serves as a playground and commute path for cyclists. It is shared with equal delight by pedestrians, skaters, runners, and others. There are also fabulous places to bike beyond the shoreline. Some basic local biking tips are provided on this page. When you're ready for more, take advantage of http://www.BicyclingMonterey.com. There you’ll find Tips for Bicycling Monterey County, a comprehensive guide for tourists and residents. The site includes links to additional local cycling resources.
The Bicycling Monterey website is also home of the HER Helmet Thursdays project, which provides discounts for male and female cyclists on Thursdays. That includes Sea Otter Classic’s Opening Day! As Bicycling Monterey says, just BYOB (bring your own bicycle) or rent one here, then enjoy savings on Thursdays just because you’re biking. Visit the Bicycling Monterey website for the list of participating H-E-R businesses and organizations, along with tips on biking (or doing the bike-and-ride to their locations. H-E-R is an acronym for Hotels, Educational and Entertainment venues, and Restaurants—and related places, including wineries—that participate. And HER refers to Mother Earth, who benefits from more people biking!
Make Sea Otter’s Home Part of Your History
The Sea Otter Classic is all about enjoying and celebrating life on this beautiful Earth, especially life on two wheels. While you are here being a part of the greatest all-around cycling festival, if you are able, set aside additional time for other activities on Sea Otter’s home turf, and surf, of amazing Monterey County. From inspiring romantic settings to extraordinary family fun, opportunities abound to create a full-on Sea Otter week experience that will become a treasured part of your personal or family history.
Got kids? Whether they are walking in the tiny door of MY Museum/Monterey County Youth Museum or playing engineer on the train at Dennis the Menace Park, children find a lot here to be happily excited about. You may educate them—and yourself, too—on everything from Salinas Valley agriculture to Monterey Bay marine life, show them some of the world’s finest art in Carmel’s many galleries, or take them behind the walls of the Cooper Molera Adobe, where they can have a real feel of early California history.
The many miles of dedicated multi-use/bike paths, apart from cars, make the Monterey Peninsula a perfect place for children to get experience cycling around others. For starters, as BicyclingMonterey.com suggests, you may even want to skip the pedestrian-heavy sections of the path. If so, head north of Wharf II on the section of path that runs alongside Del Monte Avenue and parallel to the Naval Postgraduate School, continues to Roberts Lake in Seaside, and beyond. After kids get some practice here, they'll have more fun when they next bike the more heavily traveled sections of the path: the popular areas from Wharf II to Wharf I, and on past the Coastguard Pier, to Cannery Row, the Aquarium, and all the way to Lovers Point in Pacific Grove.
Want to keep athletically well-rounded while you’re here? Take a week or longer to enjoy a varied sports-week vacation. Try boogie boarding, kayaking, or stand-up paddle boarding on the bay; go wind surfing in Marina; hike among the redwoods or high up on the coastal ridges of Big Sur; or tag on a rock-climbing or hiking excursion to Pinnacles National Monument, where wildflowers bloom in April.
And when those bodies are happily tired, where else but Monterey County can you soak tired muscles in a hot tub overlooking the Pacific from high above the Big Sur coast, or have a relaxing spa experience on a rooftop while you gaze north across the bay to the Santa Cruz mountains, east to Mount Toro, and down at the waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!
Even if you can’t fit in such activities this trip, just the simple pleasure of a great meal is hard to beat. Pack a picnic from local delis, grocers, or the year-round farmers markets (see Bicycling Monterey's Farmers Market section for locations and times). Or, choose from the many places where you can be wined and dined by acclaimed Monterey County vintners and chefs. Restaurants here offer lots of international options, including choices to please a wide range of palates, styles, and budgets.
Top off a delicious dinner by biking to the entertainment spots just off the Cannery Row bike/multi-use path, or otherwise venturing out where you can discover the lively local entertainment scene. Or, precede a brilliant breakfast with a sunrise bike ride or walk on or above one of the many beaches. Sweet! Here you can easily take part in everyday Monterey activities that will fill your heart with awesome memories.
Just being here is a trip! Ride slowly along the bike/multi-use path, or take a walk anywhere there are lots of people, and take time to tune in to the languages of those around you. The Monterey Peninsula is not only one of California's top vacation destinations, it is also a language capital, with the Defense Language Institute, Monterey Institute of International Studies, and Naval Postgraduate School particularly attracting students and faculty who are natives of many and diverse world cultures. Combined with the international visitors who flock to Monterey County every year—including for Sea Otter—this affords you a wealth of opportunities to hear many languages and interact with people from all over the world.
Play along the Monterey Peninsula
What many people don’t realize about Monterey County is that it has a fascinating history dating back to the 18th century. California's first Constitution was signed at Colton Hall in Old Monterey, now a preserved historic site in the City of Monterey. Get free audio tours of historic sites (see "Cycling to Monterey County's History Spots" at BicyclingMonterey.com), then bike, or walk, at your own pace as you explore local history.
All over agriculturally rich Monterey County, there are farmers markets nearly every day of the week. And on Tuesdays, starting at 4 p.m., you'll find a bustling Old Monterey Marketplace along downtown Monterey’s Alvarado Street, featuring fresh local produce and a wide variety of other foods, crafts, street musicians, and more. Park your bike on Alvarado and walk during Tuesday market hours, because this place is hopping!
From there, you might go to one of the many restaurants downtown or just across the Custom House Plaza at Old Fisherman's Wharf/Wharf I. Built in 1846 for trading vessels, whaling ships, and fishermen, it now features restaurants, shops, and a working pier for whale watching and fishing trips. There are bike racks at the top of Wharf I, another typically bustling area that is only open to pedestrian traffic. On Wharf II, which features several restaurants and fresh seafood vendors, you may bike out the entire length and enjoy a sweeping view of the bay.
Cannery Row achieved earlier renown through Nobel- and Pulitzer-winning novelist John Steinbeck’s book Cannery Row. In 1984, the Row began building a new reputation as home to the now world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Rain or shine, the Aquarium is a treat for all ages. Cannery Row is also popular for its live music clubs, shops, restaurants, and more. What else is special about Cannery Row? This is a business district that has a bike/multi-use path running right through it!
While the Aquarium is in the City of Monterey, just across the street at the American Tin Cannery’s shops and restaurants, you are in Pacific Grove. Go deeper into PG and you’ll realize why it has the endearing moniker of "America's Last Home Town.” You may be surprised that this apparently laid-back community offers Zagat-rated dining along with its charming small-town shopping experience. Children will love climbing on the whale at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, romping in the grass beside stretches of the PG portion of the bike/multi-use trail, or playing on the sheltered beach at Lovers Point.
Just after Pacific Grove’s Asilomar State Beach, you arrive at the PG gate to Pebble Beach. Enter Pebble Beach and be dazzled by 17-Mile Drive. Open to bikes, this breathtaking roadway passes stunning architecture and legendary golf courses, including Pebble Beach Golf Links, Cypress Point, and Spyglass Hill. Pebble also has some of the most prominent dining and lodging options around. While biking 17-Mile Drive is incredible, cyclists biking the sections of the drive that have narrow or no bike lanes are encouraged to bike in the morning, when there is less traffic; check Bicycling Monterey's PB tips for more info.
Wind your way along 17-Mile Drive and exit the Carmel gate that deposits you just above Carmel Beach, in Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is a great point to start another spectacularly scenic leg of biking. Pedal Scenic Drive above Carmel Beach, all the way to Carmel River Beach. Biking not much farther will take you to the historic Carmel Mission, one of the original California missions, which was established by Padre Junipero Serra in 1771. And, of course, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, there are many renowned art galleries and magnificent shops and restaurants!
Venturing out Carmel Valley? There is now a 1.5-mile Class I path, the South Bank Trail, on the south side of the Carmel River--between the area near Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley and Palo Corona Regional Park. The South Bank Trail provides a special place where even young children can safely enjoy a bike outing.
Just south of Carmel is Point Lobos State Reserve, described as "the greatest meeting of land and water in the world." A unique geological formation with an astounding diversity of plants and wildlife, Point Lobos has been home to Native Americans, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese engaged in whaling, abalone harvesting, coal mining, and more. Point Lobos has even been the site of a military base and movie-making. You are welcome to bike at Point Lobos on all roadways, just not on the trails.
Know the Grandeur of Big Sur
Don’t forget Big Sur! This isn’t a town you arrive at but a stretch of coast, and many would say, a state of mind and heart. The post office serving the Big Sur community is 27 miles south of Carmel.
Big Sur has a history closely linked to the sea otter itself. By the 1930s, the California sea otter (whose astonishing metabolic rate is rivaled only by that of the pro bike racer) was believed extinct, due to fur trapping. Then, in 1938, a group of otters was discovered along the Big Sur coast. In the following decades, the fame of this rugged and formerly sparsely populated area has grown, and fortunately, so has the otter population.
Today, Big Sur draws seekers of its spectacular coastline who also crave opportunities to view endangered species like the California condor and the blue whale. Big Sur also offers access to the Ventana Wilderness. And in contrast to still having a strong bohemian flavor, as in Henry Miller’s days, Big Sur has some of the most luxurious lodging and dining options in California. What else? The Henry Miller Library is a favored venue of Britt Govea/Folk Yeah Productions, whose reputation for great shows has only grown since Govea was dubbed hottest new promoter by Rolling Stone Magazine. Check out the concert schedule!
Where to bike in Big Sur? Many visitors enjoy biking at Andrew Molera State Park. Please yield to horses on the paths.
And There’s More!
To experience the fullness of Monterey County, consider experiencing a new local area every year when you come to Sea Otter. Over the years, get acquainted with Big Sur, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Castroville, Del Rey Oaks, Gonzales, Greenfield, Marina, Monterey, Moss Landing, Pacific Grove, Salinas, San Ardo, Sand City, Seaside, and Soledad—all of which especially welcome cyclists, as shown by each community having businesses or organizations in the countywide HER Helmet Thursdays project. Every one of these towns has unique charms, and returning to Sea Otter each year to also discover many of these will mean you have MoCo experiences that tourists usually miss out on.
Salinas, the Monterey County Seat
If you’ve not already been in John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas, consider starting with a trip there. Head east from Laguna Seca to Salinas, the Salad Bowl of America. In Salinas, you’ll find wide, flat streets that even out-of-condition cyclists find easy to bike. In historic Old Town Salinas, visit the National Steinbeck Center, where you'll learn of the literary great via the John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall. But don't stop there; check out a wide variety of Steinbeck Center exhibits. And let that be just the start of discovering Salinas. Check Bicycling Monterey's "What to do in Salinas" section or go to the California Welcome Center's Salinas section for more ideas.
Most of All, Kick Back and Have Fun
The Sea Otter Classic encourages you to experience the rich diversity of the world of cycling, and of Monterey County. Whether on or off your bike, let the goal of your Sea Otter visit be to have a fantastic time. Come celebrate!
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