The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Monterey's Old Town

Photo of Shay Lee
9 February 2017

Monterey is located on California’s central coast. The most famous street in the city is Cannery Row, the center of the sardine packing industry. In Monterey, visitors can find a wide range of shops, seafood restaurants, and bars. There is a lot to see and do in the beautiful town – we have listed the most popular attractions.

Jellyfish | © Mike Welssenborn/Flickr

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The famous giant kelp tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
© Jamie Pham / Alamy Stock Photo
Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the ocean. In 1916, Knut Hovden opened a cannery on the current site of the aquarium to promote the sardine fishery industry. After the industry collapsed, Hovden’s cannery closed. A few years later, the plan to build Monterey Bay Aquarium began. In 1984, the aquarium opened to 10,681 visitors on its first day. After 30 years, the organization still showcases habitats and marine life in one of the world’s largest marine regions.The aquarium is considered one of the best in the world due to its extensive knowledge of marine life and history. The staff has remarkable skills and is committed to promoting a good environment for all sea creatures. There are 34 galleries in the aquarium which hold over 550 species and 35,000 creatures.

Cannery Row

Cannery Row is the most popular vacation destination in Monterey. Author John Steinbeck made the street famous when he used it in his stories. Cannery Row is a historic waterfront district home to Monterey’s best hotels, attractions, and restaurants. The famous location is often filled with locals and tourists who love hanging out in the shops and bars. Most visitors choose this place for the affordable hotels and the scenic waterfront. The hotels offer views and direct access to the beach, wildlife, and waves. Visitors can also enjoy the amazing nightlife, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, and the Coastal Recreation Trail. Cannery Row is the perfect place for a romantic getaway, family gatherings, or a night out with friends.

Address & Telephone Number: 649 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 372 8901

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park preserves natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment and education of future generations. In 1916, the park was created to promote taking care of nature. Volunteers and park partners currently safeguard the Pinnacles and maintain the park’s majesty. Each year, over 275 million people visit the park. The historic landmark encourages parents and children to get out, be active, and have fun. Tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses contribute stories to the park. This allows visitors to learn and have adventures at the same time. Pinnacles National Park’s emblem is an arrowhead decorated with a sequoia tree, bison, mountains, and water. The emblem represents the love of nature.

Address & Telephone Number: 5000 Highway 146, Paicines, CA, USA +1 831 389 4485

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Constructed in 1957 near Salinas and Monterey, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a racing track used for car and motorcycle racing. The track is 2.238 miles long and has a 180 feet elevation change. The raceway holds exhibition and entertainment events, such as superkarts and sports car racing and music festivals. Laguna Seca also holds major events annually, such as U.S. Sports Car Invitational, Monterey Sports Car Championship, Monterey Historics, and Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. In Spanish, Laguna Seca means ‘dry lake’. The track area used to be a lake which became dry over the years. $1.5 million was raised by Monterey’s businesses and townspeople to build the famous track.The race course was then built around the lake and two artificial ponds were added.

Address & Telephone Number: 1021 Monterey Salinas Highway, Salinas, CA, USA +1 831 242 8701

Monterey State Historic Park

In 1602, Spanish explorers settled in Monterey and their presence still lingers today. Monterey State Historic Park is a collection of historic houses and buildings located throughout Old Monterey. The park district contains the last remaining whalebone sidewalks. Tourists are allowed to walk on the sidewalks while strolling through the town. In 1879, author Robert Louis Stevenson strutted through these streets. The park extends two miles and contains relics of California’s history, with 55 historic sites to be explored including the Custom House, California’s oldest government building, and several house museums. Tourists can venture through Monterey State Historic Park at any time of the year.

Address & Telephone Number: 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 649 7118

Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo

On June 3rd 1770, Father Junipero Serra founded San Carlos Borromeo de Monterey on the shores of Monterey Bay. A year later, the church became the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo. San Carlos is a witness of faith and represents the sacrifices of the Franciscan priests, led by Father Serra. The cathedral is the oldest functioning church and first stone building in California. It marks the birth of Carmel Mission and of Monterey. The style of the church represents Spanish Colonial style. The building is a jewel of architecture, history, and faith, and a place for celebration in the Catholic community offering daily Mass services. This cathedral invites visitors to find warmth, solace, and inspiration.

Address & Telephone Number: 500 Church St, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 373 2628

Colton Hall

Walter Colton came to Monterey as a chaplain on Commodore Stockton’s vessel in the late 1840s. During that time he became the town’s first mayor. Colton built Colton Hall as a public school and government meeting place. The first constitutional convention was held in this place after the construction was completed. Delegates from ten districts came together to write California’s first constitution, which was ratified on October 13th 1849. In 1934, the Native Sons of the Golden West worked to ensure Colton Hall became a historical landmark. The famous structure holds Monterey’s City Hall, a public school, a courthouse, the sheriff’s office, and Monterey’s police headquarters. The second floor hosts a museum.

Address & Telephone Number: 570 Pacific St, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 646 5648

Monterey County Fairgrounds

Since 1935, Monterey County Fairgrounds have been a place for shows and festivals. The fair rests on an area of 22 acres and contains eight buildings, two outdoor music arenas, and one horse show arena. Figures such as Duke Ellington, Carlos Santana, Sarah Vaughn, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix have performed in the arenas. Every year they host Monterey Jazz Festival, four horse shows, Fair Headline Acts, and other events. There are also seven buildings available to rent for private parties. The fairgrounds’ feature the Turf Club, a place for celebrations with a huge stone fireplace and an open patio with heaters. The horse racing facility is open every day and offers payouts from Golden Gates Fields, Santa Anita, Del Mar, Cal Expo, and Woodbine. With so many events going on, make sure you check the place out when visiting Monterey.

Address & Telephone Number: 2004 Fairground Rd, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 372 5863

Montrio Bistro

Montrio Bistro opened its doors in 1995. The best European and American cuisines inspire the seasonal small plates and main courses served here. The menu is based on sustainable seafood, local organic produce, prime meats, and house made desserts. The bistro has won national and regional awards for excellence given by Wine Spectator, Esquire, Wine Enthusiast, and the American Culinary Federation. For 10 years, the restaurant has been voted “Best Restaurant in Monterey County” and has been designated ambassador of Sustainable Seafood Watch.

Price: Fine Dining

Hours: Opens at 4:30pm (Daily)

Watch out for: the prime chateaux sirloin

Address & Telephone Number: 414 Calle Principal, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 648 8880

Cibo Ristorante Italiano

Cibo Ristorante Italiano specializes in gourmet Italian food. Their eclectic menu is filled with delicious pizzas and various entrees. The extensive wine list is hand selected from Italian and California vintages – the wines pair perfectly with dinner. Traditional and creative cocktails also complement the dining experience. Cibo accommodates elegant events such as jazz nights, private parties, special group events, and quiet dinners. The place has won awards for best interior design, live jazz music, Italian restaurant, best place to dance, and best martini. Paintings, photography, sculpture, hand blown glass, and live jazz fill the room, so come an enjoy all of these and the great food and drinks in the vibrant atmosphere of this restaurant.

Price: Mid Range

Hours: 4pm-1am (Daily)

Watch out for the bruschetta

Address & Telephone Number: 301 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA, USA +1 831 649 8151

By Shay Lee

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