Monterey is a beach town in central California, just south of San Francisco, that has been a popular tourist destination for over 150 years. It is well-known for its annual Monterey Bay Whale Watch, which is popular among tourists. Monterey has undergone revitalization in the past decade to become one of California’s top tourist destinations. With nearly 40 attractions to choose from, there are plenty of things to do in Monterey with kids.
Things to do in Monterey with kids
1. Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a state-of-the-art aquarium that you shouldn’t miss visiting on your trip to the city. It’s a great place for your kids to learn as there are several educational shows about marine life in the auditorium.
Some attractions in the aquarium include; penguin feedings, illuminated jellyfish exhibitions, and touch pools. Weekends are great to visit the park but if possible, go on a weekday as it will be less crowded.
2. Cannery Row
Cannery Row is located in downtown Monterey, including a series of canning factories that were mostly closed by the 1980s. Today it is filled with shops, restaurants, and souvenir stores for tourists to enjoy. You can go on a Segway tour, check out the restaurants for delicious seafood, and visit a mini-golf course.
3. Monterey Museum of Art
The Monterey Museum of Art offers a wide range of Californian art exhibits, including paintings, sculptures, and photography from the 19th century to date.
4. Monterey County Youth Museum
Popularly known as MY, this museum is perfect for kids who are curious about science and natural history! This museum focuses on explaining its exhibits through hands-on interactions with the materials they provide, so it’s a good idea to let your kid explore this museum at their own pace!
The Monterey County Youth Museum is a great place to visit because it’s all about kids having fun through learning, even though they might not realize it. In addition to being an educational experience, the museum also provides special workshops that teach things like pottery and origami making. Note that kids under 24 months are allowed free entry!
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5. The Lone Cypress Tree
This tree may not be located in Monterey itself, but it definitely deserves a spot on the list of things to do in Monterey with kids. This tree is the most iconic symbol of Pebble Beach. The tree is native to this area and has a lifespan of up to 4,000 years.
The best part about this tree is that it’s actually situated on 17 Mile Drive, so you can stop there after finishing up your visit to Monterey itself. There’s not much else to do in this area besides see this tree, but you can still make a day out of your trip! But I would recommend checking out the rest of Monterey if you have time.
6. Dennis the Menace Playground
Dennis the Menace Playground is a great place to visit because it’s designed with children in mind! The playground was established in 1956 as part of El Estero Park. Hank Ketcham, the man behind Dennis the Menace comic strip and Carmel resident, played an important role in creating the playground.
This playground offers some fun things for kids like slides, swing sets, and even climbing structures. However, this playground isn’t just fun for kids – adults can go there too! There are benches throughout the playground to sit, relax, and watch your kids play. Another major attraction here is the 1924 Southern Pacific engine which the kids will love to see.
In addition to this fun playground, El Estero Park, adjacent to the playground, has a baseball for your older kids. As you can see, there are a lot of things to do at Dennis the Menace Playground, so it’s definitely a fun place to visit with kids.
7. Del Monte Beach
Del Monte Beach is a great place to visit. It’s very close, but not too close that it feels crowded. The beach is beautiful and serene. The clear water and soft sand make for a lovely family outing. There are plenty of amenities around the area to make your day even more enjoyable.
A great place to get lunch or ice cream is at the little food truck or picnic tables around the pond. The kids are sure to love feeding the waterfowl; it makes for great photo ops too.
Restrooms are available on-site, so you don’t have to worry about that while you’re there! If you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of those very rare but spectacularly beautiful Monterey sunsets.
8. Old Fisherman’s Wharf
Old Fisherman’s Wharf is an excellent place to take the kids, lots of things going on, and a ton to see and do! The wharf itself has many attractions such as museums. If you like seabirds, you should stop by the Monterey Bay Aquarium; it’s only a short distance away. You also get to sea otters and lions swimming.
There are many fish to be caught off the fishing pier. Also, there are endless amounts of shops and restaurants where you can grab some grub or browse around for fun things to bring home as souvenirs. It might get pricey, but you’ll have a great time doing it!
9. Monterey Bay Kayaks
Monterey Bay Kayaks is a great way to get out on the water with kids without having to worry about safety. The facility has two locations, one in Monterey and another in Marina, that have kayaks available for adults and children over six years of age.
The staff will do a brief lesson on how to operate the kayaks and how to stay safe. The entire process takes about an hour and is great for those who don’t want to spend the day on the water but still want a memorable experience.
10. Monterey Bay Whale Watch
This is a great activity for both tourists and locals alike. Whether you’re in Monterey to spend some time with the family or just passing through on your way up to San Francisco, this is an experience not to be missed. Every year around November, whales are spotted migrating along the coast of California. This period is known as “Whale Watching Season.”
Monterey Bay Whale Watch takes advantage of this naturally occurring phenomenon and allows you to spot these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Seeing whales breaching out of the water is an awe-inspiring experience that will cement itself into your memory for years to come.
If you want to get the most out of your trip, it’s best to go during peak viewing time – early November to mid-December. If you’re really passionate about seeing these animals up close, you can take a whale watching tour that lasts up to three hours. To maximize your chances of seeing some whales, it’s also best to go on a day where there is little chance of rain – the rough waters make spotting these creatures more difficult.
There are often fewer people around during the winter months, so you have a higher chance of having some space to yourself while taking in these majestic creatures on their journey.
If you’re visiting family in Monterey or find yourself in the city for a few days, this is a great way to make memories with your loved ones. If you want to join in on the fun and get the most out of your stay, it’s best to book your whale-watching excursion ahead of time and arrive early. Other creatures you will see include orcas and dolphins.
11. Jacks Peak Park
The hike to Jacks Peak Park is mainly uphill, so it’s not ideal for kids under the age of 8. But the view at the top of this 325m (1068 feet) peak overlooking Monterey Bay and the city is worth it!
Several trails lead to different vistas, and some have significant elevation gains, making them more challenging than others. Wear good walking/hiking shoes and bring water and snacks in case the kids get hungry along the way. Other great activities you can engage in with your kids include picnicking and horseback riding.
12. Pinnacles National Park
When you visit Monterey with kids, do not forget to visit this unique park. Compared to other attractions in the city, the park is fairly new, having been designated in 2013. Due to this, it is not widely now, and some Californians don’t even know it exists.
The park is in Monterey but extends to the neighboring San Benito County and contains several geological features that your kids will love to see. Brace yourselves for hot weather if you plan to visit in the summer. There are a couple of easy hikes that you can enjoy as a family.
13. Point Sur State Historic Park Lighthouse
Just as the name suggests, the lighthouse is a historic site at Point Sur Historic State Park. The lighthouse overlooks the ocean and provides a great spot for viewing the migrating whales. It is also a great place to take photos. You can explore the site with your family and learn about its history. Your older kids can also go on ghost hunting tours.
As we all know, kids grow up so fast, and it can be hard to keep them entertained. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of fun things to do in Monterey with kids that will make your family vacation a success!