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Monterey Travel Guide, California

Monterey well deserves its popularity as one of the most beautiful places on earth, a renowned vacation destination.

Monterey was settled in 1770 and was the capital of California under many flags and here is where its constitution was drafted. The city’s economy was strongly linked to the surrounding natural resources and the city became a major whaling center in the 1800s then in the 1910s an important sardine center hosting 18 canneries. But after the sardines disappeared, the city turned towards tourism as the cornerstone of its economy an it proved to be a very good decision. The city dolled up for the incoming tourists and the restoration and change process began. The sardine factories were transformed into theme restaurants, boutiques and knickknack stores.

History and the lives of the working-class from that period is kept alive by John Steinbeck’s novel “Cannery Row”. He is considered a local hero and a 37,000-square-foot museum called The National Steinbeck Center was opened in 1998 in his honor. Even if you have to drive 20 miles out of town to see it, this museum featuring interactive exhibits on Steinbeck’s life, an orientation theater, educational programs and a changing exhibition gallery, is still worth a visit.

The city has carefully preserved history with many historic buildings from the early colonial era still standing. You can see history come alive as you enjoy the area's special monuments comprised in the "Path of History“, a tour that examines 1800s architecture and lifestyle. Among the most famous is the Maritime Museum of Monterey. It is well worth a stop for the charming historical exhibits and the sense of local pride it contains. You can see ship models a two-story-high Fresnel lens used at the Point Sur lighthouse and other sea linked collections.

There are many other things to do and see around town, but you should make sure you don’t leave out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, an outstanding, world-class aquarium hosting sea lions and otters. Reserve at least three hours for the visit. The aquarium also offers a wonderful atmosphere for dining as the food is quite fresh, well prepared and reasonable in cost. If you feel like trying other dining options you can find many opportunities all around Monterey Bay.

Outdoors activities that keep you close to nature are in abundance. You can choose to see otters in their natural habitat by kayaking through forests, catch your own fish in the bay, or go on a whale watching tour. 25 minutes north of Monterey, at Moss Landing Along you can experience a wonderful a 2-hour tour offered by friendly Cap'n Gideon. You will emerge in the Elkhorn Slough Wildlife Reserve, which is like jumping into a National Geographic special. This is another place you can see otters, harbor seals, and hundreds of species of waterfowl and migratory shorebirds.

Monterey has a mix of touristy feel and a small town atmosphere with a rustic charm. A good example of this mix is the Cannery Row with plenty of history and heritage mingling with the quality lodgings, restaurants, shops and themed stores. Outside the touristy area you will discover a pleasant seaside community with magnificent views and you will get a local feel if you go to the Old Monterey Marketplace on Alvarado Street, a farmers market where you can find food, crafts, music and entertainment.

You will also love the peace and quietness offered by the surrounding area as Monterey is close to Santa Cruz, that sits at the northern tip of the crescent formed by Monterey Bay; Pacific Grove and Carmel are generally quieter, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur. Big Sur it a great place to set up base while exploring the Monterey coast, it offers have plenty of photo options; the lodgings here are far less expensive than in Monterey, although gas prices run about a dollar higher than the rest of the area.

Monterey is known as the Wine Country and if you visit any area between Monterey and Santa Barbara, you will get to see a lot of boutique vintners making respectable wines.

With a seemingly never-ending list of things to see and do, you'd want to get a head start and jet off to Monterey.

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