Monterey Bay

Traditionally, Labor’s Day Weekend marks the end of summer. One last hurrah before the back to school routine set in! As we edge toward living in California for 3 months, we needed time to reflect and celebrate all that we accomplished together as a family. It’s been an amazing adventure thus far!
We were bitten by the seaside charm of Monterey Bay about 8 years ago on vacation from Minnesota. We stayed in Monterey Bay at the Portola Hotel and Spa. We like the kid-friendly atmosphere, central location of this hotel, beautifully decorated rooms and courteous staff. We were excited to return with a now 8 year old and 6 year old- as residents of California!
2006- Monterey Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf
With a 2-hour drive from the East Bay, Monterey Bay offered us the opportunity to unplug, reconnect, discover and have fun! In the car, the boys chatted about seeing sharks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and wondered about the special adventure the Portola Hotel and Spa had in store for them!
Upon check in, we were greeted with complimentary cookies. Calories do not count when you are on vacation, folks!

With live trees, this has to be one of the most beautiful hotel lobbies I have ever seen.

The boys immediately went out to the balcony to check out the scene outside. As you can see, the room was decorated in a nautical theme- which only made it more inviting to our boys.

I previously read on the Portola Hotel and Spa website that they offered a free Pirate Program for kids. After I enrolled the boys, the front desk handed me two pirate bags (enclosed with an eye patch and gold necklace along with a map for a treasure hunt). This was not only a great way to start our weekend adventure, it was a great way to explore and get to know our surroundings of the hotel. After the boys found everything they needed, they were invited to pick something from the treasure chest!
Learning about the ships while on the treasure hunt.

We found a pirate while on hunt for treasure!
Taking a break while hunting for treasure.
Happy to have found the treasure! Thanks, Portola Hotel and Spa!
We parked our car for the long weekend in the garage at the hotel ($17/night) and didn’t see it again until we checked out on Monday. This was one of the boys favorite things about the hotel. They could wander freely without getting loaded back up into the car.
Fisherman’s Wharf was literally right outside of our hotel. There was so much to see and so much to taste! Crepes and Sour Dough Bread were the kids favorites, while Ashish and I enjoyed the clam chowder out of a bread bowl.
There was a man on the wharf that had a collection of parrots. He proudly taught both of the boys how to hold a parrot and pet it.

We took advantage of Peter B’s BrewPub for happy hour and dinner, steps away from our room.
We liked 4 of the 5 brews that came with the beer flight.
There is a free trolley that runs every 10-15 minutes from the Fisherman’s Wharf to The Monterey Bay Aquarium. However, we enjoyed the 1.3 mile walk from our hotel along the bay to Cannery Row. There was so much to see, shop and dine on!

We reached the Monterey Bay Aquarium about 20 minutes after it opened. After seeing the award-winning exhibits in the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, it’s easy to understand why the Monterey Bay Aquarium was voted the number 3 top-rated family attraction in the United States.
He had to show his new shark to the sharks.

If you can’t get to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can still get in on part of the action! From the comfort of your home, you can view the following exhibits, complete with feeding times:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers free audio Podcasts on iTunes: “Aquarium of the Air.”

Did you know kids 8-13 years old can be Underwater Explorers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium?

A few tips to consider:

  1. Purchase your tickets in advance. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a travel and tourism program with local hotels that offer lodging and admission tickets valid for two consecutive days. While the line was down the block to get in (followed by another line once you made it inside), with tickets in hand, we were able to waltz right in and bypass the line. If you aren’t staying at one of the hotels listed, you can purchase tickets online.
  2. Do sign up for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s text alert system. It’s simple! Text the code given and text “STOP” when you no longer want to receive messages. While you are there, you’ll never miss a sighting of dolphins or whales outside on their observatory deck. They even sent invitations for us to join them for feedings. This brought our experience a notch above all other attractions we’ve been to.
  3. If you plan on dining at Cindy’s Waterfront Restaurant at the aquarium, you need to make reservations prior to the day of your visit. We were told we would have a two hour wait (bummer!). While there is another café on site, it was very busy. We decided to have our hands stamped for re-entry, walked across the street and ate at Austino’s Patisserie for lunch. Great soup and sandwich options- with a cookie the size of a child’s face!
  4. Do take advantage of the wrist band with your phone number on it that the aquarium offers to place on children in the event that they get separated from you. We have been to a lot of museums in our time– this was the first one to come up with this simple, yet GREAT idea! 
Wrist Band with Parents Phone Number

Until next time, Monterey Bay…thanks for the memories!