A bounty of new and refurbished options for wining, dining, lodging and entertainment exist for tourists and locals alike. Here are just a few notables:
DELECTABLE DESIGNS- Carmel-by-the-Sea heats up with upscale diner 400 Degrees. Gourmet burgers are paired with hand spun milk shakes in flavors like Sea Salt Caramel and Madagascar Vanilla Bean. Foodies are flocking to LokaL in Carmel Valley which is defining farm-to-table genius. Watch fresh herbs being picked right outside the new restaurant which has recently launched a new brunch menu.
The Bench, Pebble Beach’s newest restaurant, showcases more than the legendary 18th hole. The menu reflects the sophisticated, yet laid back space with appetizers such as Fire-Roasted Oysters and Portobello fries. Experience a twist on savory with the new Salt House at Carmel Valley Ranch. Chef Tim Wood is using the unprocessed homemade sea salt during different stages of crystallization to create one-of-a-kind tastes.
AFTER DARK- Nightlife is taking a nod from the history books in Monterey. A favorite watering hole five decades ago, My Attic re-opens as a modern hang out under the direction of the original owner’s grandson. On the main strip of downtown Monterey, My Attic expands Alvarado Street’s nightlife scene with a relaxed atmosphere for cocktails. Bar goers will sip on drinks in the same place John Steinbeck and Don Ricketts once “threw back a few”. Just a stroll away, spirit smiths at another historic adobe, Restaurant 1833 whip up concoctions to delight the night owls. The adventurous should request tableside absinthe service.
LUXE LODGING- Carmel by-the-Sea’s newest boutique hotel is also one of the areas most historic. An extensive multi-million dollar renovation has brought new life to La Playa with eco-friendly upgrades to guestrooms, the lobby and library lounge. Just two blocks from the ocean, the luxury property boasts views which leave a lasting impression. 75 guest rooms are dressed in modern designs with pillow-top beds and 250 thread count linens. Lush gardens and peaceful patios enhance the beauty of “The Grand Dame of Carmel”. Experience the restoration of 100 years of tradition starting at $249/night. After three years of anticipation, the iconic Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley will re-open the hotel this April (2013). The result of 28 million dollars in renovations, the new Lodge will feature redesigned Fairway Villas, an enhanced lobby and landscaping upgrades.
VINO VACATION- Vineyards aside, Monterey County is growing tasting rooms. The new Carmel Wine Walk By-the-Sea Passport combines the pleasures of the Pacific with a tight combo of 7 wine tasting rooms laced within four tasty blocks. New venues include Manzoni Cellars, Wrath Wines, Caraccioli Cellars, Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room and Figge Cellars. Carmel-by-the-Sea’s wine scene goes past the passport with newly opened Constance Wine Bar where smaller winemakers get a stage to showcase their work. Additional new tasting rooms: Holman Ranch Vineyards in Carmel Valley and McIntyre Vineyards at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa.
STEWARDS OF THE SEA- Monterey Bay Aquarium delivers a new adventure for the eyes with the $19 million debut of “The Open Sea.” On tap is the vast world of the deep open sea featuring sandbar sharks, rays and deep-sea jellies in a sweeping realm of rhythms set in a million-gallon tank. “The Jellies Experience” showcases 16 species of graceful drifters that dance, pulse and glow in a multi-sensory six exhibit show. The Jellies serve as living night lights during family sleepovers. Catch the chance to turn the aquarium into your bedroom on specific weekend evenings this fall and winter.
ONE OF A KIND- Home to the largest Finnish Cedar Sauna in the United States, Refuge in Carmel Valley is redefining relaxation as the country’s first sanctuary solely dedicated to thermal therapy. The country’s first co-ed relaxation spa is also affordable. $39 equals access to 10 mineral pools of various temperatures which work to relieve stress, relaxation areas featuring zero gravity chairs and a Eucalyptus steam room.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE- Unleash that inner animal with a stay in a safari bungalow at Vision Quest Ranch, a one-of-a-kind bed & breakfast where resident elephants deliver breakfast. This magical site, tucked deep in Steinbeck Country on 50 acres, has doubled its capacity to eight bungalows, allowing room for guests with children. Families on a budget can enjoy special rates this winter. Next door, Wild Things, an exotic animal training facility with 100+ critters, is adding to the family. This fall, two baby tigers and a binturong will join the brood! Turn December into a true adventure with Evening Holiday Tours.
FLAVORFUL FETE- Well known for food and wine festivals, Monterey County’s best are getting even better. Fall into flavor at Big Sur Food & Wine this November. Thirty-seven vintners and eighteen enchanting chefs will take Big Sur Food & Wine to the next level at the festival’s kick-off party. Forty Monterey County wineries will pour at an ultimate wine tasting called Party in the Hangar this November. Winos will please more than their palates when they soak up knowledge during Q & A sessions with winemakers. The natural bounty of Big Sur is found in mushrooms which will take the stage at the Big Sur Chanterelle Cook-Off Festival in November. The biggest party for the palate happens in spring with Pebble Beach Food & Wine.
PEBBLE ON A PENNY- A visit to iconic Pebble Beach doesn’t have to be a cash drop if played correctly. Top Insider Tips: 1) Rent a bike from one of Adventures By The Sea’s ten locations on the Peninsula and ride the iconic 17-Mile Drive (free); best approach is the Pacific Grove gate; 2) Play like a pro at Peter Hay Golf Course ($30), a par-3 gem smack in the middle of the action; 3) take the dunes trail from Asilomar State Beach to The Inn at Spanish Bay’s alfresco happy hour, live bagpiper included.
Published by Monterey County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau — www.seemonterey.com