As visitors arrive in the quaint coastal Central California enclave of Carmel-by-the-Sea a collective sigh of relief is carried on the cool ocean air. Park the car, you won’t need it for the next 72 hours – welcome to the insiders guide to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. (www.carmelcalifornia.com)
Day 1: Pop the cork and celebrate with a refreshing glass of sparkling wine at Caraccioli Cellars, just the way to ease into your stay. Before checking in to one of the 45+ inns or hotels, (www.stayincarmel.org) check out the shopping – day 1 begins.
Stop in at the Carmel Plaza and welcome our newest neighbor Kate Spade to the village. A shot of color adds a bright cheery feel to the already flower lined promenade. Across the way visitors will find Blue Lemon, where jewelry-making classes can be scheduled and taken or hand crafted designs can be purchased. If visitors are lucky Pamplemousse on Ocean Avenue may be hosting one of their prominent trunk shows, displaying their eclectic and adorable wares. For the eco-conscious, Eco-Carmel on San Carlos between 7th & 8th offers unique, earth friendly products. With many more options lining the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea, it may be time to stop in for lunch and a quick nip to settle into “vacation mode.”
After working up an appetite from shopping, experience the latest expansion of David Fink’s empire, 400°’s Gourmet Burgers & Fries. Burgers, fries, hot dogs, and shakes as well as kids meals are all on the menu and each one is more delicious than the last. For a more refined lunch- any of the Firok Shield’s family restaurants (he has 3 in Carmel), or Portabella on Ocean located within a quaint Comstock cottage or Patisserie Boissiere all offer epicureans delights.
Time to walk off lunch and prepare for the remaining hours ahead. Make your next stop the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center on San Carlos between 5th & 6th, here you can pick up the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea wine tasting passport, good all weekend long, and can be used at your leisure. Be sure to stop in at the newest tasting room, Manzoni Cellars.
Upon arrival at the hotel be welcomed by one of the friendly innkeepers in our city. One of the many unique facts about the 1×1 square mile of the Carmel-by-Sea: the innkeepers staff a 24 hour reservation line, and if visitors call and there is the proverbial “no room at the inn” then they will continue down the list of properties until they find a property with a room available! No competition among inns, just a desire to please the guest on the end of the line.
As the evening ensues, be sure to check the schedule for one of the upcoming events in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Sunset Center is spectacular and worthy of top national performances with an amazing cast of performers scheduled including Kenny Loggins, Bob Newhart, A Rock Tribute to Led Zeppelin, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Ira Glass and many more. Coincidentally, though you won’t need your car for another 48 hours, if you would like to charge it, there are four stations available at the Sunset Center offering free service.
And the sun sets on day 1.
Day 2: A morning stroll along Ocean Avenue, leads to one of the most pristine beaches in America. If a four-legged friend is your travel companion this beach is leash free for dogs. If you would rather not get sand between your toes- turn left on Scenic Avenue for a gentle walk along a guided path. With Point Lobos to the South and Pebble Beach to the north, a more stunning landscape and stretch of coastline would be hard to find.
Stop off for breakfast or coffee at a local eatery, you won’t find any chain restaurants or fast food in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Em Lee’s has been open since 1955; so they have lots of practice serving up a fine breakfast. If coffee and a pastry is more your style, on Ocean Avenue you will find Carmel Bakery, Carmel Valley Roasting Company, Carmel Belle and Carmel Coffee House. And just off the beaten path, you will find Pastries & Petals.
Before you get back to your inn, be sure to dodge into a few of the more than 40+ courtyards that grace the village. The newest mayor of Carmel, Jason Burnett, has been seen favoring El Paseo Courtyard, where visitors will see a sculpture done by Jo Mora in 1927, who also did the sarcophagus of Father Junipero Serra at the Carmel Mission. Visitors and locals are often surprised by the public displays of art that are found in side courtyards as a little delight for taking a “road less traveled.” As a side note, it has been over 20 years since “Dirty Harry” was mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, but visitors still ask “Is Clint Eastwood still the mayor?” referring to his one term that ended in 1988. We are not sure which courtyard it Clint’s favorite but highly recommend the Court of the Fountains, Piccadilly Courtyard, and Cinderella Lane.
Renowned as a mecca for artists, writers and musicians since the turn of the last century, American Style awarded Carmel the prestigious “Top 25 Art Destinations in the U.S.” in 2012. The remarkable artist enclave tucked between Big Sur and Pebble Beach—with bohemian roots reaching back over a hundred years—has been a retreat for the likes of Salvador Dali and Ansel Adams, and some of the over 100+ art galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea still display their work. The Carmel Art Association, established in 1927, celebrates 85 years, with 200 active members made up of local artists the association also has the unique distinction of being the oldest gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
If guests are in town during one of the many days that hosts an event, the fall lineups and world-class productions at the historic Golden Bough Playhouse, the intimate Circle theaters, and famous outdoor Forest Theater include Beauty & the Beast, Julius Ceasar, and Much Ado About Nothing. Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival arrives in town September 28-30. The Carmel Chamber of Commerce hosts their 24th Annual Taste of Carmel Masquerade Ball Thursday, October 4th, 6pm-9pm, no mask necessary. The Carmel Art & Film Festival, October 10-14, is back for the 4th; year founded in 2008 by fine artist Tom Burns and Erin Clark, the festival gives artists a platform and voice to pursue their creative visions and share them with the world.
Ready to begin Happy Hour? By all means, go where the locals go: Terry’s Lounge (inside the famous Doris Day’s Cypress Inn) offering Yappy Hour, and live music for you and well-leashed guests. Il Fornaio has the best deal in town with a $5 menu with select food (including full pizzas), wine and cocktails, plus $3 beers; or if visitors like an atmosphere of see and be seen then Vesuvio—the newest flagship in the Pepe International consortium—is open, with expanded Starlight 65 lounge rooftop deck, great happy hour, and serves an “Adult Happy Meal”—complete with gourmet cheese burger, fries and your choice of a Rum & Coke or Whiskey & Coke. If pubs and cheers for beers is more up your alley, than Brophy’s Tavern is the place for Monday Night Football, and Jack London’s has regular live music and sports TVs. A.W. Shucks on Ocean Avenue remains a locals and visitors favorite oyster bar and grill respite.
After a busy day, grab a picnic basket and a bottle of wine with delectable’s from Salumeria Luca, The Cheese Shop, Bruno’s Market, or Nielson Brothers Market, walk down to the beach and let Romantic Room Designs set the stage for the perfect beach bonfire. Watch the sun as it sinks into the Pacific than cozy up and gaze at the stars while you enjoy your wine, listening to the sound of the surf on the sand.
If you still need something to nosh on after star gazing, then Mundaka serves dinner until 11 with house music and old movies shot onto the wall; at Gabe Georis’ restaurant you now are able to get a mixed drink with the new liquor license, as you belly up to the bar, take note of the reclaimed wood from Big Sur. Demetra Café and the newly expanded Constance lounge are also a fantastic option with spontaneous singing, and cork popping, when you are at Demetra, you’re part of the family, opa!
Day 3: Greet the morning with a soothing yoga class on the beach offered by Lululemon, or if the sirens of the water call your name then learn to surf with Noah Greenberg of Carmel Surf Lessons; teaching surfing since 1986. Noah provides all the equipment and offers groups or private session. Work out the muscles and stop in at one of our day spas to primp and pamper yourself before you get on your way; Signature Day Spa is a full service salon ready to work out the kinks.
You’ve worked up an appetite now, and rest assured it will be assuaged with the Carmel Food Tours. Carmel’s newest tour in town offering tastings of specially-selected, world-class foods and wines that help visitors become acquainted with the unique history and culture of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The food tour takes visitors through passageways and alleys before arrival at each culinary destination. A favorite stop among guests is La Bicyclette Restaurant—one of Walter Georis’ success stories who is best known for his famous Casanova Restaurant. All of the restaurants, tasting rooms and shops are pleased to offer their time to explain in detail what guests will be appreciating.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your stay. Since you are an insider now, we wouldn’t want you to go without knowing some quirky laws to share with your friends when you get back home. By now you’ve become aware that there are no addresses on businesses or cottages; Carmel’s founding fathers rejected the practice of house-to-house mail delivery in favor of a central post office to encourage neighborly visits in town. Visitors will not find parking meters, streetlights, or sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area and permits are required for high heels. No hot dog stands are allowed and you can thank Former Mayor Clint Eastwood for repealing the law originally on the books for no ice cream eating permitted on city streets.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a one-of-a-kind, European-style village where everything is walking distance. Within the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s one-square-mile, visitors can stroll by fairytale cottages, along cobblestone sidewalks, down hidden pathways, and discover a wide variety of boutique shops, gourmet restaurants, world-class art galleries, pampering spas, charming inns, and beautiful parks and courtyards. Carmel-by- the-Sea lives up to its reputation as one of America’s top travel destinations with a host of exciting fall events and the best weather of the season, you’re an insider now, what are you waiting for, make your travel reservations now at the official travel website www.carmelcalifornia.com.