Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monterey Bay, California

After spending several days hiking the canyons of the Southwest we headed for the Pacific Coast and Monterey, California. Having spent a week last summer in Maine on the Atlantic Ocean, the boys were really excited to dip their toes in the Pacific and spend some time relaxing on a nice sandy beach. Monterey is a really pretty coastal town, with lots of family friendly activities and things to do. We parked the King at an RV Park in Marina, California and rented a car for a couple days to get us around town.

The drive from Utah to Monterey is fairly long, so we broke it up with a stop overnight in Bakersfield California. We found a beautiful RV park right in an orange grove where, in season, you can pick your own oranges. Unfortunately the season is from January to April. But, a short walk around the corner we found the California Fruit Depot, a little shop filled with fresh, local fruits, nuts, olive oils, honey and other goodies. They have samples of all of their products for you to try before you buy them and we left with a big bag of Valencia oranges. There's another box of Valencias on the way to grandma and grandpas house, so look for them the first week of August!! They also make their own fresh homemade date shakes! The woman working there was super nice and friendly and we left with our oranges, date shakes and some free t-shirts for the boys.

Monterey is a picturesque tourist town right on Monterey Bay. Once home to the many fish canneries described by John Steinbeck in Cannery Row, it's now home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and National Marine Sanctuary. The original Cannery Row has been converted into upscale shops, restaurants and hotels.

Our first stop was the aquarium. They have a wonderful exhibit on jellyfish right now, so we started there.

The exhibits in this aquarium are really well done, with lots of huge tanks arranged by ecosystem instead of by fish type. They have tanks for local sea life found in the harbor, another for animals found in the open sea as well as tanks for vanishing animals and a kelp forest. The boys loved the otters and the puffins and the giant octopus. The touch tanks had anemone and red abalone, sea cucumbers and sea stars as well as bat rays and sting rays that would let you touch the tips of their wings as they swam by!

Before the day was over we got to take a “behind the scenes” tour of the aquarium, which was neat because it showed the boys how the tanks were set up and maintained. The aquarium cycles 200,000 gallons of seawater a minute through the facility, bringing in important nutrients and native sea life. It was a really well done tour that ended with a feeding in the kelp forest. Pretty cool!

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is built on the sight of the Hovden Cannery, the largest and the last to close, in 1973, on Cannery Row. It has an interesting exhibit, including many artifacts, on the mackerel and sardine canning facilities, and also on John Steinbeck and some of the research he did while living in the area and writing Cannery Row. There is a bust of Steinbeck in the park down the street, and the middle guy took my picture with it before we left.

After a nice dinner on Cannery Row we headed over to Dennis the Menace Park, one of the best playgrounds I've ever seen, in spite of this sign posted at the entrance:

The boys could have spent hours here there were so many things to do!! It had a couple of climbing walls, swings and tons of slides. There were tunnels and bridges and I think the little dude ran for a solid hour! We only played on the park, but the whole complex included a pool, a ball field and a small lake with paddle boats, all owned and maintained by the City of Monterey.

We loved Monterey!!

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