How I Love Northern California!
I’m a big fan of Northern California. The diversity from wine country to beaches, to epicurean adventures to golfing, Monterey County abounds with a bevy of activites to satiate any visitors desire. Monterey County is also one of the most beautiful and sceneic areas of California and must experience for either that quick weekend getaway or week-long excusion.
Below are several ideas, locations and events I’ve come across for the area. Enjoy!
READY FOR ITS CLOSE UP: Carmel Valley Ranch debuts following a $35 million revamp by Hyatt scion John Pritzker. Call it country camp for adults with a wealth of podcast-ready assets set on nearly 500 acres of lush green. The 139 revamped guestrooms (sporting iPod stations, wood-burning fireplaces and decks) and 18-hole Pete Dye golf course anchor a new 11,000 sq. ft., spa, hilltop yoga program, two acre organic garden, five acre lavender farm, cooking class venue and beekeeping facility – yes honey! Meetings/incentive groups can break out of the 10,000 sq. ft. venue for hikes along miles of carved trails, tackle the bocce court or slither into one of two new resort pools. Starting at $425.00/dbl. www.carmelvalleyranch.com.
FIRE UP THE STOVES: The minds behind Pebble Beach Food & Wine kick up the heat with two new eateries in Monterey: Restaurant 1833 and Cannery Row Brewing Co. Tim Mosblech is tapped as executive chef (Patina Group, L’Auberge Carmel). The 164-seat restaurant drips with rare antique lighting fixtures, period floor lamps, lounge-friendly furniture and seven rooms each unique in design from Hattie’s Room – complete with glowing salt crystals in a boudoir type setting – to the Library, a colonial masterpiece sporting dark wood accents. Mixology is king here, with a sexy entrance bar/lounge taking on an apothecary twist with a backdrop of antique lab bottles, white-jacketed mixologists and custom botanicals. The menu reflects Mosblech’s hyper-local focus, including his hand-harvested salts from the Big Sur coast.
Nearby, the 180-seat Cannery Row Brewing Company cuts loose with 172 brews on tap – as well as Patron tequila and Maker’s Mark bourbon – a convivial bar with alfresco fire pits and killer salmon burgers. www.restaurant1833.com; www.canneryrowbrewingcompany.com.
DEEP BLUE DEALS – Fall means Indian summer in California and a wave of local hotel deals make this season even more refreshing. From Lover’s Point to Carmel-by-the-Sea, 10 ocean-view hotels step up with a variety of deals (some up to 30% in savings) from September 1 – November 30, 2010. Tap into the Top 10 Deep Blue Deals including the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Martine Inn and Tally Ho Inn in Carmel. www.SeeMonterey.com/deep-blue-deals.
COWBOY UP – A round up of equestrian-rich adventures make a visit to this classic California corridor well worth packing the boots & spurs. Fresh off a massive restoration (2009), Carmel’s Holman Ranch saddles up with nearly 400 acres of prime turf, a state-of-the-art equestrian facility offering trail rides, eight guestrooms and the ideal local for corporate/ incentive and group events. With roots back to 1928, this original California hacienda is steeped in western tradition with top-notch interiors, an elegant combination of vineyards, olive groves and terraces and a revamped Great Room and Carriage House for barbeques and line dancing. www.holmanrranch.com. Nearby, Stonepine Estate Resort debuts a classic Blacksmith Barn (1928), complete with saddle seats and a hayloft for line dancing lessons. The adjacent Carriage House sets the stage for top-notch events. Home to the largest Thoroughbred farm West of the Mississippi, Stonepine also sports 20 guestroom/suites set on 330 plush acres deep in Carmel Valley. www.stonepinecalifornia.com.
The region also boasts a bevy of classic Western watering holes: Las Laureles Lodge Saloon, the Running Iron Saloon, Will’s Fargo Restaurant & Saloon and Hog’s Breath Inn (all in Carmel). Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch is the stop for original farmhouse (1850) lodgings; Los Laureles Lodge, once the venerated Vanderbilt family’s thoroughbred stables, offers unique digs as well.
OUTBACK INNS: Hearst’s Hacienda – Seeking a little refuge for his cigar-toting equestrian friends, in 1929 Hearst commissioned Julia Morgan to design a small inn (now on the National Register of Historic Landmarks) near the settlement of Jolon Milpitas Hacienda. Fresh off a soft-goods renovation, the 12-room Hacienda Lodge located on U.S. Army’s Fort Hunter-Liggett sits point blank in boar hunting country and a stone’s throw from historic Mission San Antonio de Padua. True to Morgan’s architectural style, the massive Mission Style complex offers clean and airy rooms starting at $50/dbl. Roadtrip: Nearby, Nacimiento- Fergusson Road connects visitors to Big Sur in 24 miles – a gorgeous drive with sweeping views of the coast. www.liggett.army.mil; 831.386.2262.
BIG SUR BLISS: Tucked within century-old redwoods siding Big Sur River is a bevy of chic little duplex cabins with sleek interiors (heated bathroom floors, organic bedding, feather duvets, new yoga mats) and a fully-stocked fire ring for sunsets and s’mores. Retooled with a green sensibility, the 22-room Glen Oaks Big Sur delivers a crisp combo of cottages, cabins and deluxe guestrooms swathed in recycled stone floors, natural woods, eco-resin twig doors and top-of-the-line bedding. Opt for guestroom #12, which features an indoor/outdoor gas fireplace overlooking the courtyard. Starting at $175/dbl. www.glenoaksbigsur.com.
PARKS AND RECREATION – For a true Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure, visit Limekiln State Park now open following a two year hiatus. Tucked 56 miles south of Carmel in Big Sur, Limekiln’s magical hiking trails cut deep through towering redwoods along several lush creeks to four 100+ year old lost limekilns, used for quarrying limestone in the 1870-1880s. The park offers immediate surf, 30 campsites and trekking through some of the oldest and largest redwood groves in California. www.parks.ca.gov.
SUDS WITH CRED: Sure, Monterey County is better known for its cool-climate pinot noirs and crisp chardonnays, but brews bust a move here as well. Top picks include: The Tap Room at Pebble Beach, London Bridge Pub, Jack London’s Grill & Taproom, Monterey Coast Brewing Company, Britannia Arms, Fernwood Tavern, Hog’s Breath Inn, Peter B’s Brew Pub and the new Cannery Row Brewing Company. Pub crawl itineraries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
KICK START THAT LOVEFEST with a visit to some of the region’s top romantic romps. Start in Pacific Grove at the official “Kissing Rock” where petticoated ladies and mustachioed gentlemen posed in Victorian times. Officially designated in 1970, Life Magazine later named Pacific Grove the most romantic spot in America. Slip on over to Carmel Beach for a DIY bonfire, one of the few beaches left to allow such a spectacular sunset show; drift out on Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on a kayak for two for a roll with the resident sea otters; shift over to the Lone Cypress on iconic 17-Mile Drive for the all-time smooch with a backdrop; soothe your soul with a surreal lover’s walk along Marina State Beach and Marina Dunes Preserve; seduce the senses with an alfresco perch backed with a crisp sauvignon blanc and local calamari at the Restaurant at Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur.
HAUNTED TOURISM: From the sacred grounds of Big Sur to the swashbuckling seaport of Monterey Bay, this county harbors a litany of irresistible ghost stories. The capital of Alta California boasted gems of land and sea, a bounty for the brave who endured a long and tumultuous history rife with shoot outs, shipwrecks and sword-wielding Spaniards. Today, visitors can tap into a variety of haunted sites filled with an abundance of lore and lure – a paranormal playground of sorts. For the ultimate spooky time, pop over to Wild Things for the October Flashlight Tours with lions, tigers and lemurs, oh my! www.wildthingsinc.com.
CYCLE THIS: Pack your wheels for a spin on the track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The new Twilight Bicycle Ride series kicks off January 20 with monthly rides open to all levels. Pedal, climb and descend the same 11 turn layout with a 300 ft. elevation change that has hosted the world’s top motorsport drivers for just $10. www.mazdaraceway.com/pages/bike_ride.
For a bit more rush, shift over to Skip Barber Racing School at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The “One Day Combo” puts the pedal to the metal with instruction on high performance defensive driving skills including slide and recovery techniques, trailbraking and race-style heel-and-toe downshifting. Strap into a high-octane Dodge Viper on the world-famous 2.24-mile, 11-turn track and approach the Corkscrew Turn at 100 m.p.h. www.skipbarber.com.
FOODIE ALERT: From classic chardonnay to Big Sur chanterelles, the locavore cry couldn’t be more deafening in Monterey County. Fork in hand, here are some fall events to tag into: Salinas Salsa Fest! (10/1), Carmel Art & Film Festival (10/6-10), Pacific Grove’s Wine, Art & Music Walk (10/29), Big Sur Food & Wine Festival (11/4-7) and Great Wine Escape Weekend (11/12-14). www.Seemonterey.com/events.
SPORTS SCORE: Pack the spurs and clubs for these fall events: 30th Annual International Air Show (10/2-3), V-6 Ranch Cattle Drive (10/6-11), Marina Air Faire & Classic Car Show (10/16), Global Turner Grand Prix (10/22-24), Big Sur River Run (10/23), Big Sur Half Marathon (11/14), Callaway Golf Pebble Beach Invitational (11/16-21). www.Seemonterey.com/events.