Bay Area road trip idea for winter break: Monterey

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of California’s best indoor tourist attractions, a perfect mission for the long days of December school closure. It’s a two-hour drive from Berkeley.

One option is a day trip. Head out of the {510} at 8 am, meet some South Bay friends you are always meaning to visit for breakfast, and proceed to the Aquarium to arrive around 11 am. There are plenty of fish feeding shows throughout the day, and the venue is open until 7 pm during the holiday week.  Lunch in the cafeteria is decent. Explore in an around the aquarium, located on a tourist-friendly strip, or drive over to the beach or Dennis the Menace park. Head home after dinner and let everyone but the driver fall asleep in the car.

Plan B is an overnight getaway. We just received notice of this promotion from Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay: A one-night stay includes ice-skating for two at nearby Custom House Plaza (located just steps away from the hotel). The hotel promises to be kid-friendly, offering warm chocolate cookies upon arrival and free hot chocolate for the whole family in their onsite restaurant. A pirate-themed scavenger hunt will be offered to interested kids upon check-in. Rates start at $179/night.


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  1. Cara says

    We did a road trip there with my parents a couple years ago and keep talking about going back. We didn’t do the aquarium, but the scenic drive down and Dennis the Menace park alone made it a great trip.

  2. says

    I have a t tip for more adventurous families. Consider staying at the Monterey International Hostel! They have reasonably priced private family rooms (advanced reservations required) with bunk beds and a groovy, international vibe. Lots of young travelers from around the world, games, reading areas, a piano, and a spacious community kitchen are features of the dorm-like establishment. We stayed for two nights last summer and the boys had a blast and still talk about it as a place they can’t wait to go back to. Bonus points for central location (three blocks to Cannery Row/Aquarium) and FREE parking, even for the whole day when you check out.

  3. Ghanimatrix says

    Buy aquarium tickets in advance online and have them held at will-call. The lines to buy tickets can be brutally long, especially in the summer. We did it last summer and it was so nice not to have to wait in that long line! Also the cafeteria there has some really wonderful food.