Traveling with Kids 01: Monterey! <+giveaway>

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We traveled to Monterey this weekend. I use the term "travel" loosely-- it's a quick 2 hour drive, and we broke the drive in half with a blissful visit to my aunt and uncle on our way-- but REAL summer travel is right around the corner, and I'm thrilled to cover all little doses of our travels on this blog this summer. I read about traveling with kids, therefore, I will write about traveling with kids.

With an infant, let me tell you: all plans have to be held relatively loosely. My suggestion is to make a plan, have options to go with said plan, and then be flexible if and when we need to redirect the plans slightly. 

Our grand scheme (we knew it was unlikely we would manage it all, but we wanted to have options in case we somehow could!) when we traveled to Monterey County was to:

  • Spend the morning hours at Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Perhaps take the 17 mile drive and stop for picturesque beach time
  • Drive slightly further down the coast to the gorgeous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur 

We managed #1. HA.

Bixby Bridge will have to wait, and we've already done the 17 mile drive, so we just ate up everything "Monterey" this time, and were thoroughly satisfied with that choice.

Monterey has so much to offer, and there's a long list of fun family activities HERE. SUCH a good resource.

We started with our top choice: The Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction. 

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction. 

We spent about three hours at the aquarium. There is so much to see, and I honestly think my older two could have spent six hours gazing everything. Brian and I kept things moving, because obviously babies only have so much patience, and we wanted to see as much as possible. ;)

Maggie's highlight was the Splash Zone. Kids can get hands on with the water and play and get some energy out. It's especially nice for ages 5 and under. There's also this little tunnel nearby and the girls were big fans... The water would crash over the tunnel every couple minutes and the girls would shriek and laugh hysterically. 

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Sophie and Brian loved the Open Sea... I did too, but we visited late in the game, and Jack needed to keep moving. The Open Sea has the enormous fish, sea turtles, & hammerhead sharks in a 90 ft window... and it's an incredibly dramatically large and beautiful. Mesmerizing, really.

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I'm a huge fan of the jellyfish. They're so picturesque and every detail is so beautiful. I'd hate to be near them without the glass between us (memories of being stung by their jelly cousins, the Portuguese man-of-wars when I was 10), but they are gorgeous in this totally safe setting. 

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OKAY. Jack was done after the Open Seas, and we were all hungry. Like, VERY hungry. Sometimes I get cranky when I'm hungry. We had game-planned with a few options nearby beforehand, thankfully. While I'm sure the cafeteria at the aquarium would have gotten the job done, we really wanted to walk around a bit and get some fresh air on and around Cannery Row...

Now, before we headed to lunch, we needed candy...we would have had some regrets if we had forgotten. ;)

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Yes, I have a sweet tooth, and no I hardly say no to a mom & pop style candy shop. My children are grateful for that quality of mine. Seriously though, rock candy sticks??? I love them so much. Side note: have you see smaller versions served with coffee? Brilliant. So brilliant. 

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Oh and heyyy, here's that classic shot you've been waiting for. I have one of Jack and me under the Disneyland version of Cannery Row. Regretting not getting another pic under the real version... next time. ;)

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As I was saying, we were hungry. You know how it can happen that you're in a place surrounded by restaurants and you really just don't quite know what to do about food? Crowds aren't good with hungry kids (ahh, okay, with ME. I'm the one who can't handle missing a meal), and our first choice option had a 30 minute wait... and it was actually in a MALL nearby, which just didn't appeal. Yelp users didn't mention that when they rated it #1 for the area (or maybe they did and I just didn't read enough reviews)! Anyway, #3 on my prepped-in-advance-list became number two when I realized it was only two blocks from the top rated one. 

Here I am looking up the directions to the next spot on our list... I was smiling, but mostly thinking about food and thinking- wait, he's taking a picture of me in this state of hungry?

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I'm SO glad we found Vivolo's Chowder House. It's just 2 or 3 blocks from the aquarium and the food was perfect. No wait to get a table!! Here are my tips: the portions are generous. The kids' fish and chips was probably more than I could eat by myself, so I cannot imagine what an adult portion would be. Order less than you think you'll need and then add more food if you are still hungry. I strongly recommend the clam chowder-- SO GOOD-- and clams appetizer. My husband and children love ordering steamed clams, and I'm so totally adverse to it-- I'm not a picky eater, but I'm definitely not a clam fan even though I love clam chowder with all my taste buds. So why, you ask, do I recommend them? Ohhh the garlic buttery broth that came with the clams. I dipped all the fluffy bread in there. I couldn't stop. So good. 

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For foodies out there, HERE is where you find only the best options in Monterey County. Another big tip for traveling with kids or without: plan those restaurants before you get to your destination. The last thing you want is to spend hard earned cash on an overpriced meal that had only one star, but you didn't do your homework and everyone is too anxious to find reviews and make the right choice... you know? (been there done that, lesson learned!).

Kids were exhausted after lunch (and it was 2pm, so that makes sense!), so we headed to our car to drive home... but then.

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It's not every day you see giant swans floating on a lake.

As much fun as I had had all day, I had really gone into the day assuming we would get some quality time outdoors with fresh air before heading back home. Monterey has so many fantastic outdoor family activities to offer, and we were about to get in the car without taking advantage of any... until we passed the swans.

Ten minutes later, WE were floating on a lake.

(I'm thinking you saw where I was going with that)

We did not rent a swan because the ever-so-kind employees of the boating house told us they are way more work to maneuver (and it's not like we can really make the kids pedal us around the lake!). They're also $15 more, and technically fit five adults, whereas the rowboats only fit FOUR (or four + a baby). We rented a sparkly turquoise row boat for 30 minutes and $20 and miles of smiles.  

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And now, in exchange for you reading every single word of this lengthy blog post... 

See Monterey is giving away five pair of tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Entering is simple! Visit the See Monterey site and leave a comment here letting me know one thing you'd like to do if you go on a trip to Monterey County!

I'll tell you what plan I'm making for next time: a night in a bed & breakfast, a beach walk on 17 mile drive, and a drive down to Big Sur for a glimpse of Bixby Bridge. :) Yes, please!