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Trip Report San Fran & Monterey Bay with Tweens

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We just got back from a wonderful California vacation--me, the hubby, and 2 kids--14 and 11. We had great weather and enjoyed it all.

We started with 2 days in San Francisco and then down to Monterey Bay. In San Francisco, we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Fisherman's Wharf. It is right in the middle of everything but the hotel is quiet and the staff were helpful. They even have paper plates, plastic cutlery, and wine glasses for your eat in the room meals. The room had a fridge in it which was great. There was a convenience/liquor store right next to the entrance so snacks were easy to get. For dinner--we got take out from Cioppiono (sp??) which is around the block and it was quite good. The other night we just snacked because we had a late lunch. We had 2 lunches in San Fran--one at the Cod Mother which is on the next block over from the hotel. AMAZING. Seriously worth the wait. Wow. And then at a place called Wipe Out Grill on Pier 39. DH and I expected really bad food given the location and were quite pleasantly surprised. I had the Thai steak salad and he had a tuna bowl. Both were excellent. We hit Starbucks or the small take out breakfast place in the hotel for coffee/breakfast. We stopped for ice cream twice at Ben and Jerry's. The line at the Ghiradelli's place was ridiculous.

Sights:
Sunday: We got settled in our room and then walked up to Coit tower, passing by the bottom of Lombard street on the way. There was a 40 min wait to go up the elevator so we were not doing that! We did look at all the murals and got to explain quite a bit about the Depression, WPA, and unions to the kids. An educational experience.
Monday: Alcatraz at 9:30. The kids really liked it. I had been before and still found it a good experience. Lots of educational opportunities here as well. DD got a book that one of the former inmates wrote--it was very good. We walked through the gardens and saw the exercise yard and then to the Workshop/New Industries building. I would skip that part and get a boat back earlier. We got the 12:55 boat. Then we got lunch and then on to the Maritime National Historic Park. DH and I wandered through the visitors center first--which has excellent exhibits. The kids were done with exhibits at that point in the day. Then we went to Hyde Pier. DH looked at all of the ships. The kids were fascinated by the sea lions on the surrounding docks. We spent a good solid hour watching them all play king of the dock. The large males were truly impressive. I finally dragged them on the Scottish sailing ship--which I found to be quite interesting.
Tuesday: Took the Cable Car to Chinatown and walked around. I was hoping for more food markets in between Stockton and Grant but there were not any. Obviously, we were in the wrong part of town for that--I should have posted that query on Fodors before I left :-) We had a lunch at a place just a couple of blocks from the Chinatown Gate--Working Girls Cafe--it had very good food. (My children don't like Chinese food. They are clearly lacking in character. :-) ) We walked over to the Cable Car Museum and stopped in for a while. Then it was time to drive to Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay
We stayed at an awesome VRBO in Pacific Grove. DH and I did a trip to Monterey within the last 5+ years and we stayed in Carmel. I really wish we had stayed in PG. Much more family friendly with a variety of restaurants and shops--not so overly done as Carmel which we found a bit too "precious". Here is the link to the house.
https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p974805?utm_campaign=HAUS_TRV_INQ_HASC_replied_PPS&utm_content=propid_text_o_lprop&utm_term=20161129&utm_source=SYS&utm_medium=email
It is lovely to look at from the outside and the inside is perfect--it really is a home for a vibrant family and is furnished with nice things but not so nice or so overly decorated that you are afraid to touch anything. It had a king in one room and 2 twins in the other--which is perfect because our kids are older and don't want to share a queen sized bed any more. The extra half bath was a life saver. The wifi is super fast. AND it included 2 aquarium passes--the aquarium admission is almost $50 per person. Talk about a savings. The house is within walking distance to so many things--especially Lovers Point Beach. Plus they had lots of books, games, plastic wear etc for really young travelers. It would be a good place for wee ones as well. The Grove Market is within walking distance. I drove 1 mile up the hill to Safeway for easy shopping.

Food:
We started our mornings at Juice and Java, down the street on Lighthouse. Had something for everybody. One day we had a late lunch at the Forge in Carmel. It was chilly so we inside at the bar, next to the fire and had very good food. We had dinner twice at the International Cuisine restaurant. Excellent variety--something for everybody. And the food was good for adults as well. Ice cream--oh boy, you cannot miss the ice cream place that is almost across the street on Lighthouse. The 60s memorabilia is unbelievable. They were playing live Hendrix--I haven't heard music that awesome in a long time :-)

Beaches:
We spent every evening at the beach, getting out the kids' energy. Actually DD ran around and DS took pix of the tide pools with his new camera. Lovers Point is really a great beach. We went to Asilomar for 2 nights. The first night we hung out by the main beach across from the conference center. The next night, DH dropped off DS and I at entrance #25 so we could "tide pool" our way up to the main beach. There was an otter hanging out there--not 20 feet from shore! We saw the sunset 2x-pretty awesome. We did miss the beach by the lighthouse which is supposed to be amazing for tide pooling. Oh well, next time.

Wednesday: We had a great time visiting Point Lobos Reserve. First, we stopped at the Whaling Cabin and learn a great deal. Then we did the best hike ever by going from the Information Station around Cypress Grove and back. We saw a group of sea otters and even whales spouting off shore. The cypress were beautiful too. Next we hiked along the South Shore trail. We saw a group of 4 seals on a rock at the start of the trail. (if you have little ones, you could do the Cypress Grove trail and then walk to SeaLion Point and see everything you need to see!) We walked down to China Cove which was beautiful and then back to the parking lot. After that and lunch, we rested up, went to the beach, and then got take out for dinner.
Thursday: We spent the day at the Aquarium--which was great. Outside, on the deck, we saw an otter eating clams--you could hear him whacking the shell on his chest. And we saw several seals. We didn't go down Cannery Row. We were pretty done. So back to the house, a rest, the beach, and then dinner.
Friday: We spent the morning at the Carmel Mission, which is always interesting. Then we went to Moss Landing to kayak the Elkhorn Slough with Monterey Bay Kayaks. The harbor itself is amazing. There was a mom and pup otter just off the dock eating, there were brown pelicans resting, and across the water you could see a bunch of hauled out seals--as well as seals who would pop out of the water from time to time. At the end, there is a large raft of male bachelor otters. All right there. We paddled some through the harbor to look at some sea lions and then we spent a lot of time in the Slough looking at seals, various birds, and a number of mom and pup otters--one was so little it still had the fuzzy fur!!! I think if you are confident in your kayaking abilities, you could do this trip without a guide. But I appreciated having one since we had the kids in tow. We actually had 2 otters aggressively pursue our kayaks in the marina/harbor-we had to splash at them to make them go away. One of them had bitten somebody the week before. We didn't want them on our boats!!

Saturday, we packed up and left. It was a great trip. Plenty of nature and peacefulness and plenty of fun.

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