Monterey, Carmel by the Sea and Pebble Beach.

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One of our new favorite weekend getaways is the Monterey Bay Area. From Phoenix it is a quick 1 1/2 hour flight. The airport is tiny with the arrivals walking across the tarmac, up to the car rental, then out the side door where your car was waiting (it takes just a few minutes to get off the plane, get your bags, get your car and on your way). Downtown Monterey was a few minute drive from the airport so it was great to be on vacation without all of the typical steps of just getting there.

We chose a great hotel in downtown Monterey called Hotel Pacific. Our room had one large, four poster bed, a front room with a fireplace, kitchen area and plenty of space in the front room for a pack-and-play. Best of all was a Spanish style patio in the front, completely closed off and had wooden lounge chairs, perfect for a toddler to go in and out to play. It was also very close to a grocery store and cute shopping area, literally within a few steps away.

When we first arrived in Monterey, we immediately went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We have been to many aquariums but none compare with the one in Monterey. Multiple anchovy and fish canneries on the warf were gutted and renovated with amazing architecture and ingenious presentation. We were blessed to be invited by the Curator of the Aquarium for a personal tour of both the main exhibits and a behind the scenes tour. After initial introductions, he immediately took us to see the baby Loggerhead Turtle that John was instrumental in bringing to the aquarium. It was quite amazing to see such a rare animal up close, and we were able to go behind the exhibit to meet the turtle in person (this is the only one in an aquarium and he/she will be heading back to North Carolina to be rereleased back into the wild in a few weeks). The curator took off all the barriers, wiggled his fingers in the water and the Turtle came right to the surface of the tank. From there we went to the roof to meet a very special turtle who was in solitude while the divers were cleaning the deep sea tank (she likes to bite them for fun). We also went to the top of the deep sea exhibit to meet some of the larger fish such as tuna, sting rays, hammer heads and other turtles. Olivia was able to spend an hour or so in the kids area, then we took her to the roof to meet one of the divers who was about to go into the 3 story tall Kelp tank exhibit. Over all it was an amazing experience; we saw and touched fish that most of the guests have no idea are even there. The Curator said it best “this is the Rolls-Royce of aquariums.”

At the end of our tour we spent some time walking around by ourselves and I thought this was the perfect time to give John something that I had been hiding very carefully all day. One of the joys of having a same-sex wedding is there is not all the traditions and rules to follow. One of the big differences from a traditional wedding is that we can get engaged twice. In the large Deep Sea Exhibit as giant fish and turtles swam around us, I gave Olivia the blue Tiffany’s box and told her to give it to daddy. Though distracted, she gave it to him, before running to ascend the nearest stairs. So in the middle of me trying to tell John how much I loved him and wanted to spend my life with him, I had to quickly giving him a ring and say “i’ve got to go save our daughter.” While it was romantic, Olivia provided us with her distracting humor. The Monterey Aquarium will always have a special place in our hearts.

On Saturday, we started the day driving the 17 Mile Drive, through some amazing scenery and some of the most famous golf courses and real estate in the world. While the cost to just drive on the road is $10, it is well worth it. The scenery and the houses worth tens of millions of dollars are worth it.

From there we went a few miles down the Pacific Coast Highway to Carmel by the Sea. This is a great, quaint, unique town, with shopping, beaches and restaurants. It is definitely worth a trip, or three. We spent a couple hours in Carmel by the Sea doing some shopping and walking the streets of the town.

Back in Monterey, we lounged on the patio why Olivia took a nap. After she was good and rested we started off on the second part of adventure. This time we walked to the Monterey Youth Museum (MY Museum) and spent a few hours letting Olivia run around and play with the exhibits. It was quite a fun place with lots of hands on things to do including a garden center where the kids pick wooden vegetables, place them in crates, put them in large converey belts and tractors then take them to a little market to weigh and be sold. There is an Alice in Wonderland house with a tea party inside. My favorite part, the theater, is where there are many costumes back stage and the kids can dress up, then come out and put on little shows for the parents.

After the kids museum we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had a great dinner as we watched the Seals play outside the window.

In morning we realized just how close and convenient the airport was and that we only needed a few minutes to board the plane so there was not need a rush to head to the airport. We decided to take a drive down the PCH and saw some beautiful landscapes. The perfect way to end our trip.

Overall, it was the perfect weekend getaway and we highly recommend it for anyone who wants a nice place to take the family, do some shopping, go to some wineries and play in the ocean, all in one day.

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