5 Things to Do in Monterey County This Fall

Enjoy food and wine, experiential tours, scenic beauty, special events, and local wildlife in Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and beyond.

Monterey, Calif., Aug. 26, 2021 / Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Monterey County enjoys fewer crowds and optimal weather from September through November, making it a great place to savor summer for a few months longer. Below are five suggestions from the local tourist authority.

Castroville artichoke. (Photo by Michael Troutman/www.dmtimaging.com courtesy of Monterey County CVB)

Indulge in Local Food and Wine

Monterey County is known for its agricultural bounty, the catalyst of an amazing culinary and wine scene. A must-stop is 80-year-old Pezzini Farms, which allows guests to taste the quirky green vegetable – the artichoke – for which its hometown, Castroville, is celebrated. 

Among the county’s new dining options are Taco Shack Vegan Kitchen in Monterey’s historic Cannery Row and Carmel-by-the-Sea’s women-owned Village Gem (home-style cuisine) and Edwin’s Carmel, specializing in Southeast Asian fare.

Carmel Valley is a wine lover’s paradise, from the newer tasting rooms of Albatross Ridge and Scratch to more established spots like Folktale Winery & Vineyards. Folktale is developing a soon-to-launch wine aged under Monterey Bay. 

Open in Carmel-by-the-Sea are Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room, whose lineup includes a low-calorie/low-alcohol wine, and the newer Lepe Cellars Tasting Room.

In Salinas Valley, family-owned Rustiqué is the latest addition to the River Road Wine Trail.

Carmel Bikes, Bites & Bevs. (Photo courtesy of Mad Dogs & Englishmen Bike Shop)

Book An Experiential Tour

Visitors can work up a sweat on the new Handcar Tours at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Marina. On these scenic excursions, riders pump their way along the former Monterey Branch rail line that once connected Monterey to San Francisco.

Head further inland to explore the area’s lush vineyards on the VineCycle Tour, or sample local food and drinks cycling from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Point Lobos State Park on Carmel Bikes, Bites & Bevs, conducted by Mad Dogs & Englishmen Bike Shop and Carmel Food Tours. Electric-assist mountain bikes (e-bikes) make both experiences accessible for participants of any fitness level.

Sea Goddess Whale Watching guarantees sightings on its cruises. (Photo by Michael Troutman/www.dmtimaging.com courtesy of Monterey County CVB)

Sea lovers can book a tour with Moss Landing’s Sea Goddess Whale Watching. The outfit offers guaranteed whale sightings year-round thanks to its Monterey Bay Canyon location known to attract an abundance of sea life. For an educational tour by land, step back in time at King City’s Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum. The museum’s grounds include a 19th-century schoolhouse, one of the last remaining Southern Pacific railway depots, and an early-20th-century blacksmith shop.

Bayonet & Black Horse. (Photo by Kerrick James courtesy of Monterey County CVB)

Bask in Unmatched Scenery

Get outside and explore the area’s natural beauty by golfing Bayonet & Black Horse in Seaside, hiking Toro Park in Salinas, or kayaking at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. No trip to Monterey County is complete without a stop at one of the area’s stunning beaches, like Del Monte Beach in Monterey or the pet-friendly Carmel Beach.

Those who prefer the wind in their hair will love to see Monterey County’s 99-miles of coastline by car along the iconic US-1 coastal highway or 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. Classic cars are available to rent through Monterey Touring Vehicles. Choices range from a 1954 Chevy Bel Air Convertible to a 1938 Rolls Royce Phantom III. (Mad Dogs & Englishmen, above, leads 17-Mile Drive e-bike tours, too.)

Check Out Fall Events

Several beloved Monterey County events have resumed this year, including the California Rodeo Salinas (Sept. 23–26). One of the top 10 rodeos in the United States and the largest in California, it stars hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls. 

The cycle-filled Sea Otter Classic (Oct. 7–10) takes place in Monterey; the Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea hosts the two-week Carmel Bach Festival (Oct. 23–Nov. 5). 

The Monterey Jazz Festival (Sept. 24–26) has sold out, but visitors can still check out the MJF After Hours program that extends the live jazz to evening performances at hotels, restaurants, and other venues.

Late in the season, the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival (Nov. 4–6) gathers the Central Coast’s best and brightest chefs and winemakers in one of the world’s most ruggedly beautiful locations.

Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week at Elkhorn Slough. (Photo courtesy of Monterey County CVB)

Spot Local Wildlife

There’s no better place to spy sea life than at the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, packed with penguins, sharks, jellyfish, and more.

Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept. 19–25) with a visit to Moss Landing’s Elkhorn Slough, home to Monterey County’s highest concentration of the cute and playful animals. You’ll also see migratory birds, sea lions, and other wildlife. Fall is the ideal time to visit the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove; the beauties flock to the region beginning in October and stay for the winter.

Visitors are encouraged to travel responsibly in Monterey County by following all current health and safety guidelines and respecting the area’s iconic landscapes by staying on trails and leaving no trace behind. 

For more information on fall happenings in Monterey County and to plan and book a trip, visit www.SeeMonterey.com.

The Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau provided the information and photos on this page. Lead photo of ocean beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea is courtesy of the CVB.

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