There are lots of non-car things to see, do near Monterey Car Week

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The view of Monterey and its bay from the Black Horse golf course | Bayonet Black Horse photo

Editor’s note: Follow all of the action and updates on our special Monterey Car Week page.


If you need to take a break from the Monterey Car Week crowds — or want to stretch the legs on that classic you finally got your hands on — you’re in luck: The area near Monterey is loaded with things to do and see.

From some of San Francisco’s top sights to wineries and aquariums, the greater Bay Area has all sorts of attractions just a relatively short drive from the Monterey Peninsula if you’re searching for a breather from all the car events.

But how do you choose which ones to hit? I’ve given a rundown below of some of the top spots that may be tempting enough to peel your eyes away from some of the world’s best concours.

California State Route 1

Imagine cruising along this drive in a classic convertible. | Instagram photo/@ufjason99
Imagine cruising along this drive in a classic convertible. | Instagram photo/@ufjason99

Better known as the Pacific Coast Highway, this is one of the most iconic roadways in the world. Its winding curves up the California coastline offer incredible views and connect some of the state’s largest cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Landslides in 2017 forced the closure of the highway near Big Sur, about 30 miles south of Monterey. It was reopened just last month after a $40 million project that originally was scheduled to wrap up in September.

Another notable cruise is the 17-Mile Drive near the coastline, which is great for those looking to park and take a stroll along the beach.

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Big Sur

The Bixby Bridge is an iconic feature of the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur. | California Tourism Commission photo
The Bixby Bridge is an iconic feature of the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur. | California Tourism Commission photo

Speaking of Big Sur, I sure hope you brought your camera. Big Sur is a roughly 90-mile stretch of California coastline that runs between Carmel-by-the-Sea – where a lot of Monterey Car Week events are held – and Hearst Castle.

In addition to crossing the iconic Bixby Bridge, visitors to Big Sur can glimpse whales, otters and other wildlife in the waves and the endangered California condor soaring overhead. There is also a healthy list of retreats to stop at if you need to take a breather.


San Francisco

San Francisco has arguably some of the best vistas in the country. | Facebook photo
San Francisco has arguably some of the best vistas in the country. | Facebook photo

One of California’s largest cities, San Francisco is absolutely loaded with things to do. You can take a stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf while munching on bread bowls of soup to watch the sea lions laze about, take a boat ride out to the infamous Alcatraz prison or head to one of the city’s many cultural sites.

If sports are your thing, catch a Giants game at AT&T Park, one of baseball’s best stadiums. They’re playing the Texas Rangers the same weekend as Car Week.

Oh, and there’s a really big bridge in the city. It’s kind of famous.


Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle sits above the a layer of fog. | Facebook photo
Hearst Castle sits above the a layer of fog. | Facebook photo

Construction on the eventual home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst began in 1919. What began as a relatively simple Victorian house grew to a massive state by 1947 that attracted Hollywood and political elite alike.

Construction on the property ran so long that it outlived Hearst himself. The house became a California State Park in 1954 – including zebras that still meander around the grounds.

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Numerous tours of the massive 56-bedroom home and surrounding 127 acres are available, with prices starting at $25.


James Dean Crash Site

The site of James Dean's death is typically covered in tributes to his life and legacy. | Instagram photo/@where.the.wild.things.reign
The site of James Dean’s death is typically covered in tributes to his life and legacy. | Instagram photo/@where.the.wild.things.reign

On September 30, 1955, one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars and car guys was killed at the Y-junction of California State routes 46 and 41, about two hours south of Monterey.

James Dean was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder to a race in Salinas, California when another car turned in front of him. Unable to stop in time, a speeding Dean slammed into the side of the Ford Tudor. The crash killed Dean instantly.

The site of the crash, now deemed the James Dean Memorial Junction, has become a stopping point for tourists. There is some signage about celebrating Dean and a metal monument marks the intersection where the collision occurred.


Monterey Bay Aquarium

There's nothing fishy about visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. | Facebook photo
There’s nothing fishy about visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. | Facebook photo

Going to an aquarium may not be the first thing Monterey Car Week attendees would think of doing, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an exception.

Set on the coastline, this aquarium boasts 2.3 million gallons of tanks housing about 35,000 animals representing 550 species of ocean life. It’s world-renowned for not only its research and conservation efforts, but also for its layout. About 2 million people visit the facility annually.


Cannery Row

It's hard to believe, but Cannery Row is only growing in popularity. | Facebook photo
It’s hard to believe, but Cannery Row is only growing in popularity. | Facebook photo

This stretch of defunct sardine canneries was originally called Ocean View Avenue, but was renamed after John Steinbeck’s novel. Since then, it has become a tourist attraction in its own right and is lined with hotels and restaurants. It is anchored at one end by the aforementioned aquarium.

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The area has become even more popular in recent years as fisherman take advantage of the extensive public fishing areas. The number of kayakers and scuba divers has also been on the rise.


John Steinbeck Museum

The National Steinbeck Center celebrates everything about John Steinbeck's storied career. | Facebook photo
The National Steinbeck Center celebrates everything about John Steinbeck’s storied career. | Facebook photo

Speaking of Steinbeck, there’s an entire museum dedicated to him in Salinas, just up the road from Monterey.

Born in Salinas, he wrote some of America’s most famous books: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and, of course, Cannery Row, among others. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964 and is widely considered one of the greatest American authors of all time.


Wineries

Ending a day at Monterey Car Week with this view and a glass a wine is a dream come true for some. | Pixabay photo
Ending a day at Monterey Car Week with this view and a glass a wine is a dream come true for some. | Pixabay photo

After a long day, it can be nice to sit back, put your feet up and chat about all the Monterey auction action with a glass of California wine.

About a four-hour drive north of Monterey lies the home of that wine. California’s wines, specifically those vinted in the Napa area, have long ago established themselves as rivals to some of the world’s top regions.

Some of those wineries and others have opened tasting rooms that are great to pop into while you stroll around Monterey, which is a good time in and of itself.

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Carter Nacke is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He began his career at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix, the largest news radio station in Arizona, where he specialized in breaking news and politics. A burgeoning interest in classic cars took him to the Journal in 2018. He's still on the hunt for his dad's old 1969 Camaro.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Carter Nacke….nice piece on the broad landscape of the Monterey motorsports week …thanks for sharing the James Dean crash site info…but the James Dean Memorial Junction at Cholame ( State of CA officially designated CA Rt. 46/41 as the Memorial Junction on the 50th Anniversary on 9-30-2005) is not actually an intersection…it’s a Y junction. Lee Raskin, James Dean/Porsche historian/author.

  2. Carter Nacke….a nice piece covering the broad landscape of the Monterey motorsports week …thanks for sharing the James Dean crash site info…but, the James Dean Memorial Junction at Cholame ( State of CA officially designated CA Rt. 46/41 as the Memorial Junction on the 50th Anniversary on 9-30-2005) is not actually an intersection…it’s a Y junction. Lee Raskin, James Dean/Porsche historian/author.

  3. Thanks for mentioning wine! What you may not know is the Salinas Valley grows a LOT of wine grapes – about 80% go to Napa – and we have 2 awesome wine trails here in the Monterey Bay Area: Carmel Valley Road and the River Road Wine Trail – both are awesome and not very far fro the Car Week action. We are best known for our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – you’re welcome!

    • Don’t forget to stop by F W Antiques at
      590 Lighthouse Ave in Pacific Grove….
      Something for everyone, including a
      1917 Buick and automobila

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