When we first thought about visiting Cannery Row in Monterey, we likened it to Seaport Village in San Diego or Pier 39 in San Francisco. We thought perhaps it would be packed with tourist traps. We were very wrong. There is a lot of authentic history packed into historic Cannery Row. Back in the day, the wharves here were lined with warehouses, boats, fishermen and tons and tons of sardines. Now the area is gentrified and reborn as a fun family destination, and there are so many things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey.
Kids or not, visitors can spend days at Cannery Row and not run out of fun activities for all ages. Granted, if you are looking for the occasional tourist-centric shop full of t-shirts and plushie toys, you’ll find them. However, those are vastly outweighed by the fun – sometimes kitschy – shops, galleries, toy stores, jewelers, restaurants and more.
Plus the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is just at the end of the street! That’s worth a day-long visit right there.
All of this is punctuated by the gorgeous ocean waters of Monterey Bay, lapping on the rocks and piers of the wharves and buildings on its shore. Tourist or not, no visitor can ignore the beauty of this coastline. This is the reason Cannery Row is so popular = its beauty.
Things To Do At Cannery Row
Triton, Sophia, Ava and I set off from San Diego for a weekend of exploration and things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey. Getting there is now even more convenient, and we were thrilled to learn there is a direct flight on Alaska Air from San Diego to Monterey. The flight was a little more than an hour, and we were landed and ready to start our adventure.
Here’s a breakdown of our itinerary for things to do at Cannery Row, in case you want to follow in our footsteps!
12 pm – Check In at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
When we walked in the front door of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, we all drew a deep breath. The front lobby is bounded by a row of windows, all looking out on the ocean with perfect views. In the middle of that wall, a roaring fire crackled in the fireplace with cozy chairs surrounding it. Immediately impressed, we had that feeling continue for the duration of our stay.
Stay tuned for a full review of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa on this blog soon. In the meantime, suffice to say our rooms were spacious, beds were very comfortable, and everything was spotlessly clean.
- Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
- 400 Cannery Row (831) 920-6710
- Rooms start at $198/night USD
1 pm – Lunch at The Fish Hopper
Perched at the end of a pier on Cannery Row, Fish Hopper Restaurant served a delicious lunch, and those of us that like seafood were in seventh heaven. Overlooking Monterey Bay at a window-side table, we enjoyed our lunch immensely. Our tuna sashimi appetizer was a true standout, but so was my creamy lobster roll, all buttery-licious with fries and ranch dressing on the side. And Triton loved his Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and Coconut Prawn Salad. Sophia (who doesn’t care for seafood) gobbled up her Poached Pear Salad with strawberries and candied pecans, which was colorfully plated with an orchid on top.
- The Fish Hopper – open daily from 10:30 for lunch and dinner
- 700 Cannery Row (831) 372-8543
- Lunch entrees start at $14.95 USD
4 pm – Massages at Vista Blue Spa
Within the Monterey Plaza Hotel, we ambled over to the top-floor Vista Blue Spa and were taken by the rooftop hot tubs and dipping pool overlooking the Bay. Inside, the spa is surprisingly large despite its modest lobby area. Everything has an ocean-centric theme here (natch) and the services and treatments run the gamut from classic massages to Detox Body Peels to Clarifying Facials. Several options looked appealing, but the De-Stress Massage stood out as sorely needed. It was the perfect antidote to a long work week and one of our favorite things to do at Cannery Row on this trip.
- Vista Blue Spa at Monterey Plaza Hotel – open 8 am – 7 pm daily
- 400 Cannery Row (831) 920-6710
Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa
- Massages start at $150/USD
7 pm – Dinner at Schooners Coastal Kitchen
With arms and legs feeling like noodles, it was a good thing the hotel had a fantastic restaurant onsite. Our dinners were classic and well-created, with some menu favorites that pleased us all. Standouts were the ribeye steak (massive) and the locally caught Wood Oven Braised Swordfish with artichokes and gnocci. More than that, our service was spectacular – both the server and her assistant kept us happy, entertained and anticipated our every need. Really solid.
- Schooners Coast Kitchen & Bar at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
- Dinner entrees start at $27/USD
10 pm – Fireside back at Monterey Plaza Resort
One of the hotel’s main features is a huge plaza between the buildings that overlooks the ocean (get it? Monterey Plaza Resort). With an arbor and columns, an enormous fountain and tons of vantage points, the plaza is a great gathering place for families, friends and lovers. At night, a large outdoor firepit warms guests who can sit in comfy chairs and sofas positioned around its sides. With a little chill in the evening air, this was a great way to end the evening before heading upstairs to sink into slumber.
6 am – Sunrise Over Monterey Bay
Triton and I are early risers. Ever since the girls were born and starting waking us up a O’ Dark Thirty, we’ve fallen into a habit that is hard to break. Fully awake at 6 am, I ventured out for a morning walk along the ocean and was greeted by a pretty unbelievable sunrise. With orange and yellow streams of light rising over the distant land and nearby waves, that sunrise was like a Hallmark greeting card. Picture perfect from the Plaza overlook. A stroll down Cannery Row was a wonderful way to see all that history without any cars or people milling about. (The advantages of being an early riser!)
8 am – Coffee & Breakfast from Tidal Coffee
Knowing that we would be paddling soon, we needed to roust the kids from their sleep-like-the-dead dreams. Nothing like some hot tea and a chocolate croissant with some fruit salad to get the blood flowing! Of course by this time, Triton and I had already been up for awhile and were ravenous. The coffee flowed, the almond croissant and raisin scone were disappeared, and we were ready to take on the day.
- Tidal Coffee at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa – 6 am – 6 pm
10 am – Ocean Kayaking with Adventures by the Sea
This was a tough one, talking the girls into trying ocean kayaking. There were none too excited to put on waterproof jackets and pants, climb into 2-person ocean kayaks, and paddle around Monterey Bay. Once we got into the water, however, their attitudes changed like the wind. It wasn’t so bad after all, they had decided. In fact, it was pretty darn great!
Our guide led us across the harbor so we could see some amazing sights. Sea otters floated on their backs and played with each other lovingly. Sea lions barked their greetings as they perched on rocks and piers. All sorts of birds flew about and dove for invisible fish that they gobbled immediately upon surfacing. Two hours of paddling fun went by quickly, and helped us work up a great appetite for lunch. Of all the things to do at Cannery Row, this was truly one of the highlights!
- Adventures by the Sea/Cannery Row
- 299 Cannery Row 831-372-1807
- Guided kayak adventures start at $60 USD for 2 hours
1 pm – Lunch at The C
Over in the lobby of the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel facing the ocean, The C restaurant was a welcome respite after our kayak sojourn. Again we were really pleased with the fresh seafood choices, and perhaps might have over-ordered a bit. But those giant prawn cocktails and fried calamari were so darn good! Main courses we enjoyed most were the Monterey Bay Rock Cod Tacos, the Flat Iron Steak Sandwich (with bleu cheese and carmelized onions- yum) and of course, the cheeseburger with fries. Ava even said her hamburger was one of the best she’s had in a long time. Triton and I added to the decadence by ordering martinis at lunch, slurping them up like old pros from an episode of Mad Men.
- The C restaurant at the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel – open 6:30 am – 10 pm
- 750 Cannery Row, 831-375-4500
- Lunch entrees start at $17 USD
3 pm – Shopping along Cannery Row
There are a ton of unique and fun shops along Cannery Row, and we ducked into several to let the girls have a good long look. Galleries selling original watercolors, painting and sculptures caught our eyes, but the girls were drawn to the sparkles in several jewelry stores. Custom artisan-crafted jewelry is very popular here, and we ogled different necklaces, earrings and bangles. Ultimately, Ava and Sophia decided on simple earrings from a fun bohemian store called Enlightenment Zone. This could have gone on for hours but the smell of chocolate from famous Ghirardelli beckoned us. And who were we to resist?
4 pm – Ice cream treats at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
I grew up going to the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory at the old Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. This outlet on Cannery Row does the original justice, and we all enjoyed ice cream cones piled with our favorite flavors. Black Cherry Vanilla, Cookies ‘n Cream, and Mint Chocolate Chip were all devoured with much glee. The store also features tons of chocolate candy bars and other treats to purchase for the friends at home.
- Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
- 660 Cannery Row – open 10 am – 9 pm weekdays and until 10 pm on Saturdays
- Ice cream cones start at $4.95 USD
7 pm – Dinner at Sardine Factory
Perhaps this was the biggest surprise of our trip, because a restaurant with the name Sardine Factory could be misleading. From the outside, the landed sailboat and red clapboard sides of the restaurant might seem like a casual fish house.
But inside is another story, and it was actually a sophisticated and highly popular restaurant with a celebrity chef and a long list of A-List stars, sports figures, politicians and regular schmoes like us. The host led us down a dark hallway to our table, and when we turned the corner the room opened up into a giant glass gazebo filled with good looking people and great smelling food.
Our meal was a masterpiece of both taste and showmanship, and when we met the Executive Chef Bert Cutino we understood why. He’s an accomplished and much-awarded man both in the kitchen and out, and we absolutely loved our dinner here. From The Factory’s Famous Cheese Bread to my traditional Italian Clams and Linguini (Pasta Vongole) the dishes were superb. Sophia loved her Castroville Artichoke Bisque and Ava was ecstatic with her Shrimp Scampi Rigatoni. Triton devoured his Diver Scallops with Wild Mushroom Polenta, and everyone blessed their meals as truly delicious.
Dessert Was Out of This World
And then came dessert. Served dramatically on a raised silver platter, Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Bon Bons required the waiter to trigger a dry ice-induced spectacle. This covered our table in a dense, thick fog which spilled over and on to the floor. Other tables were as excited as we were to watch it the action unfold. The ice cream was clearly secondary to the presentation, which was just fine with us.
- Sardine Factory
- 701 Wave Street, Monterey (831) 373-3775 – Dinner 5 – 9:30 weekdays, 5-10 weekends
- Dinner entrees from $29 USD
10 pm – Netflix Night in the Hotel Room
After all that hoopla, we staggered home with full bellies and tons of stories to tell. Everyone retreated to their own beds, where we each watched our favorite Netflix shows before nodding off. (We’re currently obsessed with Russian Doll and Dead To Me. What’s your fav right now?)
9 am – Breakfast: Room Service
We had a full weekend of sampling all the things to do at Cannery Row. Since is was Sunday morning, we actually slept in a bit and ordered room service rather than going out for breakfast. You know how they always tell you it will be 15-45 minutes, and you chuckle to yourself because you know it will be at least 45 minutes? Well our room service at Monterey Plaza Hotel arrived in 20 minutes – hot, fresh and delicious. My decadent French Toast was out of this world, as was Triton’s colorfully plated Huevos Rancheros. Washed down with a healthy serving of hot coffee and fresh orange juice, and this breakfast room service was one for the books.
11 am – Head Out for Airport
A Fantastic Weekend at Cannery Row
Our entire family returned home with hue smiles on our faces from a fun and active weekend in Monterey. After all, there was something for everybody and so many things to do at Cannery Row! Ocean kayaking adventures for Jon. Relaxing massage for Triton. Cute sea animals for Sophia. And room service for Ava (that girl has always loved her room service).
Let us know if you want to visit Cannery Row, and we’ll help you set it up!