June 14, 2019

Guide To 24 Hours In Scottsdale With Kids

You’ve planned 24 hours in Scottsdale, Arizona, and you’re vacationing with kids. Whether you want to play indoors, outdoors or a bit of both, there are a lot of things you can do in Scottsdale and nearby. Here’s how to spend a day in Scottsdale, with my tips on things to do, kid-friendly hotels and restaurants. Scroll to the end for a sample Scottsdale one-day itinerary.

Have just a short amount of time for a family getaway to Scottsdale, Arizona? Here's a guide to 24 hours in Scottsdale, including fun things to do, good restaurants, and family-friendly hotels. #familytravel #Scottsdale #Arizona #Guide

Disclosure: I was hosted by Experience Scottsdale for a portion of my trip, and some of the places I visited were during Bloghouse Scottsdale. Some meals and admission were comped; while others were out of pocket. This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to readers, if you click the link and make a purchase, I receive a small fee to compensate for the recommendation.

Where to stay in Scottsdale

Scottsdale, “The West’s Most Western Town,” is the fifth largest city in Arizona. Being near the state capitol, Phoenix, the choices of hotels can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve stayed in two different hotels (and toured another) and each would appeal to a different type of family.

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows is a luxury resort featuring bungalows and a gorgeous main pool (plus a few other pools). They have dine-in movies at the pool on Saturday nights.  

Where to stay in Scottsdale with kids - Andaz Scottsdale has several pools, including one where they show movies on Saturday nights.

There are lawn games scattered throughout the property, as well. From certain parts of the property, you can see Camelback Mountain.

This hotel appeals to an art-loving family. The design is artful throughout (there’s even an Instagram guided walk there).

Hotel in Scottsdale - Andaz Scottsdale has lawn games throughout the property. In the background is Camelback Mountain.

They also feature works by local artists from Cattle Track Arts + Preservation include items used in the restaurant, artwork in the lobby, and occasional art-making sessions for guests of the hotel.

Plus, it’s also a pet-friendly hotel.

The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch makes it hard for kids to want to leave. The pool area alone is noteworthy (they’ve dubbed it the “water playground). There’s a slide, sandy beach area, and the Fun Zone with a climbing wall and giant games. There are free bicycles to ride, including kids bikes, as well as gondola rides for an additional fee.

The resort offers Camp Hyatt, a children’s program for ages 3-12, that teaches kids about the region’s flora, fauna, culture and geography of the area. And, my favorite program of the hotel (that will also fascinate kids) is the naural way the hotel rids the hotel of pesky birds: They have a live hawk or falcon on the resort to deter the pest birds from hanging around.

Scottsdale hotels for families - The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch has a water playground with a water slide, sand beach and a whole lot of pool.

There are several restaurants, but SWB stands out with its southwestern cuisine. I had a superb “Wine Me, Dine Me” dinner there, though I’d say it’s the kind of experience is best for adults. SWB is family-friendly. While I was there, they were advertising a kids-eat-free promo.

The Phoenician is a high-end luxury resort that’s alluring to families with a big travel budget. It has a kid’s program, pools, splash garden and a treehouse (with a waterslide). While I was on a tour there one night, they were playing a movie on a big screen at one of the pools.

Things to do in Scottsdale with kids

The big draws to this desert city include spas, golf and fine dining. I don’t know about yours, but those aren’t exactly big draws for my kids. Being Midwestern folk, we wanted to see the Sonoran Desert!

If you’re visiting during the summer, start your day early when it’s “coolest.” I recommend kayaking the Lower Salt River, which is close to Scottsdale. This picturesque river is easy to navigate and calm, so it’s enjoyable for all ages.

Things to do with kids in Scottsdale - Kayak the Lower Salt River and with some luck, see wild horses

I kayaked with Arizona Outback Adventures, and would recommend their guides. We saw wild horses crossing the river and our guide pointed out a ton of birds.

Tip: Get an early start to your kayak trip to avoid loud crowds of tubers on the river, especially on the weekend.

Other outdoor activities in Scottsdale include: Hiking, go on a bike ride or horseback ride, or take a hot air balloon ride. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a popular place to go for hiking and biking (and rock climbing if you’re that kind of family). It’s the largest city-owned preserve in the U.S.

Just outside of Scottsdale is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It’s gorgeous. Saturdays in the summer they have flashlight tours in the evening.

Scottsdale activities for kids - Visit the nearby Desert Botanical Garden and experience the Sonoran Desert. The trails are easy to hike with kids.

Scottsdale and its neighboring cities have quite a few other water activities families will enjoy. Probably the biggie for families is the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix waterpark located in nearby Glendale, Ariz.

Kid-friendly indoor things to do in Scottsdale

On my recent trip to Scottsdale, I only visited one museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. I highly recommend a visit there, especially if you can visit by mid-October to see the three temporary exhibitions.

Indoor things to do in Scottsdale - View special exhibits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, such as "Mutual Reality: Art on the Edge of Technology."

My favorite of the exhibitions was “Mutual Reality: Art on the Edge of Technology,” which ends Oct. 6, 2019. It’s highly engaging and most likely to appeal to younger museum goers. I loved interacting with exhibit pieces.

OdySea in the Desert is a large collection of attractions in Scottsdale that probably could take a day to explore with kids. It includes the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Laser + Mirror Maze, Paradise Earth, Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs, and the temporary exhibit “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.”

If you’ve got a car and your kids are younger than 10, you could spend the afternoon at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. My kids loved it there, especially the large climber and the Noodle Forest.

Where to eat in Scottsdale with kids

Head to the vibrant Old Town Scottsdale for an abundance of family-friendly restaurant choices, plus cute shops and photo opportunities.

Farm & Craft is a darling restaurant focused on sustainable, healthy food. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there is a kid’s menu. This is the place to go for fresh food.

Kid-friendly restaurant in Scottsdale - Find fresh, sustainable food at Farm & Craft in Old Town Scottsdale. The restaurant has a kid's menu/

The Mission is a restaurant that would be good for families for lunch or brunch (though no kid’s menu); kids may be out of place at dinnertime with the candle-lit tables. Their menu is modern Latin cuisine. Order the guacamole – it’s made tableside.

Hula’s Modern Tiki is another Old Town Scottsdale restaurant to keep on your radar, especially if you’re traveling with older kids. While, there is no kid’s menu, you can order tacos or sandwiches to be shared. And, don’t skip dessert. The key lime pie was tasty.

Restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale - Hula's Modern Tiki, where the dessert is pretty festive.

Hula’s is near the popular ice cream shop, Sugar Bowl, which has been around since 1958. You can’t miss it – it’s in a pink building.

Hash Kitchen has four restaurants in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, and I went to one located near the Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. While its claim to fame is having the largest bloody mary bar in Arizona, it’s a family-friendly place for breakfast or brunch. They do have a kid’s menu.  

Culinary Dropout has several locations including one in Scottsdale. It’s a fun place especially if you have older kids. We went for lunch at the Farmer Arts District and played games like cornhole in the Yard Area. It’s got a cool vibe, but keep in mind that after 6 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays, the gaming area is open only for the 21 and older crowd.

Where to eat in Scottsdale with kids - Culinary Dropout has several locations around the Phoenix/Scottsdale metro, including one in Scottsdale.

If you’re prepared to travel for food, drive to Phoenix to dine at Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse. Sure, it’s a pure tourist magnet that’s big on atmosphere and not so much fine dining…but kids will love it. Where else are you going to get the option of using a slide instead of stairs to get to the dining room? Be sure to order some fried rattlesnake for an appetizer.

Sample one-day Scottsdale itinerary for families

Sonoran Desert view in Arizona

Breakfast – Be one of the first for breakfast at your hotel or Hash Kitchen, which opens at 7 a.m.

Morning – Kayak the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures. See huge Saguaro cacti, a variety of birds, and, with some luck, wild horses. Bring towels, as you’ll want to play and cool off in the water.

Lunch – After paddling, we asked AOA to drop us off at a restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. You’ll want to pick one you’ll feel comfortable smelling like the river. We went to Farm & Craft.

Afternoon – Shop and look around Old Town Scottsdale before heading back to your hotel for an afternoon at the pool.

Dinner – You may be tired from your day, so consider dinner at your hotel, if there is a restaurant. SWB at the Hyatt Regency is a good option. No hotel restaurant? Go somewhere fun like Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse.

There are so many fun things to do in Scottsdale, but if you only have a day, here's a guide to choosing what's best! Read this post for tips on family-friendly things to do outdoors, indoor activities (for hot days) and hotel recommendations. #Tips #Arizona #Scottsdale

Want to explore more of Arizona?

Check out this guide to Tucson with kids! You’ll find tips on good hiking trails, as well as adventurous options like a zip line experience.

I’ve got an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Arizona family vacation inspiration, too.

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May 31, 2019

Best Things To Do Outdoors In Tucson With Kids

The best way to enjoy Tucson, Ariz., is outdoors. With more than 300 days of sunshine and an average daily temperature of 72 degrees, why stay indoors? The vibrant desert and majestic mountains are the heart of Tucson so this post features some of the best things to do outdoors in Tucson, all of them are great for kids.

Planning a family vacation to Arizona? Here are some of the best things to do in Tucson, Arizona that are kid-friendly. Tips include scenic desert drives and trails, where to zip line and where best to see the famous Saguaro cacti. And for those seeking cowboys and touristy gunfights, the post includes where to find those in Tucson. #familytravel #Arizona #USA

Best scenic drive in Tucson

Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges. The most dramatic range is the Santa Catalinas with Mt. Lemmon, capping out at 9,000 feet. The term “sky islands” refers to isolated mountain ranges that raise up out of the desert floor with cool islands of green forests high in the sky.

Best outdoor things to do in Tucson with kids - Drive the Mt. Lemmon Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway.

Driving the Mt. Lemmon Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway is my top recommendation for a Tucson visit. This winding scenic road carries you up switchbacks and past vistas to the little village of Summerhaven and the southernmost ski resort in the U.S.

The University of Arizona has created a marvelous audio tour phone app that narrates the trip. You will see and learn about the diverse climate zones, geology, and unique wildlife of this sky island.

Tip: I recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy at the top and don’t forget a sweater or jacket, the temperature will change over 20 degrees from desert to peak.

Kid-friendly trails in Tucson

Tucson is a hiker’s heaven. There are trails of every level from the desert floor to the mountain peaks. Many of these trails are multi-use, meaning you can hike, mountain bike or horseback ride.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Coronado National Forest is just 10 miles north of downtown. It’s packed with trails, picnic areas, a tram and wonderful Visitor Center. Sabino Canyon is part of the National Park Service and does have a $5 daily fee (your NPS Annual Pass will work, also).

Best things to do outdoors in Tucson with kids - Visit Sabino Canyon Recreation Area for hikes. It's just 10 minutes from downtown Tucson.

Further north on the west side of the Catalinas is Catalina State Park. Here you will experience the plethora of desert life, the drama of canyons, washes and towering ridges. The park offers geocaching tours, ancient ruins tours, star parties and music in the mountains. Entrance fee is $7 per carload.

Best outdoor things to do in Tucson with kids - Try Arizona Zipline Adventures at the Peppersauce Station near Mt. Lemmon.

The old mining town of Oracle appears almost a ghost town at first glimpse. There are some gems to be found in this foothills town if you are willing to look for them. Oracle State Park and the surrounding area offers some interesting ranching, and prospecting historic sites. At the very end of the pavement, before the  dirt road starts climbing to the backside of Mt. Lemmon, you will find the Peppersauce Station. Here you find Arizona Zipline Adventures and their Peppersauce Kitchen.

Where to experience the desert in Tucson

Of course, we cannot leave Tucson without experiencing the desert and the Wild West. On either side of downtown Tucson you will find the Saguaro National Park. There is an East Park and West Park. I prefer the West Park. Entering the West side from downtown takes you over the spectacular Gates Pass Road. At the bottom of this mountain pass you can see the Sonoran Desert and its iconic saguaros spread out for miles.

Related post: Where can you find a Sonoran Desert in the Midwest? Head to Omaha’s zoo to the Desert Dome!

Best outdoor things to do in Tucson with kids - Check out the saguaros at Sagauro National Park, located near downtown Tucson.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a mix of zoo, botanical garden and interactive museum. Start early, bring water and enjoy everything the desert has to share.

Also just a couple of miles away is the Old Tucson Movie Studio Theme Park. Old Tucson has gunfights and cowboys and all the cheesy fun your kids can endure.

Tucson, Arizona is a great destination to experience the desert. Here are some of the best things to do outdoors in Tucson that are kid-friendly and scenic. Post includes tips on when to go and what to pack! #familytravel #Arizona #guide #USA

About the guest blogger

Janet and her husband just recently retired to Tucson, Ariz., from Wisconsin. After a lifetime in the Midwest, they are now on a perpetual vacation exploring all that Tucson and the Southwest has to offer. Her website is packed with places to Go! Learn Things about the Tucson and beyond.

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April 23, 2019

5 Fun Water Activities In Colorado Springs

After I got a lot of great feedback on my Colorado Springs Bucket List, I started thinking about taking my trip planning up a notch. If we were to visit Colorado Springs in the summer, what kind of adventures could we have on water? After digging around the Visit Colorado Springs website, I got some great inspiration. Here are the water-based activities in Colorado Springs that are kid-friendly and fun:

Fun things to do in Colorado Springs (in the water)! Here's a list of all the family-friendly water-based activities in Colorado Springs, including rafting, hikes to waterfall, water parks & SUP. #visitcos #pikespeakwonders #sponsored #OlympicCityUSA

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Visit Colorado Springs #visitcos #GetOutdoors #Adventure #ColoradoSprings

Fun things to do in the water in Colorado Springs - Whitewater rafting
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Whitewater rafting

Adventure level: High

I was surprised to read that whitewater rafting can be quite family-friendly in the Colorado Springs area. I counted 14 different outfitters on the website, with many clearing marketing to parents by touting all-ages excursions and “family class” rapids.

Fun water activities in Colorado Springs - There are a lot of places to fish and fly fish in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Fishing

Adventure level: Low

Colorado Springs has several fishing spots including the Pike Peak area at the Crystal Creek Reservoir and at Arkansas River in Cañon City. For more urban fishing, try Fountain Creek in Manitou Springs. There are also three reservoirs on Pike Peak’s South Slope that are accessible if you have a permit. If you want a guide to show you the best spots, check this website out.

Things to do in Colorado Springs in the water - Stand-Up paddleboard and SUP yoga
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Stand-Up Paddleboard

Adventure level: Low-Medium (depending on your balance and core strength)

If your kids are a little older, try hitting the water on stand-up paddleboards (SUP). Try SUP at Palmer Lake, Prospect Lake, Monument Lake, Quail Lake or any of the reservoirs around Pikes Peak. You can also try a SUP yoga class. I did that one time in Omaha, and it’s a mix of peacefulness and quite a workout trying to stay balanced.

Fun things to do in Colorado Springs include water activities like spray grounds, fountains and waterparks
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Pools, Spray Grounds & Water Parks

Adventure level: Low

My kids love a good water park. Aga Park is a 4,000-square-foot water park with a ton of kid-friendly features like an elephant cannon and tidal bucket.

For pools, the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region has collaborated with the City of Colorado Springs to bring several great options to the public without requiring a Y membership. These include indoor pools like Memorial Park Family Center YMCA and Cottonwood Creek Family Center YMCA, as well as outdoor options at Prospect Lake Beach, Wilson Ranch Pool, Portal Pool and Monument Valley.

Spraygardens are those seasonal water features at parks that typically are weather-dependent. Find spray grounds and fountains in the Colorado Springs area at Uncle Wilbur Fountain at Acacia Park (pictured), Julie Penrose Fountain at America the Beautiful Park, Deerfield Hills Spray Ground at Deerfield Hills Park, and The Water Hole at Venezia Park. Deerfield sounds pretty impressive with 16 different spray features as features like foaming geysers, soak stations and a water wall.

Things to do in Colorado Springs in the water - Hike to waterfalls including Broadmore Seven Falls
Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs

Hike to waterfalls

Adventure level: Medium-high

If you like the rush of that first glance of a waterfall, Colorado Springs has some trails for you. Moderate trails that are family-friendly include about a one-miler leading to Helen Hunt Falls; the Broadmoor Seven Falls (pictured), which takes some stair-climbing, but I hear it’s worth it; and St. Mary’s Falls in North Cheyenne Cañon Park, with a much longer hike of 6.1 miles round-trip.

Headed to Colorado Springs with kids? Here's a lift of activities in the water to keep cool all summer long - from adventurous whitewater rafting to water parks and fishing holes. #sponsored #visitcos #ColoradoSprings #familytravel

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March 25, 2019

Things To Do At Point Lobos With Kids

There are a lot of things to like about Carmel-by-the-Sea – the food, the quaint architecture, the beach – but the highlight of my family’s trip to the area was Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (it’s more commonly referred to as Point Lobos State Park, and considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Park System). We wanted a place to hike that was beautiful and kid-friendly. And, bonus, it was not far from our hotel. Here are a few of the things we did the morning we went to Point Lobos:

Guide to taking kids to Point Lobos, the crown jewel of the California state park system - Kid-friendly trails, exploring the tide pools and more helpful information to plan a visit #familytravel #hiking #outdoors

Kid-friendly hiking at Point Lobos

Weather on our trip was not the greatest, so we needed to choose a short hike in case we got caught in a rainstorm. We decided to hike Cypress Grove Trail because we’d read it was picturesque and short. Perfect for our needs, right?

Things to do at Point Lobos with kids - Hike the Cypress Grove Trail
Trails are well-marked at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California.

Most of the trail was flat, though there were some steps and boulders to climb. Nothing was too difficult for the kids, who were 7 and 9 when we did this hike.

The trail is .8 miles long and takes you through one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth. 

If you only have an hour for the park, this is a great trail to take! If you have more time, or have other needs, review this page with suggested routes at Point Lobos.

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Park with kids - Hike the Cypress Grove Trail and enjoy the view
We did a little bouldering at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This is found along the Cypress Grove Trail.

We also hiked a bit of the North Shore Trail on accident after taking a wrong turn. It’s more challenging than Cypress Grove Trail (and longer – it’s 1.4 miles). We turned around before we were too far into it.

Things to do at Point Lobos - See Old Veteran Cypress, a much-photographed old cypress tree
A view of the gnarled Old Veteran Cypress clinging to a cliff at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

While we were on the North Shore Trail, we took the short Old Veteran Trail to get a good view of the Old Veteran Cypress, a well-known tree in the park. We also got views of sea lions, I think. I wish we’d brought binoculars to get a better visual.

Hiking tip: Dogs are not allowed on the trails, nor are bicycles.

Tide pools at Point Lobos

We nearly drove past the tide pools on our way out of the park, but I’m glad we spotted some families walking on the rocks. They caught our attention, and we wanted to go see what they were looking at.

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Explore the tide pools #California
My daughter loves animals and water, so she was in absolute heaven at Point Lobos.

It was exhilarating to explore the terrain. There was an element of danger, being near the edge, but it was also a thrill for us.

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Explore the tide pools
It’s a little nerve-wracking standing even a few feet from the edge.

We stayed further back than it looks, I promise!

Tip about exploring the tide pools: It’s against the law to collect shells, rocks, wood, plants, or animals at the park.

Educational opportunities at Point Lobos

When we visited on the weekend, we encountered volunteers at the Information Station near the parking lot with a display of animal pelts. The kids were able to compare the difference between an otter pelt and a sea lion.

Things to do at Point Lobos - Learn about the wildlife found at the park
My kids liked touching the animal pelts on display at Point Lobos. My daughter may have been snuggling the otter fur.

The volunteers also answered a few of our questions, like, what was the orange stuff covering the trees (answer: an algae called Trentepohlia aurea).

Things to do at Point Lobos - Learn about the trees in the park
The algae growing on the trees at Point Lobos are harmless.

There’s a Junior Rangers program for kids ages 7 to 12 that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend. Get more details here.

The park also provides educational information online, as well as Marine Protected coloring book you can download.

Would you want to visit Point Lobos on a rainy day?

We visited Point Lobos in the winter. If you couldn’t tell from the pictures in this post, it was a dreary day when we went to Point Lobos State Park. All morning, the clouds threatened to spit rain. We ended up cutting our visit short because we knew a full-on shower was imminent.

This is what you get when you have a first-year parkour student in your family.

I wouldn’t recommend the tide pools in the wet weather, and hikes, well, they’re doable if you’re a hearty family. Check out the other things we did in the area when its as rainy, though, and you can find some good alternatives.

I read that the climate at the park remains pretty moderate year-round, with temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-60s. You’re most likely to encounter fog in the summer.

Important information about visiting Point Lobos

To plan your day at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, keep these things in mind:

Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Park in California - Explore tide pools
The kids liked exploring the tide pools at Point Lobos.

Point Lobos hours: The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will not admit anybody after 6:30 p.m. There is no camping allowed.

Point Lobos costs: You will need to pay a vehicle entry fee to enter the park. It’s $10 for most. If you want a brochure, it’s $2. If you want to dive or snorkel, there are additional fees (reservation or walkup).

You can also also rent a kayak or standup paddle board for $10.

Point Lobos’ location: This California state park is pretty convenient for travelers since it is right off of Highway 1, plus it’s just about 3 miles from Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Things to do with kids at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California - Guide to kid-friendly trails and tide pools, plus important information to know if you want to visit #California #Carmel #familytravel #outdoors

Plan your Carmel trip!

Want to plan a Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway? Start with this Carmel Bucket List, and then read through these posts for more ideas:

Taking Kids To Carmel, California

Hofsas House Hotel: A Family-Friendly Hotel in Carmel

Dining with kids in Carmel

Taking Kids On The 17-Mile Drive

Things To Do On A Rainy Day In Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea

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March 11, 2019

Things To Do On A Rainy Day In Monterey & Carmel-By-The-Sea

As an outdoorsy family, the itinerary we planned for our Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway involved hikes and maybe a stroll by the ocean. We were so ready for California! And then it rained for the majority of our days there! Luckily, I had planned backup destinations for each day in case there was a downpour. If you’re planning a getaway to Carmel-by-the-Sea, or nearby Monterey, here are some indoor things you can do with kids on rainy days:

List of things to do on a rainy day in Monterey or Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. If you're planning a trip to the area, keep these indoor activities in mind!

Indoor activities near Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey

Carmel-by-the-Sea itself is a very attractive place for outdoor activities for families. There are beautiful parks, the beach, and strolling around the charming downtown area. When it’s rainy, though, you may want to venture to nearby towns for indoor activities.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium touch tank, located at the large aquarium in California. Visiting the aquarium is a good rainy activity if you're in Monterey.
Touching kelp and other sea creatures in a touch tank at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

While you could explore tidepools and possibly spot otters out in the wild while you’re in northern California, it’s not an enjoyable thing to do in the pouring rain. So, head indoors and find an abundance of aquatic creatures, hands-on exhibits, and play areas at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There’s one play area that explores flight using sea birds, and head to the Splash Zone for play areas for toddlers and older children.

Don’t skip the touch tanks.

Where: Monterey, Calif.

How much time there: Plan on at least 4 to 5 hours, but you could easily spend the whole day.

Cost: $$$$ (a family of four would spend about $160)


Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Inside a room at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in Pacific Grove, California. Visiting the museum is a good rainy activity if you're in Monterey.

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is a small but kid-friendly natural history museum full of displays of animals and artifacts from the region. Be sure to do the scavenger hunts – they’re a great way to explore all the exhibits, and the kids who complete one get a surprise at the end.

Where: Pacific Grove, Calif.

How much time there: About an hour, depending on if you do the scavenger hunt or not. My youngest did all three scavenger hunts so we were there perhaps longer than most families would be.

Cost: $$  (a family of four would spend about $30)


San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission

Inside the historic Basilica at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission (commonly known as Carmel Mission) in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Visiting the mission may be a good rainy day activity if you're in Monterey.
The Carmel Mission is an important historic site in California that tourists visit, but it’s still an active parish. Keep that in mind when timing your visit. The Basilica may be occupied for a wedding or mass.

Most of the Carmel Mission and the museums connected to it are indoors (though the courtyard is the loveliest place to explore). It’s one of the state’s most important historical sites and it’s well-preserved. It was founded by Saint Junipero Serrai in the 18th century, and is the location of where he’s buried.

As far as kid-approval levels go, this one was the least favorite of all our stops and part of your visit will be spent outdoors as you go from building to building.

Where: Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

How much time there: It’ll take you about an hour, or less

Cost: $$ (a family of four would spend about $30)


Additional rainy day activities near in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

I overplan things, so I had a list of additional places we could go should the weather be unbearable. Luckily, we had a few dry hours which we spent outdoors. For the places below, I included where they’re located and if there was an admission. Since I didn’t get to visit each, I can’t estimate how long you might spend there, so that was left out. However, here are the other places on my list for indoor activities:

Visit a family-friendly winery

California is famous for great wine, so how could I resist planning at least one stop to try it? While researching Carmel-by-the-Sea, I checked out winery websites and travel blogs to find places that might welcome well-behaved kids. I had two on my list that were close to Carmel-by-the-Sea: Folktale Winery & Vineyards or Cowgirl Winery. Folktale Winery was in a building that looked like a castle, so I figured that would be a nice setting to step out of the rain for a moment. We didn’t make it to either, unfortunately.

Where: Folktale Winery & Vineyards is in Carmel, Calif., and Cowgirl Winery is in Carmel Valley, Calif.

Cost: FREE to visit but tastings will likely cost you


Monterey Museum of Art

We nearly went to this art museum in Monterey because there was a day of family activities planned on the Saturday of our visit. It sounded fun and admission would’ve been FREE that day! Check the museum’s calendar to see if anything is planned during your visit. Typically, there is an admission fee for adults, but kids are FREE.

Where: Monterey, Calif.

Cost: $ (kids admitted FREE)


Highway 1 Golf, Games & Grub

Mitsubishi Outlander parked on Cannery Row in Monterey, California
You can see a sign for the Mirror Maze across the street from my car. I unwittingly took a picture of Highway 1 Golf, Games & Grub. We didn’t really go to it, I was just getting a picture of me in the Mitsubishi Outlander we drove while in California.

Cannery Row is a touristy spot right next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and on that street, you’ll find Highway 1 Golf, Games & Grub. I was considering a visit for my family (against my better judgement…because I really don’t enjoy putt putt golf). In addition to mini golf featuring murals of the Pacific Coast, the entertainment center has arcade games, and additional activities called Lazer Challenge and Mirror Maze.

Where: Monterey, Calif.

Cost: $$$ (9 holes will cost a family of four about $36; a combo pass to do it all will cost about $96)

Monterey Youth Museum

The Monterey Youth Museum, or MY Museum, is a children’s museum in Monterey. We love visiting children’s museums, especially since we can get discounted admission, but this one looked like it skewed a little more on the younger side than what would’ve been perfect for the kids. Still, I had it on the list, just in case. If you belong to a museum that’s a part of the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), you may be able to get half-price admission here. The Patron level membership for Omaha Children’s Museum qualifies! Find out about reciprocal membership benefits here.

Where: Monterey, Calif.

Cost: $$ (a family of four would spend about $32)

Planning a trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey Bay? Keep these places in mind if it's a rainy day! This is a list of indoor activities that are great for all ages. #California #USA #familytravel

Plan your Carmel trip!

Want to plan a Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway? Start with this Carmel Bucket List, and then read through these posts for more ideas:

Taking Kids To Carmel, California

Hofsas House Hotel: A Family-Friendly Hotel in Carmel

Dining with kids in Carmel

Taking Kids On The 17-Mile Drive

Things To Do At Point Lobos State Park With Kids

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March 7, 2019

Taking Kids On The 17-Mile Drive

If you’ve been planning a trip to Monterey or Carmel-by-the-Sea, chances are good you’ve heard about the 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach. While I was planning for our visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea, the questions that I had about 17-Mile Drive loomed:

  1. Should we pay to drive this road when surely every turn in Monterey County must be scenic?
  2. Is this something kids would like?

Well, we did the trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea and we navigated (most of) 17-Mile Drive. So, let’s look into things how that worked out for our family, which included two kids under the age of 10.

Wondering what's the 17-Mile Drive and will kids like it? Read this post to find out about stops on the route that kids may like and if it's really worth playing the admission fee. #California #familytravel

What’s the 17-Mile Drive

The 17-Mile Drive is exactly what it sounds like: A drive that’s 17 miles long. It also happens to be a beautiful drive, and so beautiful, tourists flock to drive it. Each year, more than 1.5 million people drive the route.

There is a $10.25 fee to drive it, and there are various entrances along the route. If you spend at least $35 at any of the Pebble Beach restaurants, they’ll reimburse you.

When to go on the 17-Mile Drive

I was saving this drive for a sunny day on our trip. Rain was in the forecast every day of our trip, though, so I had all but decided not to do the drive. And then I changed my mind. It spit rain through most of the drive and it was cold, being winter and all. Once the rain picked up, we decided to cut the drive short.

Trees at Huckleberry Hill, one of the stops on the 17-Mile Drive in California
The view at Huckleberry Hill, one of the stops on the 17-Mile Drive. This was taken in early February, so thanks to rain, it’s pretty green there. The story behind Huckleberry Hill is that the writers  writers Robert Louis Stevenson and John Steinbeck were said to frequent it.

So, late January/early February isn’t exactly ideal to go, but it was not very crowded, at least.

What is there for kids to see and do?

The good thing is that along with your entry fee, you’re given a guide with a map. They gave us two so our kids could follow along. You can download the app, too.

There are 17 of stops on the route. Some how places for picnics or walking paths.

Huckleberry Hill trail on the 17-Mile Drive in California
Our first stop on our 17-Mile Drive route was Huckleberry Hill. The kids found some interesting mushrooms, but other than that, the trail didn’t lead them too far.

We started from the Highway 1 Gate and drove north first to start at No. 1 on the map. That meant we could drive counter-clockwise and have our car be on the lane closest to the water.

Being the water babies that they are, my kids’ favorite stop was Spanish Bay Beach. They played in the cold waves, looked for rocks and shells, and chased after birds. The sand is soft there (and wet, because, remember, it was spitting rain). The large boulders by the parking lot invited lots of people to stack them. There were surfers to watch, and plenty of waterfowl.

Rainy day at Spanish Bay Beach found along the 17-Mile Drive in California
My daughter loves the water, even in the winter, so she enjoyed our rainy stop along the 17-Mile Drive at Spanish Bay Beach. The beach got its name from the Spanish explorers who stayed at the beach in 1769 while trying to find Monterey Bay. It took them a year to find the right bay.

Incidentally, Spanish Bay is the home to a daily Scottish bagpipe performance. The bagpiper plays rain or shine starting at the first tee at The Links at Spanish Bay in front of STICKS, and finishes 45 minutes later at the Spanish Bay fire pits by the second green. During Daylight Saving Time, this performance starts at around 5:45 p.m; otherwise it starts a half hour before sunset.

While at Seal Rock Creek, you can explore tide pools and take a walk the boardwalk to the interesting looking, and aptly named, Gingerbread House.

By the time we made it to the Lone Cypress (Stop 12), the kids were bored. They didn’t even get out of the car. From all that I’ve read, the Lone Cypress is the most iconic and most photographed place in the area (and only midpoint in our journey). There were definitely more people at this stop than any other.

Lone Cypress, a 250-year-old Monterey Cypress Tree found on the 17-Mile Drive in California
We found the biggest crowd of all the stops at the Lone Cypress. It’s an iconic spot in California, which means a lot of selfies to be taken.

The Lone Cypress is believed to be at least 250 years old. It’s one of the most photographed trees in the world. Would I drive this whole route just to see it? No.

Is it worth paying to drive it?

Well, sure. It’s beautiful. You’ll pass eight golf courses during your drive, including the storied Pebble Beach Golf Links. You might also see some animals. And the Lone Cypress is kinda cool to see. All in all, it’s nice.

But truthfully, don’t go on a rainy day. It doesn’t have to be warm, but the rain is a drag. If you’re wanting to take pictures and walk around, it’s just not going to be enjoyable in the rain.

And if you’re not into paying for something “nice,” then skip it and just drive around the rest of Monterey County. The whole region is gorgeous.

Can you bike it?

Yes. There is a bike lane. I wouldn’t bike it with my kids, as it is narrow, or at least, looks narrow. I’d bike it if it were just me and my husband. If you bike, you don’t have to pay the entry fee. But you have to bike 17 miles. And it can be a little hilly in some areas.

What about dining with kids on the 17-Mile Drive?

There are a few picnic areas in pretty scenic spots, which is what I’d recommend. The hotels have several dining options but I couldn’t ascertain if any were kid-friendly or not. Online menus were no help – none listed kid’s meals, at least.

Here are some family-friendly restaurants that are nearby, located either in Monterey or Carmel-By-The-Sea.

What to expect on the 17-Mile Drive in California | Find out if it's worth the admission fee and what stops kids will like the most. #California #PebbleBeach #familytravel

Plan your Carmel trip!

Want to plan a Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway? Start with this Carmel Bucket List, and then read through these posts for more ideas:

Taking Kids To Carmel, California

Hofsas House Hotel: A Family-Friendly Hotel in Carmel

Dining with kids in Carmel

Rainy day activities in Carmel

Things To See At Point Lobos State Park With Kids


Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.