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

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

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.

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.

February 26, 2019

Dining With Kids In Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey

Carmel-by-the-Sea has a reputation for a charming couple’s getaway or a chic girlfriends’ escape. And it is. Oh, the wine there is ah-mazing. But, if you’re like me, you might find yourself in Carmel with a kid or two along for the ride. And you’re wondering if any restaurant in Carmel caters to families or is it all just candle-lit settings for two. I know I was a little worried about finding great places to eat that wouldn’t frown upon bringing a 7- and 9-year-old in with us. So let’s talk about dining with kids in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Heading to Carmel-by-the-Sea and nearby Monterey? Here are a selection of restaurants that were kid-friendly (and some not-so-much), plus a wine tasting room that accommodated families! #familytravel #California

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase from an affiliate link, I receive a referral payment. I received gift certificates to purchase food at Lugano’s Swiss Bistro and Fifth Avenue Deli. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to know about dining with kids in Carmel-by-the-Sea -by-the-Sea

When planning this trip, I found only a few restaurants with kid’s menus mentioned online, and I found even fewer blog posts about family-friendly dining. So, I assumed the place was just not that accommodating to families. I was wrong.

So, one thing to note: Just because the restaurant’s website doesn’t mention a kid’s menu, they likely have one. Ask for it when you arrive.

One big thing that I was not quite ready for were the prices. I mean, I knew everything was going to be more expensive in California, of course. But even with the forethought, we didn’t have the food budget set high enough for this trip.

For the most part, expect a family of four to spend about $70 for breakfast (especially if you order coffee or juice), up to $100 for lunch, and about $150 for dinner (if you order wine).

Breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea

While our hotel offered a complimentary, light breakfast, I had to venture out because breakfast is my favorite meal ever (and because my kids get up at around 6 a.m., a full two hours before breakfast is served there). Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurants did not disappoint when it came to breakfast.

Tuck Box: I was pretty excited to eat at the Tuck Box because it’s so iconic in the city. How cute is that building?

Exterior of the Tuck Box in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Tuck Box was a restaurant in the most charming cottage I’ve ever seen.

The interior matches the exterior, with quaint teapots and wood paneling for décor. There was also a fireplace. We sat at the table in the storybook window. If you’re going to dine here, it’s important to know they only accept cash.

Tuck Box interior photo
We arrived shortly after Tuck Box opened for the day, and enjoyed breakfast in a dining room all to ourselves.

This was one place without a kid’s menu, but being breakfast, it wasn’t a big issue. Both kids had a waffle and they split a side of bacon.

Before our plates came out, my husband and my fresh scones were brought to the table. Try the fresh whipped cream marmalade, including lalaberry which is only grown in California.

Tuck Box scones
The scones were served with fresh preserves and marmalade.

From Scratch Restaurant: Another great breakfast spot was From Scratch Restaurant, which was featured in an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.” Expect a wait here. They were pretty accommodating for our family. My daughter had a bit of a meltdown and one waiter stopped by our table to give her a cute keychain toy (plus one for her brother).

The kid’s menu is decent, and the full menu is ample. I tried the biscuits and gravy that Guy Fieri had – it was delicious. The kids had a ginormous chocolate chip pancake with fresh fruit, plus a side of eggs. From Scratch’s menu was for breakfast and lunch, and kid’s meals ranged from $7.45 to $8.95.

The kid’s pancake is huge at From Scratch in Carmel.

A third place that I can’t vouch for the food, but can say the coffee was the best is called Carmel Belle. Even just plain, black coffee was oh-so-good.

Lunch & Dinner in Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey

We had a lot of plans for picnics on hikes and, well, the rainy weather put an end to that dream. There wasn’t much dining al fresco during this trip.

Fifth Avenue Deli: The plan was to grab food from Fifth Avenue Deli in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and then head out for a picnic. It was a short walk from our hotel. We did get our picnic food, but ended up just eating it back at the hotel, since as I said, it rained. A lot. The deli also has a selection of wine, in case you needed a bottle or two for your picnic (at the hotel).

Deli counter at Fifth Avenue Deli in Carmel-by-the-Sea
You can order sandwiches, deli salads, a a few prepared dishes to warm up at Fifth Avenue Deli in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s a good choice for stocking a picnic basket.

Baja Cantina Grill & Filling Station: I really wanted to like Baja Cantina Grill more than I did. It was a fun looking place, with quirky décor. However, the food was only so-so.

The décor is a lot of fun here, though, so it proves a lot to look at while you wait for your food. It’s all race cars, motorcycles and related movie memorabilia here. There is a kid’s menu.

Interior of Baja Cantina Grill & Filling Station in Carmel-by-the-Sea
The decor at Baja Cantina Grill & Filling Station was all-things-cars.

Lalla Grill: This restaurant on Cannery Row in Monterey had the best view of the trip. The kid’s menu had a nice variety, and I enjoyed my salad. Kid’s entrees included grilled salmon, steak, a Kobe kid’s burger, as well as the usual stuff like macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders. Prices ranged from $3 to $9 for kids.

Ocean view at Lalla Grill in Monterey Bay, California
How’s this for a view? We had lunch at Lalla Grill the afternoon we went to Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a fairly long walk between the aquarium and restaurant, but worth it.

Ghirardelli: And a little tip for those with a sweet tooth, Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop is located between Lalla Grill and Monterey Bay Aquarium in Cannery Row. We spent the morning at the aquarium, walked to Lalla Grill for lunch, returned to the aquarium for another two hours, and then for a late-afternoon snack, we walked back to Ghirardelli. Heads up: You get a free square of chocolate just entering Ghirardelli.

Ghirardelli Ice Cream in Monterey, California located in Cannery Row
Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop has a small patio in the rear of the restaurant where you can sit and watch people walk the beach.

Abalonetti Bar and Grill: This Old Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant came recommended to us by the guy pouring the wine at a wine tasting room. (He pronounced it Abolonetti as “Apple and Eddies”). We all had fish and chips (or shrimp and chips) for lunch. It was fine, but not outstanding. Kid’s meals were all $7.95, with the usual fried seafood options (fish, calamari or popcorn shrimp), plus a few non-seafood choices like linguine and marinara, corn dog, and hamburger.

Antipasto bar at Abalonetti Bar & Grill in Monterey, California
Abalonetti Bar & Grill at Old Fisherman’s Wharf had an antipasto bar, which we didn’t actually dine from because my kids wouldn’t go near it.

Tip: As you walk the wharf, you can sample several chowders for free. It’s almost a meal itself.

La Biciclette Restaurant: This Carmel bistro came highly recommended to us. La Biciclette is super charming, and what I’d picture as an ideal date spot. Think like a small, French bistro (and when you walk in, you briefly think, “Maybe I shouldn’t bring my kids here.”). There’s no kid’s options, but there are pizzas on the menu, so you’re not totally out of luck if you bring kids with you. Still, this one I wouldn’t necessarily say is the best choice. 

Squash and Speck pizza at La Biciclette in Carmel-by-the-Sea
The Squash & Speck pizza I ordered with my husband was delicious and topped with arugula, squash and prosciutto to ensure no kid would ask for a slice.

Lugano’s Swiss Bistro: Fondue makes for a fun night out with the kids, don’t you think? Lugano’s Swiss Bistro is decked out like a Swiss chalet, and the menu is features Swiss food in addition to the fondue.

Dining room at Lugano's Swiss Bistro in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Lugano’s Swiss Bistro is resembles a chalet in Europe.

The night we went, I wasn’t feeling up for fondue, though, so I had the schnitzel – it was superb. If you do think you’ll want to order fondue, note that there didn’t appear to be kid’s prices for fondue.

Ask for a kid’s menu when you arrive. I’m not sure why they didn’t just offer us the kid’s menu to begin with. If you were hoping for “Swiss” kid’s food options, you will be disappointed. It’s pretty standard kid’s menu fare – pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets and hamburgers. My son order the frankfurter, which looked like a hot dog to me. Prices were the most reasonable for kid’s meals, between $5.95 and $6.95.

Sur Restaurant: We weren’t planning on going to Sur, but we ended up there when most of Carmel-by-the-Sea was without power and our first choice had a two-plus hour wait. Our waiter didn’t seem pleased to have us, for some reason. Anyway, at least there was a kid’s menu there. The kid’s entrees were pretty standard with grilled cheese, chicken tenders and a cheeseburger, plus a few more unique options like calamari strips and flatbread cheese pizza. Prices for kids ranged from $8.50 to $12.50.

Wish we left room for dessert – they serve arctic bonbons, these chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream balls served over a basket of dry ice.

From Scratch, Lugano’s Swiss Bistro, and Sur Restaurant are located in a shopping center called The Barnyard. It’s a nice place to walk around, with small fountains and a ton of plants. The Barnyard is not in the area of Carmel-by-the-Sea where all the famous architecture is, so it’s not a walkable distance from most hotels.

Wine tasting on a family trip

If you’re curious about wineries and wine tasting rooms (because there are several in town, and the wineries are nearby), I’m sorry to say we didn’t go to many. I had two wineries in mind that I’d read were welcoming to families (I included them on My Carmel-by-the-Sea Bucket List).

Wine tasting room at Dawn's Dream in Carmel-by-the-Sea
My kids happily colored in the coloring books provided (and played on their iPad) at the Dawn’s Dream’s tasting room.

Carrie, the owner at Hofsas House, said most wine tasting rooms are kid-friendly as they’re not technically bars. We stopped at the tasting room or Dawn’s Dream Winery in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There were couches in a corner with a stack of coloring books, so we felt fine letting the kids entertain themselves why we tried the Chardonnay and Pinor Noir.

Restaurants that are family-friendly in Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey #California #USA #familytravel

Plan your Carmel-by-the-Sea trip!

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

Taking Kids To Carmel-by-the-Sea

Hofsas House Hotel: A Family-Friendly Hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Taking kids on the 17-Mile Drive 

Rainy day activities in Carmel

Things To Do At Point Lobos State Park With Kids

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December 17, 2018

Family-Friendly Downtown Chicago Hotel Review – Loews

Headed to Chicago and can’t figure out where to stay? I know the feeling. As I planned our family’s holiday getaway to Chicago, I knew I wanted to choose a hotel with a location that was convenient to major attractions, preferably one where we’d feel comfortable walking to said attractions with the kids. The Loews Chicago location fit our needs, plus it had a great package for families to sweeten the deal!

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Loews Hotels, though I paid a media rate for our stay. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Where to stay in downtown Chicago: A review of Loews Chicago #familytravel #Illinois #hosted

What to expect at Loews Chicago

Loews Chicago, I’ve learned, is all about personalizing the experiences. So, no matter who we encountered, from bellhops to the concierge, once they learned your name, they greeted you all the time.  The same was true for our stay at Loews O’Hare.

The lobby at Loews Chicago was charmingly decorated for Christmas.

The downtown Chicago location is in a skyscraper (which is pretty exciting for my kids), with a grand lobby to greet guests. Being downtown, expect to pay for parking – unless you get the Snowed Inn package, in which case, you get free valet parking.

We spent one night in Chicago in our PJs watching a movie in our Loews Chicago hotel room. And it was exactly what our family needed to unwind after a busy day exploring the city.

The entire Loews Hotels brand is kid-friendly and pet-friendly. We saw a lot of dogs during our stay.

Chicago History & Flavor At Loews

One of the coolest things a hotel brand can do is to localize the experience when staying at a property. If you’re staying at either of the Loews Downtown or the Loews O’Hare, keep your eyes peeled to see hints of Chicago in the decor, as well as tasting locally-made products in restaurants and bars. Let’s start with the food and drink.

There’s no doubt where you are when you stay at a Loews location.

Flavor Chicago by Loews Hotels is a brilliant way to introduce travelers to local products. Flavor by Loews Hotels is built on partnerships with artisan food & beverage vendors, and its starting to roll out in Loews destinations across the nation. At the downtown location, try Chicago Honey Co-op honey in a cocktail at Streeterville Social as a honey-infused treatment in the spa; Here cold-pressed juices are available in ETA Restaurant + Bar; and Revolution Brewing’s Zephyr beer is exclusively available at Loews Chicago Hotel in ETA Restaurant + Bar, The Lobby Lounge and Streeterville Social.

On the wall of this elevator at Loews Chicago is Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” poem.

For architecture in the Downtown Chicago Loews, there are few things to note. First, step into the elevators and find Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” poem on the walls. In the lobby, it helps to know the design was inspired by two important architects to Chicago, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Louis Sullivan. The two story metal on either side of the fireplace represent train tracks, giving a nod to the importance of the railroad for industry in Chicago. Local artist, Ben Butler, designed a piece of art in the lobby made of wood. It represents the Chicago skyline and the bottom portion  is burned representing The Great Fire (except for the Water Tower, which was the one building that didn’t get destroyed by it).

What kids will like at Loews Chicago

The question every kids asks: Is there a pool? Yes, there is a pool at the Loews Chicago location. It’s on the third floor, and it’s more like a long lap pool. It still suits the needs of most kids.

No hot tub, so, sorry Mom and Dad.

View from Loews Chicago facing Navy Pier at night
We could see Navy Pier from our hotel room at Loews Chicago. In the day time, you can see Lake Michigan, too.

Kids are going to like the views from the room, at least, our view was impressive. We had a view of Navy Pier and Lake Michigan from our 14th floor room.

The Snowed Inn package at Loews Chicago included set up of a little tent and campfire set to play with.

Kids will also like the extras that come with the Snowed Inn package, particularly the hot cocoa. My kids were not too impressed with the cookies that came with it, though. They had some raisins in them.

What parents will like at Loews Chicago

I’m not going to lie, having complimentary valet parking with the Snowed Inn package was a huge perk. There are also discounts at the restaurant and spa included with the package.

Loews Chicago was in a prime location for our plans in downtown Chicago. 

I liked the hotel’s location, being so near all of the things we wanted to see and do: We walked to Millennium Park, for instance. And, places like the Field Museum were about an $8 cab ride away. We weren’t far from CTA stops, either.

If you’ve never used Chicago’s mass transit, the concierge is super helpful telling you which stops to go to for things. He also gave us some tips for a good route to just ride the train for the heck of it (if you have kids, you understand this).

More things to know about Loews Chicago

This hotel has a restaurant called ETA and lobby bar, but do not expect complimentary breakfast or a free happy hour. However, with the Snowed Inn package, you do get 20% off at ETA. We didn’t dine there, so I can’t tell you much about the restaurant.

ETA is located just off the lobby of Loews Chicago.

If you go

Loews Chicago

Where: 455 N. Park Drive, Chicago, Ill.

More Chicago vacation inspiration

You can see all the fun things we did on our Chicago holiday weekend getaway in this post. I started planning the trip using this Chicago Holiday Bucket List post.

Want to explore other hotel options in downtown Chicago? Trip Adviser is a good place to start!

If you want to see where I found my inspiration, then follow my Chicago Pinterest board! You’ll discover more family-friendly places to visit and things to do in the Windy City:

https://www.pinterest.com/ohmyomaha/chicago-with-kids/

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

Visiting Chicago and looking for a family-friendly hotel? Check out this review of Loews Chicago, a hotel located within walking distance of popular attractions. #Chicago #familytravel #WindyCity #hosted
December 11, 2018

Comparing Hotels In The Quad Cities

When I started planning our first trip to the Quad Cities, I was at a loss on where to stay. The Quad Cities are four cities that are so near each other, you get the feeling it’s just one bigger Midwest city.

We’ve passed stayed in three different Quad Cities hotels now, in three different cities, so now I can at least offer suggestions on where to stay based on your budget or plans. The Quad Cities, for the unfamiliar, are in eastern Iowa and Western Illinois (Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, Moline and East Moline…yes, five cities).

Disclosure: Our stays were hosted by Visit Quad Cities. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Not sure where to stay in the Quad Cities? This post compares three hotels located in Davenport, Bettendorf and Moline. #Iowa #Illinois #familytravel

Related post: Plan a trip to the Quad Cities with the help of this post full of family-friendly things to do in the Quad Cities.

Element Moline

Moline, Ill.

Our room at Element had the look and feel of a chic loft – brick walls, concrete floors, and a kitchen.

You may be familiar with the Element brand – sleek designs with a focus on health and green living. This location is within walking distance of the concert arena, a bike trail, and the John Deere Pavilion, which is a great, free place to visit with kids.

It has a small pool and complimentary breakfast with healthy options. There’s also a happy hour during the week, which may or may not appeal to you when you’re on a family trip.

The complimentary breakfast one morning included an egg white scramble and fresh fruit. I also got a pastry because I’m no diet saint.

There are not a whole lot of shops or restaurants within walking distance.

Kids will like: The pool.

Kids won’t like: Our room only had a shower.

Parents will like: The spacious suites that let a family be a little less cramped. Ours had a kitchen, too. There’s also free Wi-Fi. Parking is comped by the hotel.

Good for: Families that like free breakfasts with healthy choices and families looking for a bit more spacious rooms.

Related post: Read more about Element Moline in this hotel review.

My Place Davenport

Davenport, Iowa

My Place in Davenport, Iowa, is an affordable hotel option for families visiting the Quad Cities.

This is a newly-opened location of the chain My Place. It’s a good option for families on a tight budget.

This location is a short drive from a lot of shopping options and malls. It’s also pretty close to the very fun Family Museum, which will appeal to families with younger children.

The My Place room we stayed in overnight had a full-size fridge and small range.

Kids will like: Comfy beds.

Kids won’t like: There’s no pool.

Parents will like: How budget-friendly and clean it is. We were looking for a hotel for a stopover for a road trip.  We didn’t need much for an overnight, just beds for all of us that were comfortable. Parents might also like the kitchenette with a huge fridge in the room. There’s also free Wi-Fi. Parking is free.

Parents won’t like: There is no complimentary breakfast. You can, however, order breakfast to be delivered to your room. The prices were pretty reasonable, and beat fast food.

Good for: Families on a budget or families making a quick overnight stop.

Hilton Garden Inn Bettendorf

Bettendorf, Iowa

The Hilton Garden Inn was the best fit for our family with amenities we all wanted (especially that hot tub by the pool). It’s in a good location near the interstate so it’s easy to get to places.

The lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn in Bettrndorf, Iowa, was decked for the holidays when we visited right after Thanksgiving. 

It’s within an easy drive–or if you’re feeling up to it, an easy walk–to some restaurants like Pizza Ranch and Starbucks. It’s also not far from one of the breakfast places we went to on our Quad Cities weekend trip, Jimmy’s Pancake.

What kids will like: The pool is the biggest of the two hotels that had them, plus it has a hot tub. Kids will like the fresh, homemade cookies at check in, too.

Nighttime swim in the pool at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bettendorf, Iowa.

What parents will like: The cozy lobby, that hot tub I mentioned, and the free coffee in the lobby. There’s also a bar and restaurant in the lobby.

What parents won’t like: No complimentary breakfast. The hotel restaurant in the lobby looks like it would be included, but expect to pay for that buffet. Kids are half-price, though.

Things to look forward to in Quad Cities in 2019

A bike trail along the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities.

Museum updates: The Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire has anew addition housing a replica 1920s interior of a one-room school house. The Putnam Museum & Science Center in Davenport opens “RACE: Are We So Different” in January. The German American Heritage Center in Davenport opens an exhibit on the Schweibert Family in March. The Figge Art Museum opens an exhibit on Tiffany’s stained-glass windows, vases, lamps and accessories on Feb. 16 and running through May 19. The Family Museum has a summer exhibit running June 8 throughSept. 8 called “Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action!”

Drink updates: Bootleg Hill Honey Meads just opened in downtown Davenport, serving a variety of meads and craft drinks. 

Additional things to look out for in 2019: Quad Cities Air Show returns after a two-year break in 2019. The show will be June 29 and 30. The 100th Mississippi Valley Fair is July 30 through Aug. 3. The 2019Grand Stand acts include Brad Paisley, Jake Owen, Tesla and Dan + Shay. Snowstar has a new zipline course, with one zipline that’s 1,300 feet long. The world’s largest truck stop, Iowa 80 Truckstop, is near the Quad Cities and it has recently finished a $10 million expansion and remodel project. Look for the antique trucks added to the main entry. Quad Cities got a new hockey team, theQuad City Storm, in 2018. Playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League, the season runs October through April.

Looking for free things to do with kids in the Quad Cities? Read this post!

Not sure where to stay in the Quad Cities? This post compares three hotels located in Davenport, Bettendorf and Moline. #Iowa #Illinois #familytravel

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