Strollers enjoy the paths at California's Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Park.
Originally a 19th-century Methodist retreat, Pacific Grove—P.G. to its nearly 15,000 citizens—remains a lovely slice of small-town America that feels slightly removed from the 21st century. Victorian homes dot quiet, tree-lined backstreets, and the 1855 Point Pinos Lighthouse is the West Coast’s oldest continually operating light station. Lighthouse Avenue, the lively main street, offers a good mix of unique shops and restaurants. And nature is always close by, whether along the shore or among trees sheltering the winged visitors that give the city its other nickname: “Butterfly Town, USA.” (800) 656-6650, pacificgrove.org. Area code is 831 except as noted.
At the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, thousands of fluttering orange-and-black monarch butterflies spend winter in a stand of eucalyptus trees; the best viewing is between November and February. Ridge Road near Lighthouse Avenue, (800) 656-6650, pacificgrove.org. Admire turreted Queen Anne houses and an 1887 church with Tiffany stained glass windows on the self-guided Pacific Grove Historic Walking Tour, outlined in a brochure available at the chamber of commerce (584 Central Ave.). Included on the tour is the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, with its climbable, life-size gray whale sculpture that’s a magnet for kids. 165 Forest Ave., 648-5716, pgmuseum.org. The protected cove at Lovers Point Park draws families for swimming, sand castle building, and picnicking; the grassy bluff hosts more than 300 weddings each year. (800) 656-6650, ci.pg.ca.us/recreation/p-loverspt.htm. At Asilomar State Beach you’ll find soft white sand and a quarter-mile-long boardwalk through restored dunes. 646-6440, parks.ca.gov.
Specializing in sustainable seafood, Passionfish serves accomplished dishes—sturgeon with lemongrass slaw, sea scallops with tomato-truffle butter—in a relaxed, cream-tablecloth environment. 701 Lighthouse Ave., 655-3311, passionfish.net. Lamb kebabs and stuffed grape leaves are among the popular Mediterranean specialties at Petra. 477 Lighthouse Ave., 649-2530. Or chow down on enchiladas, seafood tacos, and other freshly made Mexican fare at Peppers Mexicali Cafe, in a cheerful, vintage storefront with old wooden floors and bright Southwest decor. 170 Forest Ave., 373-6892, peppersmexicalicafe.com. The nine-inch-round pancakes or the eggs Benedict at First Awakenings, in the American Tin Cannery center, will fortify you for a day at the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium; there’s a patio for breakfast and lunch on nice days. 105 Ocean View Blvd., 372-1125, firstawakenings.net.
Rosedale Inn has 19 rooms, all with Jacuzzi tub and gas fireplace, in a tranquil setting close to Asilomar State Beach. 775 Asilomar Blvd., (800) 822-5606, rosedaleinn.com. Occupying a vintage mansion, the Pacific Grove Inn features traditional furnishings, cushy amenities like towel warmers, and a gourmet breakfast; some of its 16 rooms and suites have balconies, porches, fireplaces, or views of the bay. 581 Pine Ave., (800) 732-2825, pacificgroveinn.com. The Butterfly Grove Inn offers an outdoor pool and 30 quiet and simple rooms next to the monarch sanctuary. 1073 Lighthouse Ave., (800) 337-9244, butterflygroveinn.com.
Photography by Sean Arbabi
This article was first published in February 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Check out the rest of our Monterey Peninsula package:
Carmel-by-the-Sea: art galleries, elegant boutiques, and a dog beach
Carmel Valley: award-winning wineries and sunny weather
Monterey: the Monterey Bay Aquarium and more
Pebble Beach: golf courses, fine dining, and 17-Mile Drive
Seaside and Sand City: sweet beaches and a happening art scene