Enjoy sweet beaches and a happening art scene in these adjacent Monterey Peninsula towns.
Seaside, a city of 34,000, has enjoyed newfound dynamism since neighboring Fort Ord closed in 1994. Its sandy beaches are among Monterey Bay’s finest (and a happening art scene inhabits a former industrial zone in neighboring Sand City). Seaside’s youthful, up-and-coming vibe is thanks largely to a university that’s taking root on what once was military land. (877) 666-8373, seemonterey.com . Area code is 831 except as noted.
Four miles of hiking and biking roads lace Fort Ord Dunes State Park, which opened in 2009 on a reclaimed army shooting range. The 996-acre park also boasts four miles of golden sand beach, which on most days you’ll share only with snowy plovers and other shorebirds. 649-2836, parks.ca.gov . On the campus of California State University–Monterey Bay, where Fort Ord barracks and bachelor officers’ quarters have become offices and dorms, you can catch a lecture, film, or performance at the 446-seat World Theater, which has hosted marquee names such as Pulitzer Prize–winning author Junot Díaz and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. 582-4580, worldtheater.csumb.edu . About 20 sculptors, painters, and other artists have settled in Sand City, a tiny town that abuts Seaside. Call for an appointment to visit some of their studios, and you’ll find plenty of art on view during the annual West End Celebration in August. (877) 666-8373, sandcity.org .
Sand City’s breakfast, lunch, and snack options include sandwiches, soups, leek-and-salmon quiche, and sweet-tart ollalieberry pie at Sweet Elena’s Bakery & Café, a boho spot whose almond croissants have achieved near-legendary status at local farmers’ markets. 465D Olympia Ave., 393-2063, sweetelenas.net . The menu at low-key Fishwife Seafood Café covers a wide range—from cioppino to fried catfish and tilapia Cancún, or achiote-spiced grilled fish served on a bed of cilantro-cashew pesto. 789 Trinity Ave., 394-2027, fishwife.com . Locals pack The Breakfast Club for three-egg omelets, fluffy pancakes, and other morning and lunchtime fare; if you leave hungry, you must not know how to hold a fork. 1130 Fremont Blvd., Suite 201, 394-3238, breakfastclubrestaurant.com 
Many of the 225 suites and nine nonsuite rooms at the 12-story Embassy Suites Monterey Bay–Seaside have views of the bay; the hotel also offers an indoor pool and a full breakfast. From $143. 1441 Canyon del Rey, 393-1115, embassysuites.hilton.com . Just next door, the five-story Holiday Inn Express Monterey Bay has 143 rooms and an outdoor pool. From $89. 1400 Del Monte Ave., 394-5335, holiday-inn-monterey-bay.pacificahost.com . For good, basic accommodation, Americas Best Value Inn–Seaside South offers 24 rooms and high-speed Internet. From $49. 1141 Fremont Blvd., 899-1881, americasbestvalueinn.com .
Photography by Kerrick James
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
Pacific Grove : Victorian homes and a lively main street
Pebble Beach : golf courses, fine dining, and 17-Mile Drive