14. Hotels, Entertainment, Educational Venues, Restaurants
“Bicycling? I thought we were going out…”
Virtually everywhere you go, bicyclists welcome!
Hey, this is a tourist county! Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, you can feel at ease biking to casual and elegant places.
You say you’d rather drive and have the option of valet parking? No worries, just bike on up. Our Monterey County valets take it in stride that bicyclists, too, may want this service. Special date? Most would be charmed that you knew to ask for this amenity. See “Bike Valet and Other Bicycle Parking.”
Monterey’s Cannery Row: InterContinental the Clement Monterey
provides bike valet parking and is also a HER Helmet Thursdays lodging participant.
HER Helmet Thursdays
Most of the businesses and organizations mentioned in this “Hotels, Entertainment, Educational Venues, Restaurants” section are in the HER Helmet Thursdays project. Those spots give discounts to bicyclists on Thursdays. Check their listings any day of the week too, because most include other tips, include bike-there tips for their locations.
So what’s HER Helmet Thursdays? On Thursdays year-round, males and females biking in Monterey County are offered discounts–just because they ride a bike! H-E-R=Hotels, and other lodging businesses; Entertainment venues and Educational attractions; and Restaurants and other establishments that serve food and beverages, such as wineries and sit-down delis. All these are among the participating H-E-R businesses and organizations. To learn more, check these quick links about HER Helmet Thursdays. Or, go straight to the listings for all HER Helmet Thursdays participants.
If you are a visitor and unfamiliar with names on the list of more than 200 extra bike-friendly places, you may wish to start with the HER Helmet Thursdays spots in Bike to the Best of Monterey County.
Hotels and other lodging
Right on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, in the midst of where everything is happening, the historic Monterey Hotel is ready for cyclists with that bike valet service and with lodging discounts for cyclists as part of the HER Helmet Thursdays project. (See “Lodging Providers Show Monterey County is a bike-friendly place” to learn about all charter lodging participants in HER Helmet Thursdays.)
All the lodging places listed below are in the project too, including Monterey’s newest (as of July 2013) waterfront hotel, InterContinental The Clement Monterey. The Clement offers bike valet parking also.
The Sanctuary Beach Resort is another example of one of our extra bike friendly hosts. Maybe that’s because their sales director, Jeff Perrine, is an avid cyclist himself! This property was the first of the large hotels to come into the project, and the first in Marina.
Cyclists heading down the Big Sur Coast often stay at the Carmel River Inn, which is in HER Helmet Thursdays.
Monterey County lodging providers in this cycling friendly project include not just hotels and inns but also providers like the Monterey Hostel, part of Hosteling International. Bike lockers and their special exemption for cyclists from the usual check-in hours are evidence of the hostel manager’s commitment to making Monterey Hostel a happy home-on-the-road for touring cyclists.
And if your preferred lodging is a room with a starry sky, check out “Camping in Monterey County” on this site. The park and forest rangers (links provided in that camping post) who tend these beautiful lands are usually a great source of info about cycling the appropriate trails and roads.
Restaurants, and related spots
Below, Carmel: Carmel Belle
The Big Sur River Inn Restaurant was the first big Sur participant in the HER Helmet Thursdays project.
Big Sur: Big Sur River Inn Restaurant
In the “casual places” realm—in the restaurants category—next time you’re cycling the Cannery Row bike path, head up to Lighthouse Ave to Taqueria del Mar and learn why, as the Monterey County Weekly noted in “Hot Like Chocolate,” they’ve had a loyal following since 1987.
Run by “Good Neighbor Nicholas” Gasca and his niece, Lilia Gasca, their menu emphasizes light, healthy, delicious food (think chimichangas on the grill, not in a fryer). The decor is no-frills, yet clean and pleasant. And they use only non-disposable tableware, a rarity among fast, casual places.
Taqueria del Mar is closed Sundays–these folks know what’s necessary for a two-person operation to stay in balance! You’ll feel it, too; they maintain an ambiance that is muyo tranquillo. Want to enjoy mealtime conversation? There’s no TV, no music blasting. This is an exceptionally peaceful and quiet place to eat.
New Monterey, Lighthouse Avenue District: Taqueria Del Mar
Lilia Gasca at Taqueria del Mar, one of the First 100 charter participants in the HER Helmet Thursdays project.
Taqueria del Mar is also a great stop for kids who need a snack—when they’ve just had a meal!—and parents say “no more sweets.” Here a yummy, healthy snack costs as little as $2 (vegetarian soft-shell taco). Be sure to come back later and enjoy a full dinner, with options like prawn fajitas!
Monterey County Herald restaurant reviewer Raul N. wrote on 2/12/12, “Whenever anyone asks me where I go for Mexican food in Monterey, without skipping a beat, I reply ‘Taqueria del Mar’!” Read “Off the Menu: Unassuming Taqueria del Mar is one of the best-kept secrets on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey.” And Taqueria del Mar is on the recommended list of the Monterey Institute of International Studies students, staff, and faculty among many other local fans!
Monterey’s Cannery Row:
Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, Cafe La Strada, Vista Blue Spa
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is a good landmark for cyclists, as it is between Fisherman’s Wharf/Wharf #1 and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (It’s nearer the wharf end.) Its ocean-front plaza is open to the public. And it also has a convenient iron divider that does double-duty as a bike rack adjacent to their glass-front coffee shop, Cafe La Strada. Whether you’re stopping on a visit to the cafe, Schooners, or Vista Blue Spa–or staying as an overnight guest–the hotel is happy to provide bike valet parking. Just ask!
Also, as the table signs say, no purchase is necessary to sit at the plaza tables. Enjoy the view! Then return later for a meal at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, just down the stairs, which shares the same vista.
Some tourists asked me on the bike path recently whether Schooners was “touristy,” meaning, do the locals really go there and find this is a place of genuine value. Yes! Schooners is one of those uncommon waterfront places with outdoor dining in Monterey County–and the food is delicious. Better yet, Schooners, Cafe La Strada, and even the rooftop Vista Blue Spa are all participants in HER Helmet Thursdays!
Below: Across Del Monte Avenue from the Class I bike path, tucked away next to Doty’s Autos, is HER Helmet Thursdays spot Pico de Gallo, a locals’ favorite. Best crossing spot? Casa Verde Avenue; then bike north on Del Monte or walk your bike up the sidewalk. It’s a very worthwhile, for Hugo and Berniece will be there, cooking up fresh food with tantalizing flavors.
Help Monterey County restaurants in “keeping it green”
Dining at a restaurant and have leftovers? Or, picking up restaurant carry-out? Acknowledge those restaurants that are “keeping it green” by complying with local bans on polystyrene/styrofoam. And put those that aren’t yet complying on notice. How? Use the Monterey County Weekly’s quick and easy-to-use online “Polystyrene Tracking Sheet.”
Alternatively, contact the restaurant manager directly. Restauranteurs are busy people, with a lot to keep track of ! Don’t assume they don’t care if they still use styro; instead, trust that they want to do the right thing and will appreciate a polite reminder.
“Everyone is welcome to enjoy the Dolphin Plaza, it isn’t just for hotel guests. It’s right below me, just off the trail….”
Educational attractions and entertainment venues
The National Steinbeck Center was one of the first charter HER Helmet Thursdays participants in Salinas.
Salinas: National Steinbeck Center
You’ll find many entertainment opportunities along the bikeways.
Examples? Well, personally, I’m a big live music fan. One spot near the bikeways that is thick with both live music and HER Helmet Thursdays spots is Cannery Row at Prescott. You’re in the midst of HER Helmet Thursdays live music spot Cooper’s Pub & Restaurant, plus nearby live music venues Blue Fin and Sly McFly’s. There’s other live music in the vicinity too, such as lounge music at the Clement.
You’ll find educational and entertainment spots to suit a multitude of tastes here, and most are convenient locations for people who bike. Below are a few examples:
Photo above courtesy of HER Helmet Thursdays participant
- Live music, as mentioned above, directly on the Cannery Row bike path.
- Carmel Bach Festival–a HER Helmet Thursdays participant–brings weeks of world-class music to Monterey County every summer. Performances take place at various locations, including Carmel, Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Seaside.
- The National Steinbeck Center and Steinbeck House, both in the HER Helmet Thursdays project, in Oldtown Salinas.
- Other museums in HER Helmet Thursdays too include, e.g., Museum of Monterey and MY Museum (the Monterey Youth Museum), and the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History’s museum store too.
- Nature attractions – One example is the monarch butterflies that migrate here in October to over-winter in Pacific Grove. The Monarch Grove Sanctuary is just across from the highly celebrated and much-loved Parents Place at Pacific Grove Adult School. If you’re at Lovers Point on the bike path, these two neighboring community “hot spots” are an easy ride through residential neighborhoods of PG.
- Art galleries, such as Monterey Museum of Art-La Mirada, and Monterey Museum of Art-Pacific Street.
- A 6/5/14 story by Walter Ryce in the Monterey County Weekly, “Wherefore Art Thou,” points out a variety of “unexpected art” around Monterey County. Most make a great destination for people out biking! Likewise, see Ryce’s “Monterey County One-Voice Murals Project” in the same issue.
- And much more.
You might be surprised how much you can experience for free! The local man below was profiled in the Monterey County Weekly, where he shared how his life is very full by making use of the many arts and culture experiences in the county–many of them free. Below, he’s at Sand City’s West End Celebration.
The visitors below just learned that Museum of Monterey gives discounts if you bike there on Thursdays!
Drinking and biking: with a special tip for wine-lovers
If you consume alcohol, a plus about biking is that you can have a few extra drinks and not worry about a DUI (driving under the influence) ticket, right? Wrong. You’d still be subject to a BUI (biking under the influence) ticket! Refer to VC 21200.5 in this overview of California bicycle laws. The California Department of Motor Vehicles indicates a BUI fine of not more than $250, whereas they state that the cost of a DUI can total $8,240 or more. Regardless, driving under the influence isn’t cool, whatever your mode of transportation.
Does that mean you can’t use a bicycle for transportation if you enjoy alcohol? Au contraire! You simply use the same good judgment about when it’s safe to get behind those handlebars that you would use about when it’s time to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Okay, that’s out of the way! Now for…
The pleasures of cycling from winery to winery
Have you seen the many cyclists in Napa and Sonoma, biking from winery to winery? You’ll be seeing more and more of that in Monterey County, thanks to the early leadership of wineries who are sowing the seeds for a special MoCo welcome to wine-loving cyclists.
Scheid Vineyards and Pierce Vineyards are the first wineries to come into the HER Helmet Thursdays project, giving discounts on wine sales to cyclists on Thursdays. These charter participants were soon joined by the following wineries. Watch for more HER Helmet Thursdays wineries and wine bars/tasting rooms to come, or invite your favorite now.
- Cima Collina Winery Tasting Room
- De Tierra Vineyards Tasting Room
- Hahn SLH Estate Winery
- Heller Estates Organic Vineyards (Also see Heller’s winemaker who bikes to work!)
- Paraiso Vineyards
- Zeph’s One-Stop