88. Traveling with Kids: Monterey & Carmel

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Should you? Yes. It is magic of the truest kind to watch the sea creatures swimming in front of, above, and around you and your children at the aquarium. We visited a year ago when our son was almost three and it made such an impression that he still remembered it when we went this October. Last year he made jelly fish movements with his hands for months and months afterward. This year, he’s making baby sea otter noises to call me (sea otter mama) when he wants to snuggle. The tidal wave window is wonderful. The touch pools and children’s hands-on areas up stairs are wonderful. The kelp forest is wonderful. Really, it’s all wonderful!

Of course, the beach itself is beautiful, and this year we saw dolphins, seals, and otters offshore. We collected dried kelp and pebbles to place around our sand castle just like the decorator crab places on his shell.  It was California at its best.

Monterey has a fabulous Dennis the Menace playground as well for more outdoor fun.

If you can go, you should go! The experience carries over into my son’s life for months afterward and provides countless opportunities for learning as we talk about what we saw, act out what we saw, and do art projects about what we saw.

83. Traveling with Kids: Morro Bay

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It’s all about the sand for my son – a chance to dig and scoop and pile and destroy for hours. He doesn’t want to go near the waves, which is fine by me. For me, it’s about the long, flat beach, the cool air, beach combing, and walking, walking, walking. This was only our second time at Morro Bay but both times I’ve been able to collect numerous small, unbroken sand dollars, with the help of friends. For a few hours, I can pretend that I’m back in college, working on the Oregon coast for a summer, where sand dollar hunting was one of my favorite pastimes. I bring the little treasures home, rinse them, and set them out on trays in the sun to dry and bleach naturally and then use for various projects. This really is a wonderful beach for kids and families, away from the crazy crowds of Southern California, with plenty of opportunities for interaction with nature. We love the Central Coast.