Carmel with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Karleen Wetherald, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Sep 27th 2010 09:18 PM

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Carmel with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Even with its pristine beaches, world class shopping, and beautiful weather, Carmel, Calif., is not often thought of as a perfect vacation spot for families with kids. However, you may be surprised to find that this upscale community has a lot of down-to-earth things to do that will appeal to every member of your family. You will already be planning your return trip to Carmel with kids after spending the perfect day in this beautiful city.


Morning


The best family vacation in Carmel starts by taking your little ones to the Little Swiss Café. This popular local establishment has been serving up delicious homemade breakfast and lunch items for 25 years. Feel like you have stepped into a homey cottage in Switzerland when you enter this small, quaint cafe. Indulge in any of the delicious menu choices, like eggs Benedict, French toast, omelets, blintzes (best around) and pancakes so tasty and big you will be able to share with the entire family. There is a quirky mural painted around the walls with hidden pictures that will keep your kids entertained during the entire meal! This place has it all: good food, reasonable prices, friendly wait staff, and great atmosphere! Little Swiss Cafe is open Mon-Sat from 7:30AM-3PM, and on Sunday from 8AM-2PM, and they are located at 6th Ave and Dolores St, Carmel by the Sea, CA 93923. 831-624-5007

Let your children play the morning away at My Museum, also called the Monterey County Youth Museum, located just a few miles from Carmel. This hands-on, interactive museum will have your kids playing golf, discovering the different jobs in a hospital (play the giant operation game!), and learning about the inner workings of a farm, from picking the crops to making healthy food choices. They can also play dress up at the theater or create a work of art using an array of unusual materials. There is even a special section just for the three and under crowd. Admission prices are $7 per person (children 2 and under are free). The museum is open Mon-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun12PM-5PM, and they are closed on Wednesday. They are located at 425 Washington St, Monterey, CA 93940. 831-649-6444

If you happen to be planning your Carmel family vacation with your kids during the months of October through February, do not miss the opportunity to take your children to view the beautiful butterflies at the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary. Every year, thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate to this location to escape the harsh northern winter months, sometimes traveling as many as 2,000 miles. Here the butterflies gather in clusters and make the surrounding trees their temporary winter home. View them at their most active time, during the mid-day hours on a sunny day, and stare in awe at the sea of orange and black butterflies. Don't forget to bring your cameras! The sanctuary is free and the path to enter is clearly marked. They are open from dawn until dusk daily and are located on Ridge Rd between Lighthouse Ave and Short St, Pacific Grove, CA 93950. 831-648-5716


Afternoon


It's never too early to teach your children about eating healthy meals, and you can do just that by lunching at Earthbound Farms Certified Organic Kitchen. This organic kitchen is located on the grounds of the working Earthbound Farm and serves up a range of heart healthy dishes, including sandwiches, soups, breads, an incredible salad bar, seasonal dishes, and several baked goods (try the brownies!). You may also want to treat yourself to a tasty frozen yogurt. Sit outside on the patio and enjoy the beautiful view! Prices are more expensive than you may find at other lunch spots, but the food and ambiance are worth it. Open Mon-Sat 8AM-6:30PM, Sun 9AM-6PM and located at 7250 Carmel Valley Rd (just 3.5 miles east of Highway 1), Carmel, CA 93923. 831-625-6219

After lunch, take time to meander through the grounds of the Farm Stand at Earthbound Farms. Established in 1984, Earthbound is now the largest organic produce company in the country (you may have seen some of their products in your local grocery store). The Farm Stand offers an abundance of things to look at that both you and your children will enjoy. Here you can buy organic groceries and fresh flowers and walk through beautiful gardens. Kids especially love spending time in the pick-your-own herbs area, playing in the labyrinth, and touching all the vegetation in the children's garden.

Your next stop on your Carmel family vacation with your kids takes you to Thinker Toys. This neighborhood toy store prides itself on offering their customers more intelligent, thought-provoking toys. Feel like a kid again as you spend some time wandering the aisles with your children, soaking in all this cute store has to offer. While looking at toys is nice, the real reason to come here is to pick up a kite (they have several types to choose from) or some other beach toys for your little ones to enjoy on your next adventure. The store is open Mon-Thu 10AM-7PM, Fri-Sat 10AM-8PM, and on Sun 10AM-6PM. Thinker Toys is located at 7th and San Carlos Ave, Carmel, CA 93921. 831-624-0441

If you plan a vacation in Carmel with kids, you simply must take your children, your kite and the other beach toys you just purchased and head down the street to spend the rest of the afternoon at Carmel River State Beach. With beautiful views and clean white sand, this is one of the best beaches in the area. Let your young ones wade in the water, fly a kite, throw a Frisbee, or build a sand castle as you soak up the local scenery. You may encounter a few dogs on your visit here since this is a very dog friendly beach. However, owners are very respectful, dogs are well-behaved, and most kids love watching them play! Adjacent to Highway 1 (Parking lot on Carmelo), Carmel, CA 93921. 831-649-2836


Evening


What kid does not like pizza? For dinner, try Iolis' Pizzeria. The pizza served at this cozy eatery is diverse enough to tip its hat to both coasts. You can order more east coast traditional pies like the Manhattan Veggie or the Bronx combo, or go for the more quirky west coast flavors like Thai Chicken (fabulous!) or Chicken Club (yes, it's a pizza). They also serve pasta, salads and sandwiches. Prices are very reasonable, especially for the Carmel area. Iolis' is open Mon-Fri 11AM-9PM and Sat-Sun 3PM-9PM. It is located at 307 Mid-Valley Center, Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel, CA 93923. 831-622-9463.

End the best family vacation in Carmel on a sugar rush! Take a trip into candy land as you enter the tiny Cottage of Sweets candy store. This adorable cottage looks like something out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Your children's eyes will pop as they scan the walls full of every kind of candy imaginable! Try some of the incredible fudge, like mint, peanut butter, or rocky road. Let your kids partake in some gummies, chocolates, or other novelty candy. They also have an impressive amount of imported candies, including several flavors of licorice gathered from all over the world. Take your candy outside, sit on a bench, and enjoy your sweets as you reminisce about the wonderful day you have experienced with your children. This sweet place is open Sun-Thu 10AM-8PM and Fri-Sat 10AM-9PM. The cottage is located on Ocean Avenue between Monte Verde and Lincoln, Carmel, CA 93921. 831-624-5170
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