Side Trip to Castroville's Artichoke Festival
Castroville Artichoke Festival is held annually in May. The 2008 edition is the 49th consecutive event. The festival includes artichoke foods, souvenirs, cooking demonstrations, a 10K Run, a variety of art & crafts, antique cars, tours of the artichoke fields, wine tastings, art contests, live music and much more. Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) was crowned as Castroville's first Artichoke Queen in 1948. Annual attendance is around 20,000 over the two-day weekend.
We had a blast at the 2008 festival. We parked in one of the residential areas near the festival grounds, and paid out $8 per person on the way in. We started by walking through the antique cars, then we saw the crafts and other odds and ends for sale. Next we checked out a few of the stages that had some great music playing, then we grabbed our first of three meals; we had a great artichoke and ground beef burrito for $6. After completing the big loop around the festival, we entered the community center to look at the vegetable art, then we bought 10 tickets for the wine tastings that featured maybe 15 local wineries. About halfway through the wine tour we decided more food would be beneficial, so we headed back out to the main festival area and had a fish taco and a carne asada taco, both with plenty of tasty artichokes on top (only $3 each). Then we were back in to complete our wine tasting and we were glad to catch the artichoke eating competition which was surprisingly won by a guy from Ohio. Finally we headed back outside for our third meal (!) where we had another of the great carne asada tacos, a grilled half artichoke, and a Sparky's Rootbeer float from the Knox Brewing Company in Pacific Grove. Finally, after about five hours, three meals, ten glasses of wine, and getting run into by about 35 strollers, we decided to call it a successful day at the Artichoke Festival.
While the Artichoke Festival attendance pales in comparison to the 120,000-some people who take part in the three-day Garlic Festival in Gilroy, we enjoyed the Artichoke Festival more. It is more compact, while the Garlic Festival just seemed too large and crowded. The garlic festival certainly has better food, but we liked the small-town feel of the artichoke festival.
Sat. 10am-6pm, Sun. 9am-5pm
Castroville was founded in 1863 by Juan Bautista Castro, and is the second oldest town in Monterey County after Monterey. In the 1920s artichoke cultivation began in Castroville and today the town produces some 75 percent of the entire United States consumption of this unique product. The town also produces a few other vegetables including strawberries and lettuce. Today the population is about 6,000 people, and the compact town has numerous small restaurants, shops, and churches, many with a Mexican flavor, not surprising since some 85 percent of the town's people claim Hispanic roots. One of the towns few historic landmarks is the old school house on the main street, now an Italian restaurant.
Defense Language Institute's Langauge Day
Every year in May the Presidio of Monterey's Defense Language Institute holds its Language Day festival. This event is always on a Friday and features music, food, and entertainment from the dozens of countries that are represented at this US military institution. While, it is true that many of the performers are US military dressed in the garb of various nations, they are also well rehearsed in that nation's culture and language after spending from a year to 18 months here learning about the culture and being prepared and coached by natives of each country.
This unique event is open to the public, particularly school children, and is held at the center of DLI's campus. Here you will find various ethnic food vendors as well as a stage with perhaps 25 to 30 live performances throughout the day. In previous years some 3,000 high school students from as far away as 4,000 miles attended the event.
http://www.montereyherald.com/ci_9292689 ... the Monterey Herald had a pretty good article.
Marina's Festival of the Winds
The Festival of the Winds is held Mother's Day Weekend in Marina, just 10 miles or so from Monterey. Like many local festivals, this one has live music and entertainment and a handful of food and vendor booths. What makes the Festival of the Winds unique is is focus on kite flying, hang gliding, kite making and other wind-related crafts. They even have hang gliding competitions both days at the beach, and they have a skim boarding competition on Saturday at the beach.
We arrived about 2:30 pm on Saturday May 11th, 2008 and we immediately found good parking just a few hundred feet from the festival. We were greeted first with the found of the live band, then maybe a dozen kites flying over Glorya Jean Tate Park. Next we noticed the giant inflatable kids air park with those giant air-filled bouncy things. We wandered around this park for about 30 minutes looking at the various booths and watching kites fly. Next we drove over to nearby Marina State Beach to see what was going on, but it was very quiet with maybe 8 or 10 hang gliders waiting on the dunes to take off. The park was much smaller than I expected, but it is something unique and entertaining to do around Monterey Bay.
The festival is held at two locations. The heart of the festival, with the stage and food vendors is at Glorya Jean Tate Park, but just 1/2 mile away at Marina State Beach you will find a few other activities such as the hang gliding. The parks are both located near Highway 1 and Reservation Road. Admission is FREE!
Monterey gained a moment of national notoriety when a statue of Dennis the Menace was stolen from Dennis the Menace Park in October 2006. The statue was commissioned by Hank Ketcham, Dennis' creator, who passed away in 2001.
Despite the efforts of local authorities (and a US$5,000 reward), the 3-foot tall bronze statue was never recovered and a new one now stands in its place.
Poor kid, maybe Mr. Wilson finally got fed up and took some revenge.
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
Every year in mid-summer the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway hosts the Red Bull US Grand Prix. While Laguna Seca may be slightly removed from the downtown area, the visitors descend on the small town of Monterey in droves. Throughout the area you'll see motorcycle riders of all ages and distinctions...from the expensive and vintage to the quick and trendy.
New Monterey is the weekend home to many motorcycle lovers at this time and Cannery Row is packed. The crowds grow so large that the street looks much like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Overall, the crowds were fun and the culminating weekend was a uniquely enjoyable experience.
If you're not interested in viewing the actual races, you can wander around town people watching and enjoying the excitement of the large groups.
Exact days change each year, but the Laguna Seca Raceway website will tell you the dates of the race. Bike week leads up to the races.
- Road Trip
Festa Italia/Santa Rosalia Festival
Monterey celebrates a week-long Festa Italia/Santa Rosalia Festival in early September each year, with the 2007 event being the 74th consecutive year of the event. During this celebration, besides lots of church, food, and drink, a traditional parade moves from San Carlos Cathedral to the Commercial Wharf to bless the fishing fleet.
This is similar to the Greek and Turkish Festivals which are also held at Custom House Plaza, but the history and character of the Santa Rosalia Festival are evident. While all of these festivals have live music, dance, traditional food, and gifts, the other festivals seem to attract mostly small crowds of quiet tourists, but the Santa Rosalia Festival seemed to bring out all of the boisterous and fun-loving local Italians.
Christmas in Monterey
The Christmas season is upon us in Monterey. The Friday after Thanksgiving we had our annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Cannery Row's McAbee Beach next to Sly McFly's. The non-secular "Merry Christmas" banner is hanging over the entrance to Fisherman's Wharf and wreaths adorn the streetlights. On December 1st the city's official Christmas tree will be lit at City Hall along Pacific Street. There are also "sleigh" rides through the streets and a Tuesday Christmas market on Alvarado Street.
Other popular events include Christmas in the Adobes, a holiday boat parade, Monterey on Ice at the Fairgrounds, and a pet parade in Carmel. PG also has Candy Cane Lane that is a popular Christmas event.
More info here and the the link below.
I'm sure I'll see more as the holiday season progresses.
Antique Car Week on the Peninsula
Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca -- the 2007 races are the 34th annual event at the Monterey County road course and feature 400 historical autos such as Indy Cars, IMSA and Can-Am vehicles in 14 classes.
Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance -- Since 1950 this event has invited only the "most beautiful and rare automobiles" to be exhibited at Pebble Beach's famed 18th green. Events at the Concours include the Pebble Beach Auction, a fashion show & more.
Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance -- annual event highlights the history of Pebble Beach and classic automobiles. The driving tour covers parts of 17 Mile Drive, Carmel-by-the-Sea, & Hwy 1, and is open to cars that participate in the Concours d'Elegance.
Carmel-By-The-Sea Concours on the Avenue -- 130 classic cars were lined up along Ocean Avenue in downtown Carmel for this free show.
Monterey Antique Car Auctions -- Takes place at the Portolo Plaza Hotel and Custom House Plaza. Over 200 cars were auctioned off including a 1924 Indy race car and an IROC car driven by Bobby Allison. The event runs most of the night on Friday & Saturday until 1am! At the 2006 auction a 1958 Ferrari 412S sold for $5.6 million, & the total sales reached $43 million! A second auction called the "Sports and Muscle in Monterey" Collector Automobile Auction is held at the Marriott next door.
The Concorso Italiano -- in Seaside at the Bayonet Black Horse Golf Course; features only the finest Italian automobiles.
Carmel's The Quail -- smaller event at the Quail Lodge which includes a rally & auction.
Monterey County Fair
We enjoyed a nice Thursday night at the Monterey County Fair in 2007. We arrived late (maybe 8pm), and started with some beer and the free Pam Tillis country concert. Later we ran into some friends and had dinner (spam sushi rolls!) at the Thaiwaiian restaurant's stand. The girls did some rock climbing and won a goldfish at one of the games. On the way out of the fair, we stopped and talked to the guy walking "the world's smallest horse" and got to pet the little two-foot tall equine dwarf.
In the two hours we spent at the fair, we really only saw a small part of the action. We completely missed the farm shows and only saw two of the three stages. While the fair itself is about what I'd expect from a relatively small county fair, the live performances were pitiful... bands like War, the Paul Thorne Band, Pam Tillis, Night Ranger, and the Chicano All Stars were the headline acts each night. Ever heard of more than perhaps one of these bands? I'd only heard of Pam Tillis and I saw her 15 years ago when she was still popular... now she's at the tail end of her career.
The Monterey County Fair is held year in mid-August. Tickets are $8 for adults, and parking around the fairgrounds is $8 to $10. The fairgrounds are near the Monterey airport just north of North Fremont Street.
4th of July in Monterey
Monterey's Independence Day celebration is a day-long event featuring a flag raising ceremony at Colton Hall, a parade through downtown, a lawn party and barbecue, and the fireworks show over the Monterey Bay.
While most people crowd into Del Monte Beach to watch the fireworks, there are a few less crowded areas. We watched from the Lower Presidio Historic Park and there were perhaps 200 others on this hillside overlooking the harbor. The other great views are from Jacks Peak County Park.
WARNING: Traffic after the 4th of July fireworks is ridiculous. Luckily I live in town and walked to the fireworks so I avoided the congestion, but I saw it first hand. After the fireworks ended around 9:45pm we went and hung out at a local bar along Lighthouse Ave in New Monterey. A few beers later, it was 11:30 and we were walking home... traffic was still bumper-to-bumper heading into downtown from Pacific Grove. Whatever you do, don't park in PG unless you are driving out the next day!
Check out the Old Monterey Farmer's Market
In the "market" for great produce? Then check out the Old Monterey Farmer's Market- held year round on Tuesday evenings. I was lucky to have some free time so I was able to meander over to the market. Very sorry that I had to fly home the next morning as the market had a bevy of great produce- berries of all kinds, dozens of varieties of peaches/plums/apricots and lots of lettuce. There were also vendors selling homemade jewelry and soaps along with food vendors hawking sushi, falafel and bbq sandwiches. I even found one on a side street offering gumbo.
Rain or shine (or cold) on Alvarado Street.
Summer: April through October - 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Winter: October through March - 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
- Food and Dining
Is this where Monterey Jack cheese was created?
The origins of the Monterey Jack Cheese has been shrouded in mystery since the early days in Monterey County, no one seems to know who actually made the first Monterey Jack Cheese.
One account attributes Dona Juana Cota the wife of Don Jose Manuel as originating the cheese recipe and making the cheese for David Jacks from the adobe on Rancho Los Laurelles, Carmel Valley. The cheese was called at that time "Caso del Pais," or cheese of the country.
The name is credited to David Jacks- a Monterey County dairyman who would sell his creamy white cheese to grocers in San Francisco. The San Francisco merchants would refer to the cheese as Jack's Monterey Cheese and the name later evolved to Monterey Jack Cheese.
There are alternative explanations for the cheese's origins -- such as that the cheese was first made using a "jack" (or press).
- Food and Dining
John Steinbeck in Monterey
Born just down the road in Salinas, California, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck spent much of his time in and around Monterey. His novels Cannery Row, its sequel Sweet Thursday, and Tortilla Flat took place almost entirely in the city. In total, he wrote 11 books set in California, and these have become known as his "California Novels."
Within Monterey you can visit sites that Steinbeck wrote about and areas where Steinbeck actually lived. Most obvious is Cannery Row, the setting for the novel of the same name. Scenes from Tortilla Flat take place in the old Monterey jail next to Colton Hall. He wrote The Pearl at the Monterey County Trust and Savings building while living at the Lara Soto Adobe on nearby Pierce Street. Steinbeck actually set sail for the Sea of Cortez from Fisherman's Wharf.
Along Cannery Row, there are numerous locations from the novel Cannery Row. Doc Ricketts' Lab is only open to the public at certain times each year, but the Wing Chong Market is still in operation and owned by the original Chinese family.
A bar in Old Monterey called Doc Rickett's Lab (yes, his last name is spelled slightly different) has some of the best nightlife in town!
Monterey Marina contains hundreds of fancy yachts, schooners, drunks and sea otters, all preserved in their natural habitat. There is a hoist for raising and lowering your expensive boats or if you are low-class like me, maybe for raising and lowering your drunk friends between the Sandbar and Grill to Lou Lou's Griddle in the Middle. Parking is available by the day or by the hour on Commercial Wharf in the public metered spots. If you want to reserve a slip it costs just $4214 per year for puny, girly 20-foot slips while tough, manly 50-foot slips are around $8300 per year (monthly and daily rentals are available).
Side trip to Gilroy & its Garlic Festival
One of the most popular local festivals in central California is the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Around 100,000 people attend the three-day event to sample a wide variety of dishes, all made with garlic of course! Most popular dishes include beef, shrimp, calamari and pasta, all prepared using over 4 tons of garlic! Less popular dishes include garlic ice cream... In 2006 they provided 16,000 servings of garlic bread, 4,000 servings of calamari, 9,000 stuffed mushrooms, and 10,000 pepper steak sandwiches. There are also numerous arts, craft, and children's entertainment. The festival also features live music and the ever-popular Ms Gilroy Garlic competition.
Gilroy is located on Hwy 101, 30 miles south of San Jose and 35 miles north of Monterey. The 29th annual Garlic Festival is July 27, 28 & 29, 2007. The festival is held at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, and admission is $12.
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