Sand City's West End Celebration is one of the smaller local festivals and one that is attended mainly by locals. At the same time, it is one of the more fun local events and certainly worth a trip (much better than Monterey's Turkish or Greek Festivals, or the Cannery Row Block Party).
The West End Celebration is a festival for the area's growing collection of painters, photographers, sculptors, glassblowers, and other artists. To make it even better they have some great local restaurants and bars on site to deliver Monterey seafood and tasty beer and liquor from one of the best local bars! Yes, you heard right, this event allows open containers on the street during the festival as long as you get your drinks from within the festival perimeter.
This festival in 2008 had 50 or more local artists, numerous local food vendors--including one of my favorites Sea Harvest, and of course a full bar from Carbone's the best neighborhood bar in Monterey (it might help that Sal lives in Sand City!). The festival also had lots of live music--at least eight bands on three or four different stages. Just outside the festival area is the Ol' Factory Cafe, Sand City's best (and only) bar and restaurant that happens to be located in a smelly old factory (ok, it's not smelly, despite the misleading name).
The West End Celebration is held on a Friday and Saturday in late August each year.
The best thing about Sand City? Certainly its 1 1/2 miles of sandy beaches and dunes that face in a westerly direction. This is a perfect spot to catch the sunset, surf, walk in the sand or fly a kite. Access is limited to a few areas of curbside parking along Tioga Avenue and Bay Avenue, as well as a short walk under Highway One from the shopping centers along Playa Ave. Because there are no big parking areas for Sand City's beaches, they tend to be a little quieter and off-the-beaten-path when compared to the beaches of Monterey or Seaside.
There is a nice, wide, paved recreation trail along Monterey Bay. The path enters Sand City and follows the dunes along Highway 1 and Sand Dunes Drive to Tioga Avenue, then you run into problems. This is where I always turned around, but as best as I can tell you can turn onto Tioga, cross over Hwy 1, then take the first left on Metz Rd, really just an access road behind the shopping center. After 1/4 mile you hit Playa Avenue where the path resumes, going under Hwy 1 & back along the dunes. This section of trail is only about 1 and 1/2 miles long and it runs a straight line with a slight grade. While the trail here is wide, straight and well-lit, it can sometime be covered in sand and closed for weeks or longer.
In Monterey the trail follows Del Monte Ave along the beach, dunes, & the old railroad grade. The foundations of the old train depots are still visible in some locations. Near the Naval Postgraduate School, the trail passes through an impressive old grove of eucalyptus trees which were imported from Australia. The path is very popular for joggers, bikers, walkers, & bums.
In Pacific Grove, west of Monterey, the path separates into a paved bicycle-only path and an adjacent packed-dirt trail for walking, jogging, biking & strolling. Here there are no bums, but they are replaced by old people. From Lover's Point to Asilomar State Beach, the paved bike path becomes part of the road and the dirt trail follows the cliffs on the edge of the water. This stretch is narrow and often close to the cliffs, so not as good for jogging.
BTW, this trail is part of the California Coastal Trail, a work in progress that will eventually consist of a trail along the entire 1,100-mile California coast from the border of Oregon to the border of Mexico. Today about 50% of the coastal trail is open and accessible to the public. A 20 year, $27 million plan has been announced to complete key trail segments around Monterey Bay.
The Monterey County Weekly "Best Of 2006 Readers' Picks" named the Coastal Trail from Pacific Grove to Marina as the best Place to Bike in Monterey County!
One of my new favorite places in the Monterey area is the Ol' Factory Cafe! This hip little spot is way off the beaten path in Seaside's West End, an area of light industry and art studios. They feature art, coffee, good food, plenty of beer, live music, and an interesting clientèle. They pride themselves in being a "green" establishment and they feature many locally grown foods.
We stopped in on our way to Target one day (as their brilliant website says: "conveniently located on your way to load up on unnecessary plastic items at Target.")... and we had a great lunch. We followed the cashier's recommendations and I had the burger and fries while Laura enjoyed the cobb salad. The burger was a little expensive at $8.50, but the fries were brilliantly done thin slices of potato, fried to perfection. Laura ordered the chicken cobb salad, but the waitress thought she ordered an ahi tuna salad, so she threw in a bowl of very tasty and unique carrot soup on the house. I also found Kostrizer black lager, which I have not had since the days I paraded around Germany in the late 1990s.
My favorite things about Ol' Factory? It is located way off the beaten path so tourists will not end up here often. The beer selection is astounding, feating some of Europe's best alongside local brews. The inside is very casual yet clean, trendy, and comfortable, inside this old (ol'?) factory. What a unique mix of coffee shop, bar, restaurant, and music pub.