When we first thought about visiting Cannery Row in Monterey, we likened it to Seaport Village in San Diego or Pier 39 in San Francisco. We thought perhaps it would be packed with tourist traps. We were very wrong. There is a lot of authentic history packed into historic Cannery Row. Back in the day, the wharves here were lined with warehouses, boats, fishermen and tons and tons of sardines. Now the area is gentrified and reborn as a fun family destination, and there are so many things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey.

waves splash on rocks at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Cannery Row is perfectly positioned along the coastline of Monterey Bay, California.

Kids or not, visitors can spend days at Cannery Row and not run out of fun activities for all ages. Granted, if you are looking for the occasional tourist-centric shop full of t-shirts and plushie toys, you’ll find them. However, those are vastly outweighed by the fun – sometimes kitschy – shops, galleries, toy stores, jewelers, restaurants and more.

Plus the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is just at the end of the street! That’s worth a day-long visit right there.

All of this is punctuated by the gorgeous ocean waters of Monterey Bay, lapping on the rocks and piers of the wharves and buildings on its shore. Tourist or not, no visitor can ignore the beauty of this coastline. This is the reason Cannery Row is so popular = its beauty.

At sunrise, this seagull roosts on a plaza pedestal at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.

Things To Do At Cannery Row

Triton, Sophia, Ava and I set off from San Diego for a weekend of exploration and things to do at Cannery Row in Monterey. Getting there is now even more convenient, and we were thrilled to learn there is a direct flight on Alaska Air from San Diego to Monterey. The flight was a little more than an hour, and we were landed and ready to start our adventure.

Alaska Air wing shot over Monterey Bay, California

Winging over Monterey on our Alaska Air non-stop from San Diego. Sweet!

Here’s a breakdown of our itinerary for things to do at Cannery Row, in case you want to follow in our footsteps!

Friday

12 pm – Check In at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

When we walked in the front door of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, we all drew a deep breath. The front lobby is bounded by a row of windows, all looking out on the ocean with perfect views. In the middle of that wall, a roaring fire crackled in the fireplace with cozy chairs surrounding it. Immediately impressed, we had that feeling continue for the duration of our stay.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa entrance, Monterey, California

The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa strikes an impressive portrait at the entrance to Cannery Row.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa on this blog soon. In the meantime, suffice to say our rooms were spacious, beds were very comfortable, and everything was spotlessly clean.

king bedroom at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa at Cannery Row

Spacious rooms are a hallmark of the Monterey Plaza Hotel, and that bed was soooo comfy.

1 pm – Lunch at The Fish Hopper

Perched at the end of a pier on Cannery Row, Fish Hopper Restaurant served a delicious lunch, and those of us that like seafood were in seventh heaven. Overlooking Monterey Bay at a window-side table, we enjoyed our lunch immensely. Our tuna sashimi appetizer was a true standout, but so was my creamy lobster roll, all buttery-licious with fries and ranch dressing on the side. And Triton loved his Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and Coconut Prawn Salad. Sophia (who doesn’t care for seafood) gobbled up her Poached Pear Salad with strawberries and candied pecans, which was colorfully plated with an orchid on top.

Poached Pear Salad at The Fish Hopper, Cannery Row, Monterey

The Poached Pear Salad was a huge hit with Sophia.

  • The Fish Hopper – open daily from 10:30 for lunch and dinner
  • 700 Cannery Row (831) 372-8543
  • Lunch entrees start at $14.95 USD
The Fish Hopper restaurant at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Set on the end of a historic pier, The Fish Hopper has a great menu.

4 pm – Massages at Vista Blue Spa

Within the Monterey Plaza Hotel, we ambled over to the top-floor Vista Blue Spa and were taken by the rooftop hot tubs and dipping pool overlooking the Bay. Inside, the spa is surprisingly large despite its modest lobby area. Everything has an ocean-centric theme here (natch) and the services and treatments run the gamut from classic massages to Detox Body Peels to Clarifying Facials. Several options looked appealing, but the De-Stress Massage stood out as sorely needed. It was the perfect antidote to a long work week and one of our favorite things to do at Cannery Row on this trip.

rooftop hot tubs with ocean views at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Monterey, California

Sitting in one of the rooftop hot tubs is a great way to unwind at the Vista Blue Spa.

Vista Blue Spa lobby at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Monterey, California

The Vista Blue Spa lobby is modest and well-appointed.

7 pm – Dinner at Schooners Coastal Kitchen

With arms and legs feeling like noodles, it was a good thing the hotel had a fantastic restaurant onsite. Our dinners were classic and well-created, with some menu favorites that pleased us all. Standouts were the ribeye steak (massive) and the locally caught Wood Oven Braised Swordfish with artichokes and gnocci. More than that, our service was spectacular – both the server and her assistant kept us happy, entertained and anticipated our every need. Really solid.

Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

The interior seating areas at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar are bright and colorful.

10 pm – Fireside back at Monterey Plaza Resort

One of the hotel’s main features is a huge plaza between the buildings that overlooks the ocean (get it? Monterey Plaza Resort). With an arbor and columns, an enormous fountain and tons of vantage points, the plaza is a great gathering place for families, friends and lovers. At night, a large outdoor firepit warms guests who can sit in comfy chairs and sofas positioned around its sides. With a little chill in the evening air, this was a great way to end the evening before heading upstairs to sink into slumber.

Room view of plaza, fountain and Monterey Bay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

The view from our room at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa look over it’s enormous plaza and ocean beyond.

Saturday

6 am – Sunrise Over Monterey Bay

Triton and I are early risers. Ever since the girls were born and starting waking us up a O’ Dark Thirty, we’ve fallen into a habit that is hard to break. Fully awake at 6 am, I ventured out for a morning walk along the ocean and was greeted by a pretty unbelievable sunrise. With orange and yellow streams of light rising over the distant land and nearby waves, that sunrise was like a Hallmark greeting card. Picture perfect from the Plaza overlook. A stroll down Cannery Row was a wonderful way to see all that history without any cars or people milling about. (The advantages of being an early riser!)

8 am – Coffee & Breakfast from Tidal Coffee

Knowing that we would be paddling soon, we needed to roust the kids from their sleep-like-the-dead dreams. Nothing like some hot tea and a chocolate croissant with some fruit salad to get the blood flowing! Of course by this time, Triton and I had already been up for awhile and were ravenous. The coffee flowed, the almond croissant and raisin scone were disappeared, and we were ready to take on the day.

  • Tidal Coffee at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa – 6 am – 6 pm
Tidal Coffee and plaza at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Tidal Coffee was the perfect way to start our mornings at Cannery Row.

10 am – Ocean Kayaking with Adventures by the Sea

This was a tough one, talking the girls into trying ocean kayaking. There were none too excited to put on waterproof jackets and pants, climb into 2-person ocean kayaks, and paddle around Monterey Bay. Once we got into the water, however, their attitudes changed like the wind. It wasn’t so bad after all, they had decided. In fact, it was pretty darn great!

Adventures by the Sea at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

We met our guide at Adventures by the Sea to get outfitted for our ocean kayak adventure.

Our guide led us across the harbor so we could see some amazing sights. Sea otters floated on their backs and played with each other lovingly. Sea lions barked their greetings as they perched on rocks and piers. All sorts of birds flew about and dove for invisible fish that they gobbled immediately upon surfacing. Two hours of paddling fun went by quickly, and helped us work up a great appetite for lunch. Of all the things to do at Cannery Row, this was truly one of the highlights!

Father and daughter kayaking in Monterey Bay

After a few practice strokes, we were off and running.

family with two dads ocean kayaking in Monterey Bay, California

Ocean kayaking in Monterey Bay is a blast!

1 pm – Lunch at The C

Over in the lobby of the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel facing the ocean, The C restaurant was a welcome respite after our kayak sojourn. Again we were really pleased with the fresh seafood choices, and perhaps might have over-ordered a bit. But those giant prawn cocktails and fried calamari were so darn good! Main courses we enjoyed most were the Monterey Bay Rock Cod Tacos, the Flat Iron Steak Sandwich (with bleu cheese and carmelized onions- yum) and of course, the cheeseburger with fries. Ava even said her hamburger was one of the best she’s had in a long time. Triton and I added to the decadence by ordering martinis at lunch, slurping them up like old pros from an episode of Mad Men.

toasting martinis at The C restaurant at Cannery Row

These dads needed a little pick-me-up after all that ocean kayaking.

  • The C restaurant at the Intercontinental The Clement Hotel – open 6:30 am – 10 pm
  • 750 Cannery Row, 831-375-4500
  • Lunch entrees start at $17 USD
The C restaurant outdoor seating, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

The C restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating with amazing views of Monterey Bay.

3 pm – Shopping along Cannery Row

There are a ton of unique and fun shops along Cannery Row, and we ducked into several to let the girls have a good long look. Galleries selling original watercolors, painting and sculptures caught our eyes, but the girls were drawn to the sparkles in several jewelry stores. Custom artisan-crafted jewelry is very popular here, and we ogled different necklaces, earrings and bangles. Ultimately, Ava and Sophia decided on simple earrings from a fun bohemian store called Enlightenment Zone.  This could have gone on for hours but the smell of chocolate from famous Ghirardelli beckoned us. And who were we to resist?

Downtown Cannery Row in Monterey, California

So much shopping and people watching along Cannery Row, day or night!

4 pm – Ice cream treats at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

I grew up going to the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory at the old Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. This outlet on Cannery Row does the original justice, and we all enjoyed ice cream cones piled with our favorite flavors. Black Cherry Vanilla, Cookies ‘n Cream, and Mint Chocolate Chip were all devoured with much glee. The store also features tons of chocolate candy bars and other treats to purchase for the friends at home.

Waiting for our ice cream delights at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop on Cannery Row.

7 pm – Dinner at Sardine Factory

Perhaps this was the biggest surprise of our trip, because a restaurant with the name Sardine Factory could be misleading. From the outside, the landed sailboat and red clapboard sides of the restaurant might seem like a casual fish house.

The Sardine Factory restaurant entrance, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Walking up to The Sardine Factory, we knew we were in for an experience like no other.

But inside is another story, and it was actually a sophisticated and highly popular restaurant with a celebrity chef and a long list of A-List stars, sports figures, politicians and regular schmoes like us. The host led us down a dark hallway to our table, and when we turned the corner the room opened up into a giant glass gazebo filled with good looking people and great smelling food.

glass rotunda at The Sardine Factory restaurant at Cannery Row, Monterey, California

We were so impressed walking into this glass rotunda at The Sardine Factory.

Our meal was a masterpiece of both taste and showmanship, and when we met the Executive Chef Bert Cutino we understood why. He’s an accomplished and much-awarded man both in the kitchen and out, and we absolutely loved our dinner here. From The Factory’s Famous Cheese Bread to my traditional Italian Clams and Linguini (Pasta Vongole) the dishes were superb. Sophia loved her Castroville Artichoke Bisque and Ava was ecstatic with her Shrimp Scampi Rigatoni. Triton devoured his Diver Scallops with Wild Mushroom Polenta, and everyone blessed their meals as truly delicious.

Diver Scallops at The Sardine Factory, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Triton’s Divers Scallops were a specialty of The Sardine Factory.

Dessert Was Out of This World

And then came dessert. Served dramatically on a raised silver platter, Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Bon Bons required the waiter to trigger a dry ice-induced spectacle. This covered our table in a dense, thick fog which spilled over and on to the floor. Other tables were as excited as we were to watch it the action unfold. The ice cream was clearly secondary to the presentation, which was just fine with us.

Ice Cream Bon Bons at The Sardine Factory, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

This photo does not do the dry ice fog justice, but you get the point.

  • Sardine Factory
  • 701 Wave Street, Monterey  (831) 373-3775 – Dinner 5 – 9:30 weekdays, 5-10 weekends
  • Dinner entrees from $29 USD

10 pm – Netflix Night in the Hotel Room

After all that hoopla, we staggered home with full bellies and tons of stories to tell. Everyone retreated to their own beds, where we each watched our favorite Netflix shows before nodding off. (We’re currently obsessed with Russian Doll and Dead To Me. What’s your fav right now?)

Sunday

9 am – Breakfast: Room Service

We had a full weekend of sampling all the things to do at Cannery Row. Since is was Sunday morning, we actually slept in a bit and ordered room service rather than going out for breakfast. You know how they always tell you it will be 15-45 minutes, and you chuckle to yourself because you know it will be at least 45 minutes? Well our room service at Monterey Plaza Hotel arrived in 20 minutes – hot, fresh and delicious. My decadent French Toast was out of this world, as was Triton’s colorfully plated Huevos Rancheros. Washed down with a healthy serving of hot coffee and fresh orange juice, and this breakfast room service was one for the books.

lobby entrance at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Stepping into the lobby at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is impressive from the get go.

11 am – Head Out for Airport

Monterey Regional Airport view from the tarmac, Monterey, California

Monterey Regional Airport is so quaint, there were only a few gates to manage the flights here.

A Fantastic Weekend at Cannery Row

Our entire family returned home with hue smiles on our faces from a fun and active weekend in Monterey. After all, there was something for everybody and so many things to do at Cannery Row! Ocean kayaking adventures for Jon. Relaxing massage for Triton. Cute sea animals for Sophia. And room service for Ava (that girl has always loved her room service).

Let us know if you want to visit Cannery Row, and we’ll help you set it up!