This former gated spiritual community still turns heads for its historic Victorian homes and monarch butterfly habitat but garners new fans for its smalltown charm, thriving coffee and dining scenes, and endless antique portals.
The Mayberry R.F.D. vibe lures visitors in, but Pacific Grove wins high marks for having some of the most tranquil accommodations along the Peninsula. Memorable stays include historic inns and bed-and-breakfasts nestled around town. Green Gables Inn (greengablesinnpg.com), built in 1888 by engineer-amateur architect William Lacy, rests directly across the street from the Monterey Bay and boasts 11 whimsically decorated rooms.
Fancy butterflies? You're in the right town. Check in at Butterfly Grove Inn (butterflygroveinn.com) or Bide-A-Wee Inn & Cottages (bideaweeinn.com), just down the road from the downtown hub and near the town's famous butterfly habitat.
Arrive hungry, and don't leave without visiting Passionfish (passionfish.net) near Asilomar State Beach. Chef Ted Walter is driven, and his commitment to creating sustainable, farm-fresh plates is the talk of the town. Meals look like culinary works of art here. Begin with fried oysters, dig into sea scallops with tomato-truffle butter, and finish with Meyer lemon panna cotta. Relish the Navarro chardonnay from Mendocino along the way.
In the heart of downtown, Fandango (fandangorestaurant.com) allures with a robust mix of fine dining options — from steaks, lamb chops, fresh fish, and pasta to an extensive wine list and unforgettable Sunday brunch. (Place the Belgian waffles on your nosh list.)
Early risers head to Aliotti's Victorian Corner Restaurant (victoriancornerpg.com), an ideal locale for plump pancakes, fresh eggs, and one mighty Mexican Scramble.
Think: antiques. Then venture forth into specialty shops such as the legendary Pacific Grove Antiques (831-658-0488), Fat Willy's Antiques (fatwillysantiques.com), and the ticktock master that is the Antique Clock Shop (831-372-6435).
Step into more modern territory at Marita's Boutique (maritaspacificgrove.com), a one-stop shop for the latest trends in women's clothing and accessories by designers such as Flax, Noblu, and Cynthia Ashby. Separate shoe and menswear boutiques — all in the heart of downtown — round out the mini-empire.
Dip into The Bookworks (bookworkspg.com), where you can pick up espresso drinks and take home a few Peninsulacentric books, such as For the Love of Carmel.
Dance Jam Pacific Grove is an ecstatic soiree offered by the City of Pacific Grove Parks and Recreation Department that invites dancers of all ages to move to their own beat each Friday night (with music inspired by a new DJ each week). The historic Chautauqua Hall Dance Club holds evening events throughout the year and is a terrific place to meet locals and other visitors.
Keeping that old-town vibe alive is the ever-popular Pacific Grove Hootenanny at the Pacific Grove Arts Center — one of the most robust community sing-along events in the West.
Wander a short distance from downtown and relish the glorious Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail by scenic Lovers Point Beach (hang around on the shore there for a while and just soak up the majesty). Walk or bike east to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (montereybayaquarium.org), or catch an ocean spray and settle in for some deep reflections and ideal photo ops at Asilomar State Beach, where ambitious waves astound. History and nature buffs will enjoy the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History (pgmuseum.org), which opened in 1883. It showcases wildlife, plants, and geology and is a great place to book a monarch butterfly tour.
Pacific Grove Good Old Days, April 14–15, 2018
America's "last hometown" celebrates with a parade, live entertainment, food booths, arts and crafts, carnival rides, and plenty of local flair.
PACIFIC GROVE, pacificgrove.org
78th Annual Butterfly Parade & Bazaar, August 2018
Local school children are the stars as they welcome the monarchs back to Pacific Grove during this extremely popular annual parade and festival.
PACIFIC GROVE, pacificgrove.org
Pacific Grove's breathtaking walking trail spans several miles. In April and May, it's blanketed in what some call a "magic purple carpet" of ice plant in bloom.
Photo Courtesy Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce