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Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel is known for its natural scenery and rich history. It’s a beautiful place for a weekend getaway, with picturesque cottage-style architecture. The weather tends to be fairly overcast, but you can escape for wine tasting just inland and get much sunnier conditions. It’s also a great place to stay for trips to Laguna Seca (which is typically why we visited).

Discovered by the Spanish in 1602, the Spanish did not attempt to colonize the area until 1770, when Gaspar de Portolá, along with Franciscan priests Junípero Serra and Juan Crespí, visited the area in search of a mission site. The colony of Monterey was established at the same time as the second mission in Alta California and soon became the capital of California, remaining so until 1849. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded on 3 June 1770, but was relocated to Carmel Valley in 1771 due to interactions between soldiers stationed at the nearby Presidio and the native Indians.

Hotels

  • **Cypress Inn: fairly fancy, cute small rooms. A bit too dog friendly for my taste.
  • [haven’t been] Hotel Carmel – thehotelcarmel.com
  • [haven’t been] Happy landing b&b – looks newer – only 7 rooms, super nice staff
  • [haven’t been] Lamplighter
  • **Mission Ranch Inn – Rooms are a little hokey, not fancy. Fun for a rustic experience. A bit out of town. Beautiful grounds.
  • [haven’t been] Normandy inn and cottages – pool, a little hokey
  • **Pine Inn – historic hotel right on the main drag, reasonably affordable. Great lobby and good rooms, a little old fashioned but well-maintained. Very thin walls. Overall a good option. 
  • **The Vagabond’s House – Run by gay men, nice, clean, great garden and location – 3 night minimum, released 2 weeks in advance. 
  • [haven’t been] Wayside Inn

Activities

  • **Laguna Seca: as a spectator, I think this is one of the more boring tracks. As a driver, Galen thinks it’s fun, not at the level of Sonoma Raceway, but certainly worth driving.
  • **Refuge (day spa) – 5 miles outside of town in Carmel Valley. Very nice, if perhaps taking itself a little too seriously. Massages and a series of hot tubs at different temperatures, lots of chairs for reading/lounging

Food

  • **La Bicyclette – wonderful and charming. Great setting, French food.
  • **Casanova – spare menu, some outdoor seating, elegant. Huge wine list. Service not perfect.
  • **Forge and the Forest – great for pub style food. Cocktails meh, wine list average, food pretty good. Nice outdoor seating.
  • **Grasings – fancy and elegant. Not quite my cup of tea but an acceptable option
  • **Katy’s place – breakfast, huge menu and very good. Expect to wait for a table.
  • **Little Swiss cafe – awesome greasy spoon breakfast.
  • ***Mission Ranch Inn – great dinner in a very intentionally old-fashioned way, amazing setting. Brunch is Sunday only.
  • *Tarpys Roadhouse – by the track. Best option in the area but it’s not that great, really loud and mass produced food. Semi “fancy”. 
  • **Village Corner – decent, good on a hot day (outdoor seating)

Wine

It was Interesting to update these notes through a post-Covid lens – I’ve done a lot of wine tasting in Carmel Valley, and nearly everywhere I’ve visited has closed/changed hands.

  • **Hahn Estate (Soledad) – lovely view, nice staff, below average wine. $10-15 tasting. They also have a tasting room in Carmel itself.
  • **Marilyn Remark (Salinas) – great reds, especially grenache. Best wine we’ve found in the area. Whites not good.

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