World-renowned Carmel-by-the-Sea is a European-style village nestled above a picturesque white-sand beach where everything is within walking distance. It is continually rated as one of the top ten destinations in the U.S., and has inspired artists, sparked romances, and attracted celebrities for decades. In other words, Carmel-by-the-Sea is an incredibly inspiring destination. Here is the ultimate guide for an absolutely unforgettable vacation.

What to do on a weekend in Carmel:

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Carmel Art Tour

Artists and writers have been retreating to the Central Coast for years. Carmel was once, and for many still is, a bohemian enclave, a haven for artists and a refuge for writers and intellectuals. You too can get inspired during this fun and informal 90-minute guided walking tour which highlights beautiful Carmel art galleries around downtown Carmel. If you're more interested in performing arts, catch a world-class performance at the Pacific Repertory Theatre.

Boutique shopping

Shopping in quaint stores in a picturesque village by the sea? No wonder USA Today voted Carmel as one of the top ten "Best Destination for Shopaholics." No chain stores are allowed on Ocean Avenue, so many of the stores are family-owned and feature unique gifts and friendly service. You can also visit Carmel Plaza or find great places along the town's side streets.

Wine and dine

Carmel-by-the-Sea is quickly evolving as one of the West Coast's top destinations for food and wine. The town is full of first-class restaurants with acclaimed executive chefs, award-winning wineries, and a weekly, year-round farmers' market. Dine on farm-fresh ingredients paired with one of the region's top wines. For a more do-it-yourself experience, the Carmel Wine Walk By-the-Sea, is a self-paced, self-guided stroll to a dozen of the village's tasting rooms, all within a few blocks of each other. Carmel Food Tours, the first guided culinary and wine walking tours in the village, will also give you a unique, "off-the-beaten-path" food and cultural experiences.

Where to go on a weekend in Carmel:

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Carmel Beach

Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for many things, but probably most famous for being by the water. You'll want to sink your feet right in the splendid, white-sand beach. Take in the majestic Pacific Ocean, watch surfers catch a wave, or spot a dolphin or two frolicking in the water. And be sure to keep an eye out for the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright house to the south. Time your visit for one of Carmel Beach's fun annual events like the Great Sandcastle Contest, Sunshine Freestyle Surfabout and Poodle Day.

Explore the Village

This charming European-style village has shops, art galleries, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms, all within one-square-mile. Locals take pride in offering one of a kind items and experiences, assuring that your visit to Carmel will be unlike any other. You won't see any street address, mailboxes, parking meters, or streetlights, so it's up to you to explore and mingle with the locals. Also take note of the fairytale-like cottages styled after an English village by Hugh Comstock. Twenty one of Comstock's original cottages still remain.

Where to stay:

There are a lot of choices on where to stay for your visit to Carmel, and without a doubt, all of them will be beautiful. Downtown Carmel is definitely where it's at. You'll be right in the middle of everything. For a retreat that's a little quieter, check out Carmel Woods or Pebble Beach. You'll still be less than a ten-minute drive away, but traveling a little up the hill means you'll have a better chance of getting an ocean view!

This article was written by Lauren Gaw.