Nestled along the Pacific Ocean in central California, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state. This small town offers a European vibe with an eclectic blend of stores and art galleries dedicated to local artists who once viewed the community as their private haven. Book a Carmel-by-the-Sea vacation rental close to downtown to be in the center of everything, or stay at a spacious house with stunning ocean views, and wake up to the sound of waves crashing each morning. Your kids can enjoy spending their days playing on the beach and strolling around town. Look forward to learning more about the history of the coastal community, and the Spanish influence that gives the area its Mediterranean feel. Check out the top nine things to do with kids in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

1. Get Some Sun

Located at the end of Ocean Avenue, Carmel Beach sits in a secluded cove and offers a white sand beach where your kids can play in the waves, build sandcastles and fly kites. If Fido came with you, bring him to this beach and let him run without his leash and play in the waves. Join a game of beach volleyball, or hop on a boogie board to catch a wave. Bring a cooler from your vacation rental to enjoy a picnic lunch and spend the entire day.

2. Learn More About the Spanish Influence on This Area

If the weather turns, take the kids to the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. This Spanish mission dates back to 1770, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most beautiful spaces in the mission is the Basilica Church with its collection of Colonial Spanish liturgical art. This mission hosts four different museums within its walls including Munrás Family Heritage Museum, Convento Museum, Harry Downie Museum, and the Jo Mora Chapel Gallery. If you only have time to visit one of the museums, check out the Harry Downie Museum with its artifacts and information about the various renovation projects to the mission.

3. Take a Scenic Walk

Put on sturdy shoes and take a walk along the Scenic Road Walkway. This walkway begins at the end of Ocean Avenue and runs above Carmel Beach. As your family strolls along this 1.7-mile trek, find many benches to stop and watch the ocean or enjoy a picnic lunch. If the kids get hot, there are stairways and walkways down to the beach in many places, so go down and cool off with your feet in the surf.

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4. Go on a Nature Hike

Enjoy a day of hiking, wildlife watching and beach combing at Palo Corona Regional Park. This park extends from the Carmel River at sea level to the Palo Corona Peak at 3,000-feet above sea level. While hiking up to the peak, keep your keys peeled for the rare critters that call this park home, especially the California red-legged frog, Smith’s blue butterfly and the tiger salamander. Other animals and birds that appear in abundance are golden eagles, bobcats, California condors and peregrine falcons.

5. Visit the Home of a Literary Giant

In 1919, renowned poet Robinson Jeffers completed Tor House for his family and named it for the view and the knoll it sits on. A year after completing the home, he built a tower for his twin boys and his wife to enjoy. During its heyday, Tor House hosted the famous and infamous, including Charlie Chaplin, Charles Lindbergh, and Sinclair Lewis. Take a tour of the home and property, or check the schedule and attend one of the literary events if you’re traveling with older children.

6. Soak up the Culture

Tap your toes to some beautiful music at the Sunset Cultural Center. This beautiful building that favors the Gothic architecture style began as a school for the community in the 1920s. Today, it serves as a cultural center for the community with regular music concerts, plays and dance performances. During the holidays, catch a performance of “The Nutcracker” from the Dance Kids of Monterey County or check out an indie film during the Carmel International Film Festival. The Monterey Symphony also performs at this location.

7. Go for a Drive

Stark beauty and rugged landscape are just a few of the words used to describe the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula that you can see along the Seventeen Mile Drive. From Pebble Beach Resort and Pacific Grove, this road keeps the shape of the natural coastline, and your family can enjoy seeing the ocean and beaches stretching into the horizon. After the drive, stop by one of Carmel’s many restaurants for an amazing meal. Some places to consider include the Treehouse Cafe, The Grille, or La Balena.

8. Go For a Hike

Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine at the Point Lobos State Reserve. Hike along the narrow paths that meander through Monterey cypress groves and forested areas with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean below on a rocky beach. While hiking, challenge the kids to stay quiet, and your family might catch sight of a spot fox, mountain lion or even a bobcat. Bring binoculars, and see if you can spot the whales that migrate through this area of the Pacific Ocean.

9. Go Kayaking

Grab the kayaks or canoe from the garage of your vacation rental, and drive over to the Carmel River State Beach. Start the afternoon with a picnic lunch on the beach, and then put your kayak in fora paddle over to the lagoon for some bird-watching. Although the riptides here make the water unsuitable for swimming, this gorgeous beach, situated where the Carmel River meets the Pacific Ocean, is a great spot for sunbathing or playing in the sand.

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