Just two hours from San Francisco, Monterey is a small California city on the Pacific coast. The town's seafaring heritage goes back decades, and it offers many attractions to locals and visitors alike. Monterey also has plenty of options for throwing a kid's birthday party. As a bonus, some of the town's top attractions, like the renowned beaches, are free to visit.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
Perhaps the most famous attraction in the city, the Monterey Bay Aquarium (montereybayaquarium.org) will entertain kids with its vast collection of sea life. Schedule your visit to the aquarium with one of the many feedings that take place during the day or take a peek at the resident sea otters. Watch colorful exotic fish swim past and marvel at diving penguins or see voluminous jellyfish drifting along.
Dennis the Menace Park
Let kids run wild with a visit to Dennis the Menace Park (no website, 777 Pearl St., Monterey; 831-646-3860). The entrance features an antique Southern Pacific Railroad car that kids can climb on; the park has everything from swings and slides to a rock climbing wall. Encourage kids to traverse the swaying bridge and zip down the massive red tube slide or just play in the sand, watching boats on the adjacent lake. Best of all, the park is free to visit, making it a low-cost party option.
Celebrate with a cookout on one of the public beaches near Monterey. Both Carmel Beach and Del Monte Beach (seemonterey.com) allow bonfires, so pack burgers, hot dogs and other easy-to-roast items for a picnic on the beach. Bring buckets, shovels and other toys for playing in the sand as well, and encourage kids to pack a bathing suit and towel. The beaches don't have lifeguards, so ask a few parents to come along and monitor the kids for safety's sake.
The Monterey Sports Center
Let kids swim and splash at the Monterey Sports Center (monterey.org/en-us/departments/montereysportscenter.aspx), which features two indoor pools and a water slide. After a good swim, kids can shower off and enjoy snacks and drinks at the Sports Cafe. Babysitters are available for children too young to swim. Birthday parties can be held at the center for a flat fee, plus a charge per guest, depending on age and Monterey residency status.
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