Friday, February 5, 2010

When Money's Tight and You Still Want to Get Away...Choose Monterey!

By: Kevin L. Nichols

Despite the influx of funds from the federal stimulus, the economy still has not recovered from the financial crisis. The unemployment rate is approaching 12%, gas prices are relatively high, and families are continuing to lose their homes due to widespread foreclosures. Vacations, travel, and stressless reprieves are anomalies that many hard working families cannot afford presently. However, families will have to develop innovative ways to reincorporate necessities such as finding joy in their daily lives, alleviating stress, and spending quality time together, and what better way then taking a local “stay-cation” down the coast to the Monterey Peninsula. My family did and here is how we did it:

Maximizing Your Time Together

We left early in the morning to maximize having two full days of enjoyment in the area. We arrived at Monterey Bay Aquarium when it opened. It is wise to stay at a hotel that allows you to purchase aquarium tickets because they have two day tickets for the price of one. Given the fact that the aquarium is so massive and that there is so much to learn and explore, two full days from sun-up to sun-down is just enough time to ingest it all.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium is an enormous marine science laboratory that educates thousands of parents, children, schools, educators, and scientists from all over the world. Its sister institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), located in Moss Landing, aids the aquarium in being one of the most technologically advanced aquariums in the world. Recently, it had the only great white shark in captivity worldwide – now the apex predator is back in the wild.

All of the sea otters and most of the birds that reside in the aquarium are in captivity because they cannot survive in the wild on their own, either because they have been injured, separated from a parent prematurely, or were washed ashore by an accident or due to pollution. The aquarium has numerous exhibits displaying these animals for visitors to observe firsthand in recreations of their natural habitat. Some of the thousands of animals at the aquarium are Southern sea otters, penguins, jelly fish, tuna, sharks, crabs, sting rays, sardines, and their latest inhabitants, the sea horse exhibit.

The Secret Lives of Seahorses exhibition is fascinating. So much can be learned about these unique creatures. I learned that when male and female sea horses mate, they dance together, beautifully and cross their tales with one another. Another interesting fact is that males carry and birth their children…something that I was not quite prepared to witness on the high-definition screen. Overall, this exhibit is definitely the highlight of the aquarium currently, and I recommend that you see it for yourself before it departs.

The aquarium also has various educational movies and interactive displays that teach visitors about sustainability, how to protect our environment, and what we can do to preserve marine life around the world. These tips range from throwing your trash away in the appropriate receptacles so that it does not end up into the ocean, refraining from pouring solvents and harmful liquids down sinks, toilets, etc., to choosing the appropriate seafood at the grocery store from regions around the globe that agree to farm/raise/fish seafood responsibly. For more information and to download your own Seafood Watch Card, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company

Bubba Gump’s is always a fun family restaurant with good food and affordable prices. The restaurant is based on the movie and character “Forrest Gump” starring Tom Hanks (a Bay Area native). It features a large selection of seafood and chicken dishes with a New Orleans, Louisiana flare to it. Dining at a restaurant like this brings about a festive atmosphere with flavorful food that everyone can enjoy. We had an exceptional waiter, Chris Willis, who was amazingly attentive, which added to this excellent experience. For more information, please visit Bubba Gump Monterey.

InterContinental’s “The Clement”

The Clement is the perfect hotel to stay at in Monterey. Its location alone is the most practical for a vacation on Cannery Row because it is literally a stone’s throw from Bubba Gump’s and Monterey Bay Aquarium. This alleviates the need to move your car once you arrive due to the fact that most of your destinations are in walking distance, including the premium outlets.With the exception of a little hiccup during the valet process, this was a seamlessly delightful experience. It has superb amenities. It is upscale and inviting. The staff was warm and courteous. The rooms have iPod docking stations, fire places, complimentary bottled water, Starbuck's Coffee, HD flat screen televisions with Direct TV satellite service. The bathroom had a separate bath tub and shower. The hotel offers high speed internet, a fine dining restaurant, fitness center, spa, and a complimentary voicemail that welcomed me to my room from the concierge (I must say that this was a nice touch). The Clement also has bath robes and shoes that provide comfort and reprieve. For more information on this hotel, please visit The Clement

This recession effects us all in various ways. Although many families are acting fiscally responsibly by conserving, downsizing, and saving, it is possible to splurge intelligently. Sanity is not a luxury that we can all afford without external stimuli. That is why I recommend packing some lunches, filling up the tank, and taking a drive down to the other "peninsula" in the Bay Area. What do you think? Please leave your comments.

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