A Hidden Gem for Traveling Families to the Monterey Peninsula

by Carmel L. Mooney

Pacific Grove Museum photo by Collin Knopp-SchwynI grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, in Carmel, California and one of my fondest memories was my mom taking me to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. We went every month and made a day of it. Now when I take my clan to the Monterey Peninsula we do the same thing and it’s become a real family tradition I have passed down to all my kids.

While many of the spectacular exhibits have not changed, some new additions over the last forty years have made it even better than ever.

My kids love seeing the giant squid, the same one that mesmerized me when I was little. And they love the darkened booth where you can view the glowing gems and ore that intrigued me as a child.

I could stand for hours and study the massive exhibits in the bird room when I was little and it’s no surprise my kids are intrigued by the same. It has 409 life-mounted birds and it encompasses an astounding 291 bird species which demonstrates how Monterey County is one of the most important sites for birdlife in North America. It’s one of the top 5 destinations in North America for families to bird watch.

An amazing native plant garden, along with an astounding insect display, Native American display, and exhibit on mollusks also captivate kids of all ages.

The Museum’s Collection includes an extensive Herbarium developed by the Museum’s Director Emeritus Vern Yadon, who was a very good friend of my grandparents. He was an amazing curator and made the museum the masterpiece that it is today and has been for generations.

Pacific Grove Museum wall of birds photo by Sarah Stierch

The museum offers a PDF downloadable scavenger hunt which is fun for families. And other highlights are Science Saturdays which are free and an opportunity for families to drop by from 11-3 on the last Saturday of the month to enjoy topics like Fabulous Fungi in February, Butterflies, and Bees in March, and Garden Workshops every first Saturday. These are great activities sponsored by the Pebble Beach Company Foundation and other sponsors.

Several science-based workshops and art classes for tweens are scheduled in spring.

One of the most famous aspects of Pacific Grove is that Monarch butterflies overwinter in Pacific Grove every year from November through mid-February. Pacific Grove’s overwintering site is located near the museum in downtown Pacific Grove. A lot of emphasis on this wonder of the monarchs is covered at the museum. Museum sanctuary docents are available during those winter months at the sanctuary from 11-3 to assist with monarch viewing.

Museum Hours: 10 – 4, Wednesday – Sunday. Admission is FREE.

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Carmel L. Mooney is a mom, travel columnist, and author. You can visit her website Road Trips for Couples.