There may be a chill in the air, but there’s still no better place to be than Carmel in winter. Sure, it’s a beach town (official name: Carmel-By-The-Sea). But there are plenty of things to do when you visit Carmel even during the coldest months of the year. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the Top Ten Things to Do In Carmel In Winter.
First things first – the weather. The average temperatures during the winter months (December, January, February) are lows in the mid-40s and highs in the low-60s. That means you’ll want layers, including a warm jacket and maybe a light scarf. And – this one is important – put on those comfortable shoes or boots because Carmel is a pedestrian-friendly town, and we have plenty of walking for you to do.
Let’s go right to the list:
1. Wine Tasting
Carmel is close to so many great vineyards, which makes this little village the perfect spot for wine tasting. You can journey from tasting room to tasting room on foot – no car needed. Our top choice is De Tierra, a Monterey County vineyard, with a tasting room that’s practically built for a winter day. Cozy up in the comfy chairs – and grab a blanket – as you settle in for a journey through De Tierra’s delicious (and sustainably harvested) wines. (The De Tierra tasting room is located at Mission and 5th Streets.)
2. Olive Oil Tasting
Olives are another highlight of the agricultural region surrounding Carmel. If you’re an olive oil connoisseur, or would like to become one, you can do a round of olive oil tasting. We like Olivier-By-The-Sea, part of Olivier Napa Valley. Spend some time tasting olive oil, vinegar, or olive, tomato, or artichoke products. Then ratchet it up a notch and taste a variety of caramels and fudge sauces. (Located on Ocean Avenue.)
3. Going on an Art Walk
You can’t walk a single block in Carmel without seeing at least one art gallery. If you’re an art lover, you can easily spend a day (or more) walking through Carmel’s art galleries. There’s also plenty of art to discover on the streets as well. Keep your eye out for George Lundeen’s “The Valentine” sculpture of a couple on a bench at First Murphy Park. If you’re looking for more modern art, check out the Charlie Chaplin mural painted by Banksy protege Mr. Brainwash on an outer wall of the Cypress Inn.
4. Going on a History Walk
There’s so much to learn about history in downtown Carmel – and beyond. Start with the First Murphy House, a house constructed by 17-year-old Michael J. Murphy in 1902. It was the first of many Murphy-built cottages, all of which had a great impact on the look and character of Carmel. Right next to it you’ll see the Milk Shrine, a large cabinet where milkman Mr. Waterbury would deposit bottles of milk in separate compartments for each customer. You can learn more on this historic walking tour by the Carmel Heritage Society.
There is so much great hiking to do in and around Carmel. Of course if you’re a beach hiker, you’ll want to spend most of your time on the scenic bluff path along Carmel Beach. But if you want to see a more wooded area, head up Mountain View Ave. to get to the start of the Serra Trail in the Mission Trail Nature Preserve. At the end of the trail, turn right on Rio Road and it will lead you straight to the Carmel Mission (where you can enjoy even more California history).
There’s nothing like a brisk winter day at the beach to inspire a walk and help you build up an appetite. There are tons of easily accessible spots within walking distance of downtown. Plus, no matter where you set your blanket, you’re guaranteed a million-dollar view. 5th Avenue Deli (on 5th between San Carlos and Dolores) offers box lunches – including deli sandwiches, apples, chips, and a cookie – to bring down to the beach. You can also choose from their widely varied menu to create your own sandwich, or choose from salads, soups, or hot items like chicken pot pie, lasagna, salmon, and more.
7. Curling Up By the Fire
Whether you are looking for a toasty-warm afternoon or evening resting spot, there are plenty of fireplaces to be found in Carmel. At Hofsas House hotel, some rooms have their own fireplaces. But you can also head down to the lobby, where we love this cozy copper-covered fireplace. You can enjoy your morning breakfast here, or just read up on all there is to do in Carmel as you plan your next outing. (Hofsas House is conveniently just steps away from everything you’ll want to do in downtown Carmel. Once you park your car, you won’t need it again.) P.S. We wrote all about the history of Hofsas House here.
8. Spending the Day with Fido
Did anyone mention how dog-friendly Carmel is? We’ve seen dogs in restaurants, at a book store, wine tasting, and of course on every sidewalk. If your dog loves the beach, it’s a great place to run around (as long as he or she will return to you on call). And many hotels in Carmel are dog-friendly. In fact, Hofsas House gifted us with a special Frisbee to use with a canine companion.
9. Dining Out
There are so many great restaurants for both fine dining and casual dining. We are partial to Hog’s Breath Inn, with its incredible outdoor courtyard. If you have kids with you, check out Brophy’s Tavern – there’s a separate game room with non-video games like foosball to keep them busy. And for something truly unique, visit Lugano Swiss Bistro. You can get the full Swiss fondue experience (“It’s Hip to Dip”) in a multi-course meal that involves a Swiss cheese fondue, a chicken and beef course to cook in boiling hot broth, and a dessert course of dipped fruits in melted Swiss chocolate. Other choices include classics like chicken or pork schnitzel with spaetzli, or a hearty goulash soup. You’ll love the unique Swiss decor as well.
10. Discovering Secret Spots
Carmel is home to 42 charming courtyards and secret passageways, seemingly hidden at every turn. One of our favorites is the Secret Garden passageway that connects Dolores and San Carlos Streets, by way of the Pilgrim’s Way bookstore and garden. Pop in and you’ll get that giddy feeling, like you’ve discovered something that no one else knows about. (The bookstore is in the front, the Secret Garden is in back.)
Of course Carmel is great all year round, but we think you’re going to be especially charmed by it in winter. Did we mention that you don’t really need a car? Almost everything on this list is within reasonable walking distance. So lace up those comfy shoes and get ready for the perfect Carmel in Winter weekend.
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Blogger disclosure: My family and I were treated to a stay at Hofsas House, as well as a meal from Lugano Swiss Bistro, Fifth Avenue Deli, and a wine tasting from De Tierra. I did not otherwise receive compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.