Our Cities: From the famed Pacific to the Pastures of Heaven
08/06/2010 11:37:49 AM PDT
The Recreation Trail near Lovers Point allows walkers to enjoy the natural beauty of Pacific Grove. (VERN FISHER/Herald Archive )
The wild, breathtaking scenery of Big Sur has inspired some of the world's most famous artists, photographers, writers and musicians. Dramatic crashing waves, cliffs and redwood forests provide a cinematic backdrop for an eclectic population. The state and federal park systems oversee much of Big Sur, which invites hiking, camping and exploring a sprawling and unspoiled wilderness. Rustic resorts, restaurants and small art galleries dot the coast highway that winds through the community.
Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, 667-2100, www.bigsurcalifornia.org
Once a colony for artists, actors, writers, intellectuals and other "bohemians," this quirky hamlet exudes a quaint European charm. Bordered by a famous mile-long swath of white-sand beach perfect for surfing, sandcastles and no-leash-required dog-walking, this little village by the sea is home to hundreds of galleries, world-class restaurants, exclusive shops, a 240-year-old mission and a tight-knit local population who live in picturesque cottages on flower-lined streets. A popular destination for tourists, celebrities, gourmands and dog lovers, Carmel retains a personality all its own.
Visitor information: Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center, San Carlos between Fifth and Sixth, 624-2522,
City Hall: Monte Verde Street, between Ocean and Seventh avenues, 620-2000
City Web site: www.ci.carmel.ca.us
Mayor: Sue McCloud, 620-2000
Just inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea, nestled along the Santa Lucia Mountains, lies bucolic Carmel Valley. At the center of rolling hills and ranch land dotted with horses and cows, is a small village that is home to hidden resorts, restaurants, lodges, shops and wine tasting rooms. This is country living enhanced by such disparate elements as fields of wildflowers, country clubs with golf courses and tennis courts, horse ranches, a meandering river, a 4,000-acre regional park, a Zen center and world-famous Bernardus Lodge. Unlike its foggier coastal neighbors, Carmel Valley is known for year-round sunny days and warm temperatures.
Population: Estimated at about 12,000 in the Carmel Valley Master Plan area
Visitor information: Carmel Valley Chamber of Commerce, 659-4000, www.carmelvalleychamber.com
Del Rey Oaks
One of the oldest settlements in California, this quiet community nestled between Monterey and Salinas is home to several new housing developments, small shopping centers and the largest Safeway store in the county.
The Frog Pond is a 17-acre wetland reserve that supports a wide variety of wildlife, including the Pacific tree frog. This small habitat is popular with hikers, dog- walkers and nature lovers. Nearby Del Rey Park provides a gathering place for picnics or family barbecues, and historic Tarpy's Roadhouse restaurant, including the Ventana tasting room, commemorates the historic hanging of an infamous 19th-century vigilante.
Seagulls fly past the recognizable towers at the PG&E plant in Moss Landing. (VERN FISHER/Herald Archive)
City Hall: 650 Canyon Del Rey Road, 394-8511
City Web site: www.delreyoaks.org
Mayor: Jerry B.
A walker enjoys a shady stroll through the trees at El Estero in Monterey. (VERN FISHER/Herald Archive)
The official vision for this South County community is "to continue to be a safe, clean, family-friendly community, diverse in its heritage, and committed to working collaboratively to preserve and retain its small-town charm." Several community parks -- including a skate park -- a swimming pool and an assortment of ballparks and fields emphasize the city's vision for families and community. Situated between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountain ranges in the heart of the fertile Salinas Valley, Gonzales is "the wine capital of Monterey County" -- an important wine cultivation area.
Visitor information: Gonzales Chamber of Commerce, 120 4th St., 675-9019, www.gonzaleschamber.org
City Hall: 147 Fourth St., 675-5000
City Web site: www.ci.gonzales.ca.us
Mayor: Maria Orozco
Significant population increases and new single-family home construction mark this steadily growing community. Greenfield is one of several small cities in the Salinas Valley that make up one of the world's most important agricultural areas -- the so-called "Salad Bowl of the World." Vineyards, wineries and wine tasting rooms continue to expand throughout this region. A temperate climate and a diverse population focused on a forward-thinking approach to community life promote Greenfield's relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
Visitor information: Greenfield Chamber of Commerce, 674-5591 or www.greenfieldchamber.info
City Hall: 45 El Camino Real, Greenfield, 674-5591
City Web site: www.ci.greenfield.ca.us
Mayor: John Huerta Jr.
The county's southernmost big city began as a shipping point for wheat and cattle from nearby ranches. Today, King City is a vegetable center, shipping the finest produce grown in the nation. This expanding small town features a state-of-the-art hospital, an airport, a golf course, several city parks, rodeo grounds, an agricultural museum and a hometown newspaper. The newly built 10-acre San Antonio Community Park is the hub of the city's recreational activity, with large grass areas, two soccer fields, baseball/softball diamonds, a skateboard park, basketball court, sand volleyball, a children's play area and more.
Visitor information: King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, 200 Broadway St., Suite 40, 385-3814 or www.kingcitychamber.com
City Hall: 212 S. Vanderhurst Ave., 385-3281
City Web site: www.kingcity.com
Mayor: Jeff Pereira
Marina was once home to the soldiers of Fort Ord, established in 1846 during the Mexican- American War. It earned a reputation of one of the most attractive locations of any U.S. Army post, due to its proximity to the beach. When the nearly 30,000-acre military facility was converted to civilian use, space was set aside for the country's first nature reserve created to protect an insect, the endangered Smith's blue butterfly. Today, much of the old military infrastructure houses California State University-Monterey Bay, subdivision housing and the start of the stunning 12-mile coastal recreation trail. The newly opened Fort Ord Dunes State Park highlights four miles of pris- tine coastline at the end of a 1,500-foot trail. Park roads are open to bicyclists, hikers and dogs on a leash. Marina also hosts the annual Wind Festival, celebrating kite-making, kite-flying and hang gliding.
Visitor information: Chamber of Commerce, 384-9155, www.marinachamber.com
City Hall: 211 Hillcrest Ave., 884-1278
City Web site: www.ci.marina.ca.us
Mayor: Bruce Carlos Delgado
Monterey is a dizzying blend of fact and fiction, history and myth, old and new. Situated on the pristine Monterey Bay, home to one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems, this historic city offers jaw- dropping views, quaint old neighborhoods, renowned restaurants and a new InterContinental hotel. Tourists can eat clam chowder on Old Fisherman's Wharf, visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and window-shop along Cannery Row, immortalized in the novels of John Steinbeck, who was a frequent visitor here. Once the capitol of California, Monterey's historic district includes the oldest government building in California, the state's first theater and a community of historic adobes, including the Robert Louis Stevenson house, where the author reportedly began writing "Treasure Island."
Visitor information: Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 150 Olivier St., Monterey, 649-1770, www.montereyinfo.org
City Hall: Pacific and Madison streets, 646-3935
City Web site: www.monterey.org
Mayor: Chuck Della Sala, 646-3760
Fondly called "America's Last Hometown," Pacific Grove is a picturesque community of historic homes, an award-winning natural history museum, a monarch butterfly sanctu- ary and the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Founded in 1875 as a summer Methodist camp, P.G. soon drew others to the fresh sea air for rest and meditation. By night, the city's tree-lined main street, Lighthouse Avenue, is strewn with fairy lights, and by day, it's hard to escape a breathtaking view. Locals enjoy the quiet small-town ambience and the town's many community festivals, including the annual Feast of Lanterns, when Japanese lanterns hang from every home, and residents commune at Lovers Point Park for picnics, fireworks and an elaborate water pageant.
Visitor information: Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce, Central and Forest avenues, 373-3304, www.pacificgrove.org
City Hall: 300 Forest Ave., 648-3100
City Web site: www.ci.pg.ca.us
Mayor: Carmelita Garcia, 648-3100
World-famous golf courses, elite resorts and restaurants and 17 miles of some of the world's most spectacular scenery belong to Pebble Beach. This privately-owned, gated community features exclusive custom homes hidden among old-growth pines of the Del Monte Forest. It is the host of the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the extravagant Concours d'Elegance and the Pebble Beach Food & Wine celebration. In 2019, it will host another U.S. Open Championship.
Visitor information: www.pebblebeach.com
The birthplace of John Steinbeck, Salinas is known as "The Salad Bowl of the World" for the rich valley that produces lettuce, broccoli, mushrooms, strawberries and more, making up a $2.2 billion industry. The mild climate also makes the Salinas Valley ideal for growing grapes, and the area is fast becoming a major site of world-famous wines. Surrounded by vast agricultural fields and the majestic Gabilan Mountains, the county seat is a historical city with a charming "Old Town," and is the home of the National Steinbeck Center, the California International Airshow and California Rodeo Salinas.
Visitor information: Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, 119 E. Alisal St., 424-7611, www.salinaschamber.com
City Hall: 200 Lincoln Ave., 758-7381
City Web site: www.ci.salinas.ca.us
Mayor: Dennis Donohue
The small community of Sand City has worked to create a vibrant, progressive and sustainable atmosphere for its citizens and visitors. Its roots lay in heavy industry, including coastal sand mining. A collection of old warehouses serves as a backdrop for the city's West End, a blossoming artists' enclave that emulates New York's SoHo ambience. A state-of-the-art reverse osmosis desalination facility will soon be up and running in Sand City, enhancing this city's eclectic combination of small-town, 21st-century and coastal lifestyles.
2007 Population: 363
Visitor information: Seaside and Sand City Chamber of Commerce, 505 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 394-6501, www.seaside-sandcity.com
City Hall: 1 Sylvan Park, 394-3054
City Web site: www.sandcity.org
Mayor: David Pendergrass, 394-3054
This 10-square-mile oceanside city is known for its strong base of diverse family-owned businesses. A growing multicultural community, Seaside is also home to a large auto center, California State University Monterey Bay and the Monterey College of Law. Several community parks, baseball fields and a youth center provide recreational opportunities. Views of the rugged coastline are plentiful from various points throughout the city, anchored by the 12-mile coastal recreation trail that extends from Marina to Pacific Grove. Seaside derived its multicultural character as a military town throughout the decades of the 20th century. Today, the city supports myriad redevelopment projects, including golf courses, conference facilities and new residential and commercial developments.
Visitor information: Chamber of Commerce, 505 Broadway Ave., 394-6501, www.seaside-sandcity.com
City Hall: 440 Harcourt Ave., 899-6700
City Web site: www.ci.seaside.ca.us
Mayor: Ralph Rubio, 899-6700
Forty miles southeast of the Monterey Peninsula and 25 miles south of Salinas, Soledad is the home of a large state prison and a 200-year-old mission -- the 13th in the Alta California chain. It served as the backdrop of John Steinbeck's novella "Of Mice and Men." The fastest growing city in the state, Soledad has enjoyed an average annual 8 percent population growth over the last five years. The community is development-friendly, attracting new businesses and housing projects. Known for affordable housing, good schools and its many community parks, the city also provides easy access to the abundant South County wineries and recreational activities at Pinnacles National Monument, Naciemento and San Antonio lakes and the Arroyo Seco Wilderness Area.
Population: 26,203 (including prison residents)
Visitor information: Soledad Mission Chamber of Commerce, 641 Front St., 678-3914 or www.soledadmissionchamberofcommerce.com
City Hall: 248 Main St., 223-5000
City Web site: www.cityofsoledad.com
Mayor: Richard Ortiz, 595-1655
North County encompasses horse country, a harbor, rolling farm fields and more. Moss Landing is a quaint, historic fishing village that is full of hidden treasures and enjoyable activities. Much of the land in Prunedale, named after a long-ago-failed plum orchard, is oak reserve to protect California's native trees (Royal Oaks Park and Manzanita Park offer nearby recreation). Castroville is the self-proclaimed "artichoke capital of the world." Other communities include Aromas and Oak Hills.
Population: 42,025 (zip codes 93907, 95004, 95012, 95039)
Visitor information: North Monterey County Chamber of Commerce, 10683 Merritt St., Castroville, 633-2465, www.northmontereycounty chamber.org
Visitor information: Moss Landing Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 41, Moss Landing, 95039, 633-4501 or www.mosslandingchamber.com