Top Free Things To Do in Monterey with Kids

There are so many fun things to do in Monterey. We absolutely love the Monterey Bay area and we were lucky enough to spend a year in this little slice of American heaven. And with three kids under five at the time, you can bet we curated a list of free things to do in Monterey.


Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.

Free Things to do in Monterey with Kids


Monterey really is a perfect place for families. Here is our list of top free things to do in Monterey with kids.


1. Dennis the Menace Playground


Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.


Dennis the Menace is is a really fantastic playground in the heart of Monterey. It’s huge and a really fun adventure for the kiddos, especially older ones. It has a climbing wall, suspension bridge, hedge maze, many large slides, and more.


Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.

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It also has a real-life steam train for your little train lovers. Kids used to be able to climb on the train but recently that was banned.


TIP: If you have smaller kids, you’re going to be chasing them a lot as there are a lot of blind spots. It’s not a place where you can just sit on a bench and observe them. Also, it’s surrounded by a chain-link fence, but there is a pond on the other side so if you have climbers, keep an eye on them.


For more pictures of Dennis the Menace Playground check out this blog.



2. Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf


Fisherman's Wharf and other free things to do in Monterey with kids.


Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey is a great place to spend a few hours with kids. Yes, it is lined with restaurants and touristy knick knack shops but if you breeze past these establishments and head right to the end of the wharf, there’s always sea life waiting to entertain you.


Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.

Seals and sea lions sit lazily under the wharf, giving off the occasional bark. A playful sea otter is almost always swimming around looking for something to snack on. And pesky pelicans don’t stray far from the restaurants.


TIP: The restaurant at the far end of the wharf has a wrap around observation deck that’s free to climb.


You never know what you’ll find on the wharf. We once moseyed down to find a pirate ship used in The Pirate of the Caribbean movie. (Funny story, several years later we found, and boarded, the same pirate ship in British Columbia!)

Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.

On this day we found a free photo op with parrots!

If you’re looking for a places to eat in Monterey, look no further. The best clam chowder in Monterey can be found on Fisherman’s Wharf and several restaurants claim they have it. :)


TIP: Many restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf give out free samples of clam chowder and some offer kids eat free deals.


If you can find parking on the street then you can visit Fisherman’s Wharf for free with a short walk across a long parking lot. If not then there are many paid parking options as well.

TIP: Dogs are allowed on Fisherman’s Wharf and some restaurants even offer doggy menus!


Read more about Fisherman’s wharf.


3. Beaches in Monterey


Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.


There are a lot of beaches in the Monterey area and we sampled quite a few of them. Growing up on the east coast, adapting to a west coast beach culture was a little strange for me. I’m used to blistering heat and warm beaches. You can still flirt with the surf of course, and kids don’t feel the cold (or so it always seems to me).


TIP: The beaches in Monterey are beautiful and spacious but they’re also cold. Very cold.

Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.


The beaches in Monterey have something for everyone. Carmel River State Beach is known for its birdwatching. McAbee Beach is popular with divers because of the nearby kelp forests that Monterey is famous for. Or if you’re looking for places to surf in Monterey try Marina State Beach and Moss Landing State Beach.


TIP: Many Monterey beaches also allow bonfires including Carmel Beach and Del Monte Beach.


4. Parks In Monterey


Our favorite free things to do in Monterey with kids.  - El Estero Park.

photo credit:


There are many dog-friendly and kid-friendly parks in Monterey. In fact several of the best parks in Monterey are all found in one park – El Estero Park.


El Estero Park  is built around Lake Estero, a lovely body of water where you can always find ducks and Canada geese to feed. Within El Estero Park you’ll find the Monterey Skate Park, the El Estero Exercise course, and the above mentioned Dennis the Menace playground. It’s also right across the street from Monterey State Beach.


Lover’s Point Park is also particularly lovely beach and picnic area with lots of parking and green places to sit, don’t miss it.


Find more parks in Monterey.



There are really so much stuff to do in Monterey, CA you could never curate a full list. But this is certainly enough to get your started.


The free stuff to do  can keep you busy for ages, but if you’re willing to drop some money, the absolute best attraction in Monterey is the aquarium. You can read my tips about what to do and what not to do at the Monterey Bay Aquarium here.


What is your favorite free thing to do in Monterey?


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A list of fun, free things to do in Monterey, CA with kids. A list of fun, free things to do in Monterey, CA with kids. A list of fun, free things to do in Monterey, CA with kids.


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  1. LOVE that sea lion!

  2. I love that you include parks in your suggestions. They are our most valuable find while traveling.

  3. What great timing – I’m planning a trip to the California coast later this year and Monterey is one of my planned stops. Fisherman’s wharf is definitely on the list (and sea lions, I hope!) but I shall make a note of your tips for some more free ideas. Thanks for joining up with #citytripping

  4. Great tips! Always helpful to get some insider knowledge on free things to do when travelling with children. The beaches look fantastic and I love the seal pic! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  5. Lovely!! I’ve never been to Monterey before, cool idea to share the free things to do in the city. Beaches are always the best :D
    Nice to find your blog on #MondayEscapes Jessica!! Thank you for linking up with us :D


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