We decided to head south today...a 45 minute drive to Santa Cruz and then on to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
When we got to Santa Cruz, nothing on the boardwalk was open, and we didn't want to do any of the rides anyway we just wanted to see it. We walked the length and looked out on the beach.
Then we headed on to Monterey and stopped at Monterey's Fish House for lunch. It looked like a dive from the outside...a remodeled Long John Silver's or something...but inside it had big windows, a stone fireplace and white tablecloths. It was a little pricey for lunch but we hadn't had seafood yet. We ordered oak grilled oysters as an appetizer then Al had a bowl of clam chowder and I had a house salad.
On to the aquarium! My Maps app got us in the neighborhood then we started looking for parking. The cheapest ramp/lot was $10. Some were $24 for 8 hours. We found an open meter on the street about 4 blocks from the aquarium and took it. It was $1.50/hr with a max of 2 hours but we could pay with a credit card. We'd just have to come back and feed it again in a couple hours.
It was a fabulous aquarium in an awesome setting. It was also packed to the gills with people and little kids. There were so many people I started to feel a little claustrophobic. Many of the display areas were very dim and there were so many kids darting around and plastered to the panes it was really hard to see much. You just had to be patient and push in when there was an opening. If it was this bad on a week day, I hate to think what it's like on weekends.
We spent almost 2 hours on the first floor then hoofed it to the car to feed the meter. We were both flagging a little and stopped at a Starbucks on the way back to get coffee and tea. It helped!
Back at the aquarium, we went up to the 2nd floor, which had fewer exhibits than the first floor, and spent some time on the observation deck above that. There was an outdoor tidepool area where people can put on wetsuits and scuba gear to explore in the water with staff. The pool was only chest deep so the wetsuits and tanks seemed like overkill. Even if the water were cold (and it might be, I don't know), I'd think I'd rather use a snorkel than deal with the tanks.
We finished up the rest of the aquarium in a lot less than the 2 hours we had on the meter so we left the aquarium and strolled through the Cannery Row area between the aquarium and our car. It looks like it used to be a bunch of canning factories that have been converted to little shops, restaurants and the like.
We went into an Olive Bar, just because we didn't know what that was. It was mostly all kinds of olive oils and balsamic vinegars that you could taste and buy. So we tasted a number of them. Each one came in a mini keg sort of thing with tasting cups and/or small pieces of bread. If you found something you liked, they'd tap the keg and fill whatever size bottle you wanted. We got a medium bottle of a cara-cara vanilla white balsamic vinegar that was awesome.
There was still some time on the car when we got back but we were wiped. Traffic was ridiculous getting out of town but once we got to the highway it opened up and we made good time. The GPS took us back a different way than we came since we weren't going back via Santa Cruz.
Back home, we decided it was pizza night. We asked Linda about pizza places and she recommended a couple of her faves. We looked at their menus on line and decided we didn't want to pay that much for pizza so we went somewhere else...Fresh Pixx. It's kind of like a Subway or Quiznos model but for pizza. You order your toppings for a 10" pie, they slap it into a 500 degree oven and hand it to you 5 minutes later. We each got one and took them to go then ate them while watching Firefly.