Pacific Grove

California’s West Coast isn’t short on architectural eccentricity, but this little Monterey town redefines the meaning of creative freedom.

See Pacific Grove on its commanding ocean-bound point and it isn’t hard to see what appealed to the Methodists who first set up summer camp here in the mid-1800s. Some liked it so much they stayed, built curious homes, and created one of the quirkiest little towns in Monterey.

Take the Pacific Grove Walking Tour if you know what’s good for you. Never will you see such a mish-mash of Victorian beach cottages, Gothic Revival villas, Queen Anne mansions, foursquare Americans, and folksy 19th-century kit houses. It really shouldn’t work, but it does.

Head to Lovers Point Beach but don’t be fooled by the name. Linger in wait for romance on this cute little cove and you’re likely to be politely moved along by ardent volleyball players. The beach was originally called “Lovers of Jesus Point” by Pacific Grove’s fervent first settlers. But, quell your disappointment – it’s also one of the only shores on the West Coast where you can watch the sun rise over the sea. And what’s not to love about that?

Ramble along Pacific Grove’s promontory and you’ll discover why the town has the West Coast’s oldest operating lighthouse. Perched over the jagged and lethal coast for more than 160 years, Point Pinos Lighthouse’s sweet, cottagey looks belie its serious beacon; another architectural must-see.

For those who love pretty winged creatures, Pacific Grove will be a winner; the town is best known for its majestic overwintering butterflies. If the thought of thousands of monarch butterflies descending on town is a little too daunting a prospect, come early in October and see the local kids’ Butterfly Parade instead. Or visit in July for the week-long Feast of Lanterns. You could always save your visit for late November, when Pacific Grove welcomes everyone to Christmas at the Inns.

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