Monterey is where California began. It was the Spanish capital of Alta California and many city areas have had a wealth of California history associated with them. The Monterey Presidio was founded in 1770 by the explorer Portola along with Father Junipero Serra. Cannery Row’s sardine factories were made famous by novelist John Steinbeck, and the area is now full of art galleries, restaurants and shops.

The most famous attraction in Monterey is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Fodor’s named the aquarium to its list of “Best of the West for Families: 15 Fun Things to Do with Kids.” This is a spectacular facility that cares deeply for sea animals and takes extreme care in their presentation. Adult tickets are $29.95, students and seniors (65+) are $27.95, children 3-12 are $17.95 and under three are free.

Carmel, more precisely named, Carmel-by-the-Sea, is a lovely though ritzy seaside village. Actor Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor and still lives here. Pretty, scenic Carmel Valley is dotted with wineries and bed and breakfasts inns.

Perhaps the most beautiful of all the California missions is Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo. Popularly known simply as Carmel Mission, this was the Father Junipero Serra’s headquarters and home. He is buried under the floor in front of the church altar. General museum admission is $5, senior 62+ are $4 and ages 7-17 are $1. Hours are M-F, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sat-Sun, 10:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Closed Easter, Easter Monday, Thanksgiving and December 25th. 3080 Rio Road, Carmel, CA

Between Monterey and Carmel is Pacific Grove, nicknamed “Butterfly Town,” for the wintering Monarch butterflies which migrate there every year. Pacific Grove is alsogreat for browsing antiques stores.