MONTEREY, Calif., May 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- STEWARDS OF THE SEA: Monterey Bay Aquarium delivers a new adventure for the eyes with the $19 million debut of "The Open Sea." On tap is the vast world of the deep open sea featuring sandbar sharks, rays and deep-sea jellies in a sweeping realm of rhythms set in a million-gallon tank. Tuning up for 2012 and the 45th anniversary of San Francisco's "Summer of Love," "The Jellies Experience" opens this spring showcasing 16 species of graceful drifters that dance, pulse and glow in a multi-sensory six exhibit show.
SPRING RENEWAL is in full swing in Monterey County. Top haunts for recharging: Refuge, the country's first sanctuary solely dedicated to thermal therapy with 10 mineral pools, meditation rooms and the largest Finnish cedar sauna in the U.S. (already ranked #3 on TripAdvisor® for "things to do in the region"). Other top stops: Accista Spa at the Hyatt Regency Monterey dials things up with a 12,000 sq. ft. facility and essential oil treatments drawing from the local Ohlone Indians. Carmel Valley Ranch's 500-acre playground is the source for all of the abundant florals, herbs and botanicals used in Spa Aiyana's signature treatments while The Spa at Bernardus serves up a traditional Vichy Hamam treatment and Monterey's Vista Blue Spa offers an alfresco rooftop Jacuzzi and fireplace paired with pumpkin spiced body peels.
SAUNTER & SIP: The new Carmel Wine Walk By-the-Sea combines the pleasures of the Pacific with a tight combo of 12 wine tasting options laced within four tasty blocks. New venues include Wrath Wines, Caraccioli Cellars, Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room and Figge Cellars sporting top-flight tastings inside one of Carmel's 100+ galleries. Additional new tasting rooms: Holman Ranch Vineyards in Carmel Valley and McIntyre Vineyards at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa.
BIG SUR BLISS: Luxury camping hits a high note at Fernwood Resort's new adventure cabins, complete with wood burning stoves, queen down beds and Wi-Fi. Set among towering redwoods and soothing sounds of the Big Sur River, these new canvas cabins put a spin on outback in the Wild West. Add to that a new bevy of chic little cabins set along the Big Sur river retooled with a green sensibility; the Glen Oaks Big Sur delivers a crisp combo of lodging options swathed in recycled stone floors, natural woods, and top-of-the-line bedding. Opt for guestroom #12, which features an indoor/outdoor gas fireplace overlooking the courtyard.
SIZZLING FOOD SCENE: Monterey County's culinary scene is on fire. Up front: Restaurant 1833 – nominated for "Best New Restaurant" 2012 by the James Beard Foundation – features chef Levi Mezick's whole lobe of roasted foie gras ($150) and flashy tableside absinthe cart serving some 25+ selections. In Carmel, Salumeria Luca takes dried meats to an ethereal state in an authentic Italian deli setting while Vesuvio restaurant and rooftop Starlight 65⁰ lounge crank things up along the Pacific. On Cannery Row, Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar debuts under the helm of chef James Waller. Perched over the Pacific at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Schooners is the stop for top-flight sustainable seafood including scallop ceviche, "shrimp in a bag" and killer fisherman's cioppino. Hot Ticket: Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions (May).
HOP TO IT: Carmel Valley village kicks up the heat with LokaL (Czech for local), opening soon under the helm of chef Brendan Jones. On tap: an alfresco beer garden serving hand-crafted Czech-style brews and cuisine saluting hyper-local farmers (Tassajara Meats, Coke Farms) with a Spanish twist. Also new to Monterey County's suds scene, Sand City steps up with Post No Bills, a local craft beer house sporting 200+ brews and a rotating selection of local and imported brews on tap. Ladies can get things hopping at the GAB (Girls About Beer) sessions ($20).
PEBBLE ON A PENNY: A visit to iconic Pebble Beach doesn't have to be a cash drop if played correctly. Top Insider Tips: 1) Rent a bike and ride the iconic 17-Mile Drive (free); best approach is the Pacific Grove gate; 2) Play like a pro at Peter Hay Golf Course ($30), a par-3 gem smack in the middle of the action; 3) take the dunes trail from Asilomar State Beach to The Inn at Spanish Bay's alfresco happy hour, live bagpiper included; 4) See the best of Concourse d'Elegance on a shoestring; as Auto Week rolls out, catch the line-up (free) in Carmel.
TEE UP TO DEALS & STEALS: Sure, Monterey County sports the holy grail of golf, but tee times at courses rich in history, stirring scenery and club-throwing challenge can be had without a down payment. The Short List: Pacific Grove Golf Links - Golf magazine's "Top 50 Courses Under $50," Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, Black Horse Golf Course, Poppy Hills Golf Course and Rancho Canada Golf Club are all sure bets for well under a Benjamin.
COWBOY UP IN CARMEL VALLEY: A round-up of equestrian-rich romps and watering holes make a visit to this verdant hideaway well worth packing the boots. Sporting new vineyards and olive groves, Holman Ranch (1928) saddles up with nearly 400 acres of prime turf, eight guestrooms (full buy-out required) and the ideal locale for corporate/ incentive and group events. Nearby, Stonepine Estate Resort debuts a classic Blacksmith Barn (1928), complete with saddle seats and a hayloft for line dancing lessons. The two-night "Equestrian Immersion" program is a great way to pony up while indulging in the off-the-charts surroundings. Home to the oldest thoroughbred farm West of the Mississippi, Stonepine features 21 guestroom/suites set on 330 plush acres.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: Unleash that inner animal with a stay in a tricked-out safari bungalow at Vision Quest Ranch, a one-of-a-kind bed & breakfast where resident elephants deliver breakfast. This magical site, tucked deep in Steinbeck Country on 50 acres, has recently doubled its capacity to eight bungalows, allowing room for guests with children (4+). Next door, Wild Things, an exotic animal training facility and sanctuary with 100+ critters, is breaking ground on a larger ranch layout for its wild kingdom, as well as extended hours.
SOURCE Monterey County Convention and Visitor's Bureau