Editorial Hot Topics, News Angles 2011

Jun 22, 2011, 11:36 ET from Monterey County Convention and Visitor's Bureau

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif., June 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following release is being issued by the Monterey County Convention and Visitor's Bureau:

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100707/MCCVBLOGO)

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, is doubling its capacity to eight bungalows, allowing room for guests with children (summer/2011). Next door, Wild Things, an exotic animal training facility with 100+ critters, is breaking ground on a larger ranch layout for its wild kingdom, as well as extended hours (2012).

PEBBLE ON A PENNY: A visit to iconic Pebble Beach doesn't have to be a cash drop if played correctly. Top 8 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) Pony up for a ride at Pebble Beach Equestrian Center; 5) Recoup your gate entry fee ($9.50) with validation for drinks at the Tap Room, ranked one of the best 19th holes in the U.S.; 6) Rub gloves with some of the greatest golf legends at the annual Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach (free/July); 7) See the best of Concourse d'Elegance on a shoestring; as Auto Week rolls out, catch the line-up on Ocean Avenue in Carmel or Devendorf Park and pack a picnic; 8) buy a bucket of balls.

READY FOR ITS CLOSE UP: Carmel Valley Ranch debuts following a $35 million revamp by Hyatt scion John Pritzker. Call it country camp for adults with a wealth of one-of-a-kind assets set on nearly 500 acres. The 139 revamped guestrooms (sporting iPod stations, wood-burning fireplaces and decks) and 18-hole Pete Dye golf course anchor a new 11,000 sq. ft. spa, hilltop yoga program, two-acre organic garden, five-acre lavender farm, Adventure Kitchen and guest beekeeping program – yes honey! www.carmelvalleyranch.com.

HAUTE HOTELS: Raising the green bar, the 379-room Portola Hotel & Spa just raked in a coveted Silver LEED® certification, making it one of only three hotels in California and one of six hotels in the U.S. to earn this level of accreditation in the Existing Building category. The historic Monterey Hotel (1904) adds 24 new guestrooms, a 1,500 sq. ft. fitness facility, underground parking and meeting space to its 45-room capacity (fall/2011). Nearby, the 48-room Highlands Inn has retooled to become Hyatt Carmel Highlands. Opened in 1917 and renovated in 2009/2010, the property boasts one of the state's award-winning/top view restaurants (Pacific's Edge) with a new F&B team under Executive Chef Matt Bolton.

FIRE UP THE STOVES: The minds behind Pebble Beach Food & Wine (April) kick up the heat with two new eateries in Monterey: Restaurant 1833 and Cannery Row Brewing Co., offering 73 brews as well as Patron tequila and Maker's Mark bourbon on tap. Due to debut in June 2011, the 164-seat Restaurant 1833 features rare antique lighting fixtures, period floor lamps, lounge-friendly furniture and seven rooms each unique in design. Mixology is king here, with a sexy entrance bar/lounge taking on an apothecary twist with lab bottles, white-jacketed mixologists and custom botanicals.

NEW MEGA-MURALS GRACE MONTEREY COUNTY: Now it is easier than ever to connect the dots to Monterey's 35 tasting rooms with eight new 12-ft. color murals depicting the region's rich wine making legacy. Sporting 42 varietals and 40,000 acres of vineyards, Monterey County is a Mecca for cork dorks seeking out that next new vintage. www.montereywines.org. Murals: www.tinyurl.com/4r5ygrs.

TRIPADVISOR® TOUTS Carmel, California as #1 "Charming Small Towns/Cities" (2011 TripWatch). With 100 galleries per sq. mile and one of the nation's top dog-friendly formats, this sanctuary by the sea is a sure bet for cultural buffs toting Bowzer.

COWBOY UP IN CARMEL VALLEY: A round up of equestrian-rich adventures make a visit to this classic California corridor well worth packing the boots & spurs. Fresh off a massive restoration, Holman Ranch (1928) saddles up with nearly 400 acres of prime turf, a state-of-the-art equestrian facility, eight guestrooms (full buy-out required) and the ideal locale for corporate/ incentive and group events. www.holmanranch.com. Nearby, Stonepine Estate Resort debuts a classic Blacksmith Barn (1928), complete with saddle seats and a hayloft for line dancing lessons. The new 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 sports 20 guestroom/suites set on 330 plush acres. www.stonepinecalifornia.com.

BIG SUR BLISS: Tucked within century-old redwoods siding Big Sur River is a new bevy of chic little duplex cabins with sleek interiors (heated bathroom floors, organic bedding, feather duvets, new yoga mats) and a fully-stocked fire ring for sunsets and s'mores. Retooled with a green sensibility, the 22-room Glen Oaks Big Sur delivers a crisp combo of cottages and cabins 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. Starting at $175/dbl. www.glenoaksbigsur.com.

THE VAST & THE FAST: 2011 marks the debut of "The Open Sea" at Cannery Row's Monterey Bay Aquarium. This new retool of the Outer Bay galleries will carry visitors to the vast world of the deep, open sea featuring sandbar sharks, rays and deep-sea jellies in a sweeping realm of sea rhythms. www.montereybayaquarium.org.

MARINA MADNESS: Just six miles north of Monterey on scenic Highway 1, Marina and its environs are an ideal escape hatch. New: Fort Ord Dunes State Park – boasting four miles of pristine public beach with prime views across the bay. For the off-road enthusiast, 86 miles of world-class bike trails and 170 acres of protected dunes and beaches including the Marina Dunes Preserve and Marina State Beach deliver a lunar seascape and plenty of pounding ground. Other options: Monterey Sculpture Center, the largest bronze foundry on the West Coast (located at Marina Municipal Airport); Marina Equestrian Center, Skydive Monterey Bay and new, seasonal wildflower tours. www.montereybaycnps.org.

VISITOR CENTERS RAMP UP: Two new venues are on tap for visitors to Monterey County; the El Estero Visitor Center debuted March/2011 fresh off a redux; the new California Welcome Center in Salinas opens April/2011 just off Highway 101. The state estimates this new center will serve 100,000 visitors by 2013. Monterey County welcomes nearly 8 million visitors annually.

GOT AN APP-ETITE? Techie travelers can download a new mobile application, "Explore Monterey," as a free mobile app download on Android, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. www.SeeMonterey.com.

SOURCE Monterey County Convention and Visitor's Bureau