Carmel by the sea is one of the most beautiful and diverse places to visit on the central California coast. The town itself is near the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, and has been home to artists, writers, and photographers since 1916. Jack London, Robert Heinlein, Clint Eastwood, and Ansell Adams lived there, among other famous people. If you can't decide between a vacation in the woods or at the beach, then go to Carmel, and enjoy both. This part of the Monterey peninsula is a dream come true for anyone who is looking for creative inspiration, with a long white beach, the mission, and plenty of hidden places to explore.
Carmel may be small, but you won't run out of things to do if you like culture and the arts. Bach, Shakespeare, chamber music, and year round plays and performances at several different theaters are just the beginning. There are also art festivals and galleries, wine tastings, and a wide variety of local artisans selling handmade craft items. If you like historic buildings, then you can tour the mission, the First Murphy House, and Tor House, home of California poet Robert Jeffers.
Of all the tours, the Mission is one of the best. They have a fascinating museum dedicated to the history of the mission and the area, and they host many different events on the mission grounds. It's an active church as well, with regular mass times, and the only California mission that still has a dome bell tower.
The city is small, so you can do a lot of your sightseeing on foot. If you happen to wear heels, remember to stop by city hall and get your permit! Yes, it's true--there's a law on the books banning heels more than 2 inches, because of the uneven sidewalks, though it isn't enforced. The permit makes a great souvenir, though. You'll also notice there aren't any street numbers, since the artists that founded the town named their houses. Residents pick up their mail at the post office. They also don't have parking meters or streetlights. Carmel by the sea also has a lot of buildings and roads that go around trees, since the zoning code is very Eco-conscious. The city is pet friendly, and most of the businesses and restaurants allow you to bring your leashed dog in with you, and the motels and inns allow pets as well. Some of the restaurants also have special dog menus, and many of the businesses have water bowls and dog treats available.
The best time of the year to visit Carmel is mid-summer to early October, when you'll have the cool temperatures and nice sunny days. The climate is a lot like you find in the Mediterranean, so summer days can be cloudy, and the temperatures are a little cooler than southern California. From October through May, it can be a little on the rainy side. Rain or shine, Carmel by the sea is a place you'll want to visit at least once.