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Published September 21st, 2016
Day Trippings
Courtyard at Hotel Carmel Photos Fran Endicott Miller

Carmel's charm is undeniable. From the storybook quality of each building and storefront, to the ocean views along the coastal walk, a weekend in Carmel refreshes and rejuvenates. At only two hours and 15 minutes driving time south (give or take depending on traffic conditions), it's far enough away from Lamorinda to provide a different environment, yet close enough for even a day trip. Whether for a romantic weekend, a girls or guys getaway or a family vacation, Carmel delivers sights and activities to please everyone.
A great home base for your Carmel weekend is the newly remodeled Hotel Carmel, centrally located and a stone's throw from the shops, galleries, winetasting rooms and restaurants that lure visitors to the area. Formerly the Dolphin Inn, the freshly refurbished boutique hotel blends classic Carmel-by-the-Sea cottage architecture with modern seaside aesthetics. The area's ever-present coastal fog calls for elements of warmth, which are delivered in spades in the form of a courtyard fire pit and fireplace, a concealed courtyard Jacuzzi and fireplaces in 14 of the 27 rooms, of which one is a one-bedroom suite, and another a two-room suite, each perfect for families. The cozy lobby serves as the hotel's communal gathering spot, where guests can peruse a wall of classic music cassette tapes. Pop your favorite into the vintage cassette player while you enjoy a glass of complimentary wine with fellow travelers after a day of sight-seeing. Wind down further with a game of backgammon, or select a book from the lobby's lending library. Return to the lobby each morning for fresh coffee, bagels, and delicious house made granola.
The hotel's onsite restaurant, Brophy's Tavern, serves possibly the best burger and Cobb salad in town. Vintage beer cans and sports memorabilia line the interior walls, and a refurbished juke box plays classic tunes. The vibe is warm, welcoming and convivial, as it is at most restaurants in town. For breakfast, visit quaint spots like Village Corner, the Carmel Coffee House or Tuck Box. For lunch, consider Little Napoli or the very popular La Bicyclette. A classic Italian dinner at Vesuvio is always festive - be sure to start with a cocktail at their rooftop bar.
Work off your meal with a walk along beautiful and expansive Carmel Beach and its adjacent tidepools. Stroll the one-square-mile village streets and explore boutiques, shops and nearly 100 art galleries. Formula One racing fans will love the Light+Shadow Fine Art gallery on Sixth Avenue featuring race-themed works by Thierry Thompson. Make sure to venture into the numerous courtyards that you'll pass. Each is more enchanting than the next, with secret gardens, unique boutiques, and restaurants hidden within.
Carmel Plaza, for instance, looks modest from the street, but inside you'll find A-list stores and gourmet dining spots. Don't miss the Cottage of Sweets on Ocean Avenue, a traditional British style sweet shop with delicious varieties of house made fudge and other goodies sold by the pound. And you don't need to be a kid to appreciate magical Thinker Toys, an old-fashioned toy store and Carmel institution since 1969. Offering classic educational and imaginative toys for children AND adults, their motto is: "Where play is a way of thinking."
If your wanderlust extends beyond enchanting Carmel Village, visit Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the crown jewel of the California State Park system, just three miles away. Travel along the 17-Mile Drive for a peek at intriguing mansions, or plan a golf game at the one of the area's iconic courses. Head inland to Carmel Valley and explore the area's pastoral landscape - home to premier wineries and luxury resorts like Carmel Valley Ranch, Quail Lodge, and Bernardus Lodge. You'll never find yourself at a loss for things to see and do in Carmel.

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