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Family and Children: Animals and Wildlife

Whale Watching

"Thar she blows!" Kids like whale watching as much as their folksthere is something about being the first one to spot the familiar 'blow' of a whale that makes it that much more exciting. For more information and a list of whale watch cruises, see our Whale Watching page.

Monarch Butterflies

Like the swallows at San Juan Capistrano, Monarch butterflies return to Pacific Grove each year. The peak months to view the butterflies are from October to mid-February. There are Monarch "sanctuaries" throughout the city where the butterflies can easily be viewed. Monarchs love pine and eucalyptus trees and are very good at blending in with their surroundings, so you'll have to look closely! See our Fascinating Creatures page.

Marina Dunes Boardwalk

Even young children who might tire struggling through a mile of sand dunes can enjoy the rolling boardwalk that traverses the sands of Marina State Beach, just off Highway One in Marina. In addition to informative signs, describing rare plants and endangered birds like the delightful snowy plover, park rangers give occasional guided walks suitable for almost anyone. See our Nature Festivals & Events calendar for details.

Elkhorn Slough

Home to hundreds of varieties of birds and marine life, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve is the remainder of an ancient river valley. The main channel winds seven miles inland, feeding 2,500 acres of rich marsh and tidal flats. Pelicans, herons and egrets, as well as countless fish, sharks, crabs, sea lions and otters call the slough home. A visitor's center offers interpretive displays and miles of well-maintained trails. Open Wednesday through Sunday 9-5pm. Located near Moss Landing on Elkhorn Road. Call 831-728-2822 for more information. Families will enjoy the Elkhorn Slough Safari Nature Tour, a two-mile guided tour via a 27-foot pontoon boat. Call 831-633-5555 for rates and schedules.

Wild Things

Three 500-pound African lions, a Bengal tiger and a black bear named Brandy are just a few of the residents of Wild Things, a new wild animal park on River Road in Salinas. This exotic animal facility is a training ground for animals who star in film, TV and live productions. Over 100 animals in all at this educational and safe animal compound. Daily tours begin at 1pm, with an additional tour at 3pm in summertime; occasional after-dark tours in October and February. Call 831-455-1901, or visit the website at, for more information.