Carmel-by-the-Sea's Carmel Plaza is decked out with holiday decor. Go for shopping, carolers, visits with Santa, and local brews by the fire pit. (Courtesy of Visit Carmel)

Holiday in Carmel: A cozy inn, quaint shops + seasonal fare make for a storybook Christmas

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Carmel-by-the-Sea looks like a real life fairy tale year-round, with cottages bearing whimsical names, a village marked by charming courtyards and hidden passageways, and dense forest and the foamy Pacific beyond.

Throw in some holiday cheer—twinkling arches, festive storefronts, seasonal menus, and drinks by the fire pit—and Carmel becomes even more cozy at Christmastime.


Venture further afield to Monterey for family-friendly holiday fun.

A Cozy Stay at Carmel's Carriage House Inn

(Courtesy of Carriage House Inn)

Located on Junipero and 7th Avenue, Carriage House Inn feels both tucked away and close to everything. Rooms are warmed by fireplaces and soaking tubs, and appetizer trays and carafes of wine are available to take back to your room. Enjoy a light breakfast each morning in bed or by your fire. And, be sure to ask about special discounts—think free drinks and dessert—at the hotel's nearby partner restaurants. Look for exclusive offers provided through Visit Carmel.

Shopping in Carmel-by-the-Sea

(Courtesy of Cottage of Sweets)

Find handmade goodies and support local growers at the weekly farmer's market on Thursdays, 10am to 2pm (Sixth Ave. & Junipero St.). While you're there, snap a photo in front of the town's Carmel shell mural. // Modern fashion mavens shop brands like Apparis, Ganni, and Jerome Dreyfus at sister boutiques Girl Boy Girl (Mission St. & 7th Ave.) and Paloosh (Ocean Ave. & Dolores St.). // Find an eclectic array of stuff—think local interest books, works by Carmel artists, kitchenwares, and decorative objets—at Carmel Bay Company (Ocean Ave. and Lincoln St.). // The British-style Cottage of Sweets (Ocean Ave. between Lincoln St. and Monte Verde St.) brims with licorice and chocolates—it's a must stop for stocking stuffers. // Shop clean, green housewares and garden supplies at Eco Carmel (San Carlos St. between 7th Ave. and 8th Ave.). // For the scribe in your life, check out The Pleasure of Writing (Ocean Ave. and San Carlos St.). // Pop into The Carmel Hat Company (Doud Arcade at Ocean Ave.) for all styles of toppers. // Any holiday visit warrants a visit to Kris Kringle (Doud Arcade), a year-round holiday shop filled with ornaments and gifts. // Carmel Plaza (Mission St. and 7th Ave) has three stories of stores—including Tiffany & Co., Anthropologie, and Sea Bags—plus holiday wine events and occasional carolers and appearances by Santa. // Drive down the road to Crossroads Carmel (Hwy 1 at Rio Rd.) for specialty shops like Spencer's Stationery, River House Books, and Home by the Hearth. // Not up for wrapping gifts this season? Guests of La Playa (Camino Real at 8th Ave) can drop their goods to be prettied up for free.

Where to Eat + Drink in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey Peninsula

(Courtesy of Rise + Roam Bakery)

Restaurants

Even a marathon shopper needs to eat, and Carmel and the surrounds of the Monterey Peninsula have tons of choices options. It's brunch all day at newcomer Stationaery (San Carlos St. between 5th Ave. and 6th Ave.), where the seasonal menu may include white Alba truffles to be added to a potato pancake with smoky bacon or a tuna melt with bruleed raclette. Also expect specialty lattes year-round. // Carmel Belle (Doud Craft Studios, San Carlos St. between Ocean Ave. & 7th Ave) is a local staple for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all made with sustainably and regionally grown produce. The eggs are perfectly poached, and the fireplace trimmed with greenery adds to the vibe. // For a casual lunch or post-shopping snack—a ricotta and salmon tartine, perhaps?—drop by artisan bakery and pizzeria Rise + Roam (Mission St. and 7th Ave.). // End your day at Mission Bistro (Mission St. between Ocean Ave. and 7th Ave.), which offers a rustic-romantic setting for New American and Mediterranean fare. Try the seafood stew, a decadent rift on bouillabaisse, and the house bread pudding. On Christmas Day, look out for a steak and lobster special. // For an alfresco dining experience, Forge in the Forest (5th Ave. & Junipero) has the largest (heated!) patio in town. The international menu includes duck empanadas, barbecue pork ribs, spaghetti carbonara, and limoncello cake. Newly opened in Monterey, in the famously haunted former home of the popular Restaurant 1833, is Stokes Adobe (500 Hartnell, Monterey) where you'll find craft cocktails (try the Spanish G&T) at the gorgeous bar, thoughtful plates (portobello-mushroom pithivier), plentiful outdoor seating, and stellar service.


Wine + More

No designated driver is required to wind your way through Carmel's Wine Walk, with more than 20 tasting rooms including Hahn, Silvestri, and Talbott. Download the free mobile guide for exclusive offers and a chance to win prizes. // Enjoy the holiday decor and award-winning pinots at Dawn's Dream (San Carols and 7th Ave.) and be sure to snap a pic in the trademark copper bathtub. // For more structured wines, and the "cowboy philosophy" that goes with them, visit the tucked-away tasting room of Galante Vineyards (Dolores St. between Ocean Ave. and 7th Ave.). // Don't miss the elegant bubbles and guava-forward sauv blanc at Kori Wines (Mission St. between Ocean Ave. & 7th Ave.). // Prefer a cocktail? Seventh and Dolores (7th Ave. & Dolores St.) is pouring Christmas-themed libations like Candy Cane Lane, Boozy Hot Cocoa, and In a Pear Tree. // Cap dinner at Bistro Giovanni (San Carlos between 5th Ave. and 6th Ave.) with a steamy vanilla chai white Russian or try the annual Festivus cocktail at Vesuvio (6th Ave. & Junipero). // For local brews, Alvarado Street Brewery (Carmel Plaza, Suite 112) has seasonal releases on tap plus a full menu, soft lights, and a sky-scraping tree. Snag a spot by a fire pit and enjoy the festive decor of Carmel Plaza.

Merry Holiday Activities in Carmel + Monterey

(Courtesy of Monterey Old Fishermans Wharf)

Festivities

Whether you have kiddos along or you're a child at heart, there's merriment to be found in nearby Monterey. Visit Christmas on the Wharf for song and dance performances, a 19-foot Christmas tree surrounded by illuminated sea creatures, and pics with Santa (through Dec. 19). Grab a sweet snack or hot chocolate from local vendors. A short walk from the Wharf, glide along to seasonal tunes at Ice Skating by the Bay, the annual ice rink located in the Custom House Plaza. If you're shopping downtown, stop by Colton Lawn to see Monterey's towering tree in front of Colton Hall (570 Pacific St).


R&R

When you're ready to unwind, make your way to Refuge (27300 Rancho San Carlos Rd.), a tranquil outdoor thermal spa just five miles inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea. Leave your devices at the door and bliss out in the spacious sauna or the eucalyptus steam room. Relax in one of the heated waterfall pools, in front of a fire pit, or tipped back in a zero-gravity chair, then recharge with a cold plunge. Be sure to check the website for holiday hours. // 27300 Rancho San Carlos Rd

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