We’ve been members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a number of years. The coast is a great escape from the heat in the summer and the grey foggy skies that plague Sacramento’s winters.
Every December, they hold their Holidays in Store event. If you’re a member of the aquarium and haven’t been to this event you’re missing out. The evening starts in the Portola Restaurant with a fixed menu featuring local ingredients. After a relaxing dinner you’re free to walk the aquarium.
In front of many of the exhibits there are tables staffed by local wineries. Five dollars gets you an engraved wine glass that you carry with you from winery to winery for unlimited tasting. (It’s at this point that I’ll recommend that you get a hotel within walking distance.) In addition to local wineries they have crafts and handmade items, available for sale, from local artisans.
The best part is that you have much better access to the aquarium than you would on any given weekend. There aren’t nearly the number of people that you normally have to deal with which makes for a really enjoyable evening. I’ve never been to the aquarium without a camera in my hand but I’ll have to admit that having to put my wine glass down to shoot does limit the number of pictures that I take while I’m there.