How to enjoy the Monterey Car Week on a (sort of) budget

Photography by: ©Ron & Toni Avery

10 days of vintage perfection starting August 7-16, 2015 with the main events occurring August 10-16

©2012 Toni Avery

The Monterey Car Week is one of America’s premiere vintage automotive events featuring stunning and exotic automobiles over a 10-day period in beautiful Monterey, CA.

Not only are some of the most rare and expensive cars parading around the Monterey Bay, but also some of the industries biggest automotive celebrities. With that in mind, the Car Week can be extremely expensive not only to stay in the area but also to get into some of the best and most popular events. I’ve been going since I was three years old and have stayed varying amounts of time, gone to practically all the events and have stayed in both hotels and rental homes. I will go over some ways to make the Monterey Car Week not only more enjoyable to experience but easier on the wallet.

1. Where to stay

Driving a ways to get to the action each day, either an hour south, east (Salinas), or north of Monterey is a great alternative to spending less. North is going to have a little more to offer including Santa Cruz and other beautiful destinations, while south is more farm country offering a little less in terms of hotel accommodations. Remember, because you would be driving to everything parking is always going to be a nightmare. If you can help it, take taxis or stay in the middle of everything (but that’s for non-budget goers).

All that driving doesn’t sound appealing to you? Rental homes are another great option. This year, we are renting a house right in beautiful Monterey, CA just down the road from the Fisherman’s Wharf where most of the auctions take place. Rental homes are some of the best ways to stay in Monterey during the Car Week because you not only save a significant amount on housing (depending on the home) but most come with kitchens so that saves a significant amount of money on food too.

Keep in mind that the longer you stay the more expensive it gets. If you can only stay two-three nights then it would be smart to book around whatever events you want to see most. But just know, those who go to the Monterey Car Week every year book the moment they check out of the hotel, so most hotels will either be booked or very very very expensive (depending on the distance to Monterey). So you might have better luck finding a rental home now with time fast approaching. Also note that a few weeks to days prior to the event people may cancel their reservations for whatever reason, so you may have luck that way too. Keep in mind that some hotels/rental homes may have a week, or certain amount of days minimum to stay. But trust me when I tell you, book as early as you can and don’t wait!

2. What events to attend

There is never a shortage of things to do during the Monterey Car Week. If you like auctions, car shows, rallies, races, parties, film festivals, or just walking around Monterey seeing millions of dollars drive by, you’re covered.

You might be inclined to only attend free events in order to save some cash, there are a number of those too. Starting the week off is the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel, CA. This is a free event that is just spectacular with blocks of stunning vintage cars lining probably the best shopping street in Carmel. It’s free to walk around and look but you may spend some money popping in and out of the great stores.

There’s The Little Car Show in Pacific Grove that’s free to enter, but is a much smaller scale show than what the Monterey Car Week is known for. There are also some newer events such as Crash d’Concours that’s free to attend as well as Concours d’LeMons Monterey.

Attending just one or two full price events is a great way to go, but it really depends on what you’re into. Personally I wouldn’t miss the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (formally known as the Historics) for anything. Tickets are under $100 for one day and is totally worth every penny. Not only can you watch some incredible historic and expensive cars race around Laguna Seca, but you can even look at the cars up-close and talk to the racers themselves. There’s something called vendor island where you can find some of the coolest car merchandise anywhere. The races really deserve a full day to experience everything.

Different people will have different opinions on what major show is the best of the week. There’s Concorso Italiano, Quail: A Motorsports Gathering, and the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Concourso will run you around $150ish a ticket for an all-day Italian car show, while Pebble starts at $300 for advanced purchase (take a taxi, parking is a serious pain!) and Quail is a similar deal selling out usually before any other show due to its small size. If you want to see all the Pebble Beach cars but don’t want to spend the big bucks, a really fun event is the rally that runs through the same location as the Concours on the Avenue. It’s free and all the Pebble Beach show cars drive by and eventually park for all to view. This occurs on the Thursday of the main week and is totally worth the trip. Just be sure to arrive early or carpool/take a taxi as parking is really limited.

It really depends on what you’re looking to do and how much you’re looking to spend. Auctions cost some money as well as other smaller shows and events. But I would recommend checking out a free event or two (especially Concours on the Avenue) and maybe splurging on one or two of the more popular and exclusive events.

3. Where to eat

There are so many delicious places to eat in Monterey but it really depends on what you like. My family’s favorite for years now is Joe Rombi’s in Pacific Grove. They offer amazing Italian food with some Gluten-free options!

A less adventurous option that’s right in the middle of all the action is Benihana’s. It’s in the perfect location to grab some good food then head to the Wharf and Portola Plaza for some car sightings. Even the Fisherman’s Wharf has some great places to get some uber fresh seafood and other goodies.

Even if you’re looking for a quick bite there are a plethora of delicious places such as the sandwich shop right across from Portola Plaza Hotel and even splurging at one of the local hotels for dinner is an option. One of my recent favorites is the restaurant at Casa Munras Hotel and Spa. The portions are tapa style but are so good I wanted to go back for seconds.

Final notes

Need event, accommodation or restaurant advice? Leave a comment below so you can start planning your trip!

In the meantime take a look at the official Monterey Car Week website for a comprehensive list of events. If you’re serious about going this August, start looking and booking now before rates go up!

I hope to see you up there!

,
4 comments on “How to enjoy the Monterey Car Week on a (sort of) budget
  1. This is my first event. I am part of Team Tyson. We are driving 2200 miles to show a 1988 Porsche 928 CS/SE (1 of 42) at the Concours on the Avenue. Any advise is appreciated. Thank you.

    Andy Kay
    817.948.8538

    • You are in for a treat! Get to every event especially early for good parking. Monterey is a wonderful place but it’s not built for the kind of traffic the car week brings.
      The Concours on the Avenue show is a really nice one with great shops and food.
      Also, you won’t see everything this year, and that’s ok. I’ve been going since I was three and I still haven’t gone to every event. You’ll figure out which events you love and will keep going to them.
      Are you interested in vitnage racing? My favorite event is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca.

  2. Thanks for the post! Are there any shuttles to/from major events? And are taxis abundant, or a pain to catch? No Uber, I’m assuming. Uber should start a special event division and bring drivers down from the Bay.

    • There are shuttles probably more at the major hotels. Taxis are abundant especially around the hotels. But I’m sure at least would be open at any hour of the day or night. I usually drive to the events, but if you are going to do an event like Pebble a taxi is a must. I’m sure they must be pretty easy to arrange. Will you attend this year?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *