Monterey makes for a great weekend getaway from the Bay Area...just a two hour drive from San Francisco, and not much more than an hour from San Jose. We went in December to celebrate some family birthdays. The highlights were:
Monterey Bay Aquarium - loved the million-gallon feeding tank (sharks, tuna, lots of fish), sea otters (saw one in the bay as we had lunch also), and jellyfish (very cool looking circular tanks with striking colors).There are tons of hands-on activities for kids.
Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary - a small park where you can view the butterflies in Pacific Grove (the town adjacent to Monterey). Try to time it to be there when the butterflies take flight; they do so when the temperature hits about 55 degrees. Otherwise, they are generally bunched up on the trees together to stay warm.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites in nearby Seaside. We stayed in a suite so we had a separate bedroom for our child to fall asleep in.This hotel had a great breakfast buffet (included in the price of the room), decent room service food, an okay indoor pool, and was an easy drive to everywhere we wanted to go. Nothing special, but practical for this trip.