Everything You Need to Know About Moving to Monterey, California

If your family just got word that you’re moving to Monterey, California, soon (or PCSing to the Presidio of Monterey, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center aka DLIFLC), you’ve come to the right place.

Are you PCSing to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and moving to Monterey, California, soon? This guide from a military spouse has everything you wanted to know, but didn't know where to ask!

And congrats! It’s your lucky day because this isn’t your run-of-the-mill guide.

You won’t discover what schools are the best or where you should live; instead, you’ll find things in this Duty Station Spotlight that you want to know about like favorite day trips, where to get your nails done, and all the yummy places to eat when you’re living in Monterey, Ca.

Meet Mariah!

military spouse and family living in Monterey, Ca

Mariah and her husband have been married for four years and have one toddler. They love traveling and are always excited about the next adventure life will toss their way.

She’s a stay-at-home mom running two businesses; she makes awesome shirts, stickers, home decor, and more for new moms and military spouses at Mommi & E, and she’s a home decorator as well.

They were stationed at Presidio of Monterey for almost three years; you can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Moving to Monterey: The Basics

Moving to and living in Monterey is a dream come true for some people. Presidio of Monterey is an army garrison located on California’s central coast with pretty fantastic weather and lots to see and do all year long. It’s also home to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

Once a thriving sardine-packing town, Monterey is now popular for tourists flocking to Cannery Row for all of the restaurants, shops, and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.

But moving to a new city, especially if it’s because of military orders, may be scary and hard, which is why Mariah is going to share her experience living in Monterey.

What was your first impression of Monterey, California?

It was so beautiful! Being able to see and hear the ocean from our house was so amazing.

However, I was nervous about being in a California city since I was coming from a small town.

How did you feel at the end of the tour? Did your impressions change?

It was hard leaving such an amazing place. It didn’t end up having a big-city feel. We knew we would miss it a lot.

What is ONE THING you wish you had known before moving to Monterey, CA?

I wish I knew just how many things there were to do and what season to do them in.

For example, you can see the calla lilies bloom in the spring, whale watching in the spring or summer, or when there were certain events happening.

I wish I would’ve known how to get involved to find out about things in the community as well, such as following the local Facebook pages (below) and attending events by the ACS.

Good (and Local) Eats Around Monterey, CA

If someone visited you, and you had to take them out to eat, what would your TOP THREE favorite places be?

Monterey Fish House
The Butter House

Favorite place(s) for coffee and/or dessert?

Pavel’s Backerei is by far the best bakery. We went almost every weekend.

Rosines has amazing (and giant) cake as well, and any place on Cannery Row is amazing too (Ghiradelli’s is a must, of course)!

Is there a farmer’s market scene in there? Tell us about it!

You can find a farmer’s market nearly every day in a different location within 20-30 mins. Even when there isn’t an actual market, there are several produce stands around. Our favorite one was Barn’s Fresh Produce.

Best place for brunch? And your favorite thing to order, please!

The Butter House! My favorite was always the Chocolate Banana Bread French Toast!

the butter house in monterey ca

How about a fun night out on the town for a date night?

There are usually a lot of fun events going on at different times. Other than that, we liked to just spend time on the beaches and harbors.

Get Around (and out of) Town

Top five favorite things to do around Monterey, CA:

The Coast Guard Pier and Fisherman’s Wharf are great places to walk around and see wildlife.

Of course, there is the Famous Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row and the 17-mile drive.

A day in Carmel-by-the Sea is always a fun time too.

My husband would also definitely say to see Garlic World and try the garlic ice cream.

Picture this: You have a whole weekend to go somewhere within driving distance: Where are you going and what are you doing?

Our favorite weekend trip is driving south down Highway 1!

Visiting Cayucos and Morro Bay never got old, and we never had enough time to spend there. There are several places to see elephant seals and other wildlife too.

Hearst Castle is only about 2 hours away on the One Away and is impressive to see!

What was your favorite park in town?

Dennis the Menace Park is so fun for kids!

All the Extras Around Monterey

Info on your favorite hair salon/hairdresser, please, and thank you.

Angel Nails did great mani/pedis.

Living in Monterey Like a Local

Were there any Helpful Facebook groups you followed?

Any festivals, fairs, or events worth checking out?

There is an Artichoke Festival in June and a Garlic Festival in the summer, too.

The Monterey County Fair in August/September is really fun and the fairgrounds are always hosting different events, so it’s great to follow their page.

Tell us about the weather.

The weather is very mild. It rarely gets above the 70s and below the 50s. The first year we were there we didn’t see any rain, but the last year were there, there was so much rain that there was a ton of flooding.

It gets very foggy in the summer/fall and occasionally at other times of the year. The fog usually clears by the afternoon, but I was surprised by how foggy it always was.

Wearing layers is key!

Is there anything else you’d like to mention about moving to Monterey, for someone heading there soon?

I would just say to try to take advantage of your time there. I knew lots of people that hated being in California (yes, it is expensive), but there really is so much to do and it’s so beautiful!

Your Turn!

If you’ve been stationed at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center please share your favorites in the comments!

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