10 Things to do in Salinas CA – 2024 Ultimate Guide

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Welcome to Salinas, California, a hidden gem on the central coast that offers a plethora of exciting things to do in Salinas CA for travelers of all interests. From exploring the rich agricultural history at the National Steinbeck Center to immersing yourself in the vibrant arts scene at the First Fridays Art Walk, Salinas has something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast looking to hike in the nearby Pinnacles National Park or a foodie eager to sample fresh produce at the Salinas Farmers Market, this charming city is sure to captivate you. Join us as we uncover the top attractions and activities that make Salinas a must-visit destination for your next adventure.

Popular Experiences and Attractions

National Steinbeck Center:

Essential Information

– Address: One Main Street, Salinas, CA 93901
– Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
– Fee: Adults $12, Seniors $10, Students $8, Children under 6 free
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Literature enthusiasts, history buffs, families


The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA, stands as a tribute to one of America’s most celebrated authors, John Steinbeck. This must-see attraction offers visitors a comprehensive look into the life and works of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. From interactive exhibits showcasing Steinbeck’s literary masterpieces like “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men” to personal artifacts and memorabilia, the center provides a captivating journey through the author’s impactful legacy.

Stepping into the National Steinbeck Center is like stepping back in time to the era that inspired Steinbeck’s powerful storytelling. Visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the social and economic issues that shaped his narratives, making it a valuable educational experience for all ages. Whether you’re a literature enthusiast eager to explore Steinbeck’s literary world or a history buff intrigued by the cultural significance of his works, this center offers a unique and enriching glimpse into the life of a literary icon.

Salinas Valley Model Railroad Museum:

Essential Information

– Address: 425 Steinbeck Plaza, Salinas, CA 93901
– Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm
– Fee: Adults $10, Seniors $8, Children (3-14) $5
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Families, Train enthusiasts


The Salinas Valley Model Railroad Museum is a captivating attraction in Salinas, California that offers a unique glimpse into the world of model trains. With meticulously crafted miniature landscapes and intricate train layouts, this museum is a haven for both families and train enthusiasts alike. The museum’s collection showcases the rich history of railroads in the region, providing visitors with a fascinating educational experience.

Stepping into the museum, visitors are transported to a world where trains chug through scenic valleys, over bridges, and past bustling towns. The attention to detail in the displays is truly impressive, making it a delight to watch the trains wind their way through the miniature landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned train enthusiast or simply looking for a fun and educational outing with the family, the Salinas Valley Model Railroad Museum is a must-see attraction that offers a unique and immersive experience for all ages.

Toro County Park:

Essential Information

– Address: 501 Monterey-Salinas Hwy, Salinas, CA 93908
– Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – Sunset
– Fee: $6 per vehicle
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours
– Ideal for: Families, nature lovers, hikers


Toro County Park in Salinas, CA, is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a peaceful retreat in nature. With over 4,756 acres of rolling hills, oak woodlands, and meadows, this park offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a leisurely picnic with your family, go for a scenic hike along the trails, or simply unwind amidst the tranquil surroundings, Toro County Park has something for everyone.

One of the park’s main attractions is the expansive network of hiking trails that cater to all skill levels, providing opportunities to explore the diverse flora and fauna of the region. Birdwatchers will delight in the chance to spot a variety of avian species, while nature lovers can revel in the park’s natural beauty. Additionally, the park’s picnic areas offer a perfect setting for a relaxing outdoor meal with stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Overall, Toro County Park is a must-see destination for those looking to reconnect with nature and enjoy a day of outdoor recreation in a picturesque setting. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to the area, this park promises a rejuvenating experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

Salinas Sports Complex:

Essential Information

– Address: 1034 N Main St, Salinas, CA 93906
– Opening Hours: Varies depending on events
– Fee: Admission fees vary
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours
– Ideal for: Sports enthusiasts and families


The Salinas Sports Complex in Salinas, CA, is a vibrant hub for sports and entertainment in the heart of the city. With its state-of-the-art facilities and a calendar packed with exciting events, this complex is a must-see for sports enthusiasts and families alike. Whether you’re a fan of baseball, soccer, or rodeo, there’s something for everyone at the Salinas Sports Complex.

One of the main draws of the complex is its versatile venue that hosts a wide range of events throughout the year. From thrilling rodeo competitions to high-energy soccer matches, there’s always something exciting happening at the Salinas Sports Complex. Visitors can soak up the lively atmosphere, cheer on their favorite teams, and experience the thrill of live sports in action.

In addition to sporting events, the Salinas Sports Complex also offers a variety of amenities for visitors to enjoy. From concession stands serving up delicious snacks to comfortable seating areas, the complex ensures a memorable and enjoyable experience for all who visit. Whether you’re a local looking for a fun day out or a traveler seeking a taste of Salinas’s sporting culture, the Salinas Sports Complex is a must-visit destination.

Boronda Adobe History Center:

Essential Information

– Address: 333 Boronda Rd, Salinas, CA 93907
– Opening Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
– Fee: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, free for children under 12
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: History enthusiasts, families, and educational outings


The Boronda Adobe History Center in Salinas, CA, offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s rich past. This historic site, dating back to the mid-19th century, provides visitors with a unique opportunity to explore the adobe home of José Eusebio Boronda, a prominent figure in the area’s history. Stepping inside the adobe walls, visitors are transported back in time to an era of Spanish and Mexican influence in California.

The center showcases exhibits and artifacts that shed light on the daily life and cultural heritage of the early settlers in the Salinas Valley. From traditional adobe construction techniques to period furnishings, the Boronda Adobe History Center offers a comprehensive look at the region’s history. History enthusiasts and families alike will appreciate the educational value of this site, making it a must-see destination for anyone interested in the heritage of Salinas and the surrounding area.

El Estero Park:

Essential Information

– Address: 777 Pearl St, Salinas, CA 93901
– Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
– Fee: Free
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Families, nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts


El Estero Park in Salinas, CA is a delightful urban oasis that offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. With its serene lake, lush greenery, and variety of recreational activities, this park is a must-see destination for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a leisurely stroll, have a picnic with your family, or engage in outdoor sports, El Estero Park has something for everyone.

One of the highlights of the park is the picturesque lake, where you can relax by the water’s edge and watch the ducks and swans glide gracefully across the surface. The park also features playgrounds for children, picnic areas for gatherings, and walking paths for those seeking a bit of exercise. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the diverse bird species that call the park home, making it a great spot for birdwatching.

Overall, El Estero Park provides a tranquil setting for visitors to unwind and connect with nature without having to venture far from the city center. Whether you’re a local looking for a peaceful escape or a traveler passing through Salinas, a visit to El Estero Park is sure to rejuvenate your senses and leave you with lasting memories of this hidden gem in the heart of the city.

Northridge Mall:

Essential Information

– Address: 796 Northridge Shopping Center, Salinas, CA 93906
– Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm, Sunday 11am-7pm
– Fee: Free entry, shopping costs vary
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours
– Ideal for: Families, shoppers, food enthusiasts


Northridge Mall in Salinas, CA, is a bustling shopping destination that offers a diverse range of retail stores, dining options, and entertainment venues. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion trends, unique gifts, or delicious cuisine, this mall has something for everyone. With its convenient location and ample parking, Northridge Mall is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to spend a few hours indulging in retail therapy or enjoying a meal with family and friends.

The mall’s modern design and spacious layout make it easy to navigate, ensuring a pleasant shopping experience for all. From well-known brands to local boutiques, the variety of shops caters to different tastes and budgets. After a successful shopping spree, visitors can refuel at one of the many eateries offering a wide selection of cuisines, from fast food favorites to sit-down restaurants.

Whether you’re in search of a new wardrobe, a special gift, or simply a place to unwind, Northridge Mall provides a convenient and enjoyable destination for all your shopping and dining needs in Salinas, CA.

Salinas Municipal Airport:

Essential Information

– Address: 30 Mortensen Ave, Salinas, CA 93905
– Opening Hours: 24/7
– Fee: Free to visit
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Aviation enthusiasts, families, travelers with layovers


Salinas Municipal Airport in Salinas, CA, is a bustling hub of aviation activity that offers visitors a unique glimpse into the world of air travel. With its convenient location and 24/7 operations, the airport is a must-see destination for aviation enthusiasts and curious travelers alike. Whether you’re watching planes take off and land, exploring the on-site aviation museum, or simply enjoying the bustling atmosphere, there’s something for everyone at Salinas Municipal Airport.

The airport’s free admission and easy accessibility make it an ideal spot for families looking for a fun day out or travelers with layovers seeking a unique way to pass the time. From the thrill of watching planes taxi down the runway to the educational exhibits that showcase the history of aviation, Salinas Municipal Airport offers a memorable experience for visitors of all ages. So next time you find yourself in Salinas, be sure to stop by this hidden gem and discover the excitement of air travel up close.

Salinas River State Beach:

Essential Information

– Address: Salinas River State Beach, Salinas, CA
– Opening Hours: Daily, 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
– Fee: Free
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, bird watchers, families


Salinas River State Beach in Salinas, CA, offers a serene escape for nature enthusiasts and families seeking a peaceful retreat. With its expansive shoreline and diverse wildlife, this hidden gem provides a perfect setting for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing picnic by the water. The beach’s tranquil atmosphere and picturesque views make it an ideal spot for bird watching, as various species can be spotted along the riverbanks and in the surrounding wetlands.

Visitors to Salinas River State Beach can unwind amidst the sounds of nature and enjoy the fresh coastal breeze while taking in the beauty of the natural surroundings. Whether you’re looking to explore the local flora and fauna or simply unwind in a tranquil setting, this beach offers a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the beauty of Salinas River State Beach and immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance of this coastal sanctuary.

Salinas Fairways Golf Course:

Essential Information

– Address: 45 Skyway Blvd, Salinas, CA 93905
– Opening Hours: 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM
– Fee: $40 – $60 per round
– Visit Duration: 3-4 hours
– Ideal for: Golf enthusiasts and outdoor lovers


Salinas Fairways Golf Course in Salinas, CA, is a premier destination for golf enthusiasts seeking a challenging yet enjoyable round of golf. With its well-maintained fairways and scenic views of the surrounding landscape, this 18-hole course offers a memorable experience for players of all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer looking to improve your game or a beginner eager to learn, Salinas Fairways provides the perfect setting to practice your swing and enjoy a day outdoors.

The course’s strategic layout and diverse terrain make it a popular choice among locals and visitors alike. From rolling hills to water hazards, each hole presents a unique challenge that will test your skills and keep you engaged throughout your round. The friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere add to the overall appeal of this hidden gem in Salinas, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to enjoy a day on the greens.

So, if you’re in the Salinas area and looking for a fun and relaxing outdoor activity, consider spending a few hours at Salinas Fairways Golf Course. Whether you’re playing solo, with friends, or as part of a tournament, this picturesque course offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Plan your visit today and experience the beauty and excitement of golfing at Salinas Fairways.

Food and Cuisine

Artichoke Soup

Why is it so special:

Artichoke Soup is a signature dish in Salinas due to the abundance of fresh artichokes grown in the region. This creamy and flavorful soup is a perfect blend of artichokes, onions, garlic, and herbs, creating a rich and comforting dish that captures the essence of local produce. The artichokes lend a unique earthy flavor to the soup, making it a must-try for visitors looking to savor the taste of Salinas.

Where to Try It:

For an authentic taste of Artichoke Soup, head to The Farmer’s Union in downtown Salinas. This cozy restaurant sources its artichokes locally and prepares the soup with a touch of culinary expertise. For a more upscale dining experience, visit Tarpy’s Roadhouse, where the Artichoke Soup is a highlight on their menu, served with a side of freshly baked bread.

Garlic Fries

Why is it so special:

Garlic Fries are a beloved local favorite in Salinas, known for their irresistible aroma and bold flavor. These fries are generously seasoned with minced garlic, parsley, and a sprinkle of salt, creating a mouthwatering combination that is both savory and aromatic. The garlic used in this dish is sourced from the nearby garlic farms, ensuring a fresh and pungent taste that sets these fries apart.

Where to Try It:

To indulge in the best Garlic Fries in Salinas, make your way to Elli’s Great American Restaurant, a popular diner that serves up a generous portion of these flavorful fries. For a more upscale setting, visit The Steinbeck House Restaurant, where the Garlic Fries are a delightful side dish that perfectly complements their main entrees.

Strawberry Shortcake

Why is it so special:

Salinas is renowned for its luscious strawberries, and the Strawberry Shortcake is a classic dessert that showcases the sweetness of these local berries. This delightful treat features layers of fluffy shortcake, fresh strawberries, and a dollop of whipped cream, creating a harmonious blend of textures and flavors that is both light and indulgent. The Strawberry Shortcake is a refreshing and satisfying way to end a meal in Salinas.

Where to Try It

Events and Festivals

California Rodeo Salinas

The California Rodeo Salinas is one of the top rodeo events in the country, attracting professional cowboys and cowgirls from all over. Held annually in July, this event features thrilling rodeo competitions such as bull riding, barrel racing, and team roping. Visitors can also enjoy live music, a carnival, and delicious food vendors.

Salinas International Airshow

The Salinas International Airshow is a spectacular event that showcases thrilling aerial performances by skilled pilots. Held in September, this airshow features aerobatic displays, vintage aircraft demonstrations, and even military flyovers. Visitors can also explore static aircraft displays and interact with pilots.

Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival

The Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival celebrates the region’s rich agricultural heritage and culinary delights. Held in August, this festival offers visitors the chance to sample delicious local wines, artisanal cheeses, and gourmet dishes prepared by talented chefs. Attendees can also enjoy live music, cooking demonstrations, and interactive workshops.

Interesting Facts

– Salinas, CA is known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” due to its significant agricultural industry, particularly in lettuce production.
– The city is the birthplace of renowned author John Steinbeck, whose novels often depict the struggles of the working class during the Great Depression.
– Salinas hosts the annual California Rodeo Salinas, one of the top rodeo events in the United States, attracting competitors and spectators from around the country.

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