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Laguna Seca

This Salinas area playground has thrills and access to nearby wine tasting

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Just 10 miles from Monterey, the Laguna Seca Recreation Area features serene, undulating hills that harbor a surprising number of adrenaline-fueled activities. Some of its visitors come to cycle, others to camp. But usually, people come to experience the park’s main attraction: the WeatherTech Raceway. This 11-turn, 2.23-mile-long track, originally part of the former Fort Ord military base, was created in 1957 and today hosts a variety of events.

Many of them, not surprisingly, involve car racing, like the SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge California—an eight-hour endurance race held in October. If you’re a Porsche lover, come in September for the Porsche Rennsport Reunion, billed as the world’s largest gathering of Porsche race cars.

But fast cars aren’t all you’ll find here. The Sea Otter Classic, held in April, is a huge festival for bicyclists, hosting some 10,000 athletes and 70,000 fans. And even casual athletes have opportunities to get onto the track. Monthly twilight bike rides, open to the public, allow cyclists to pedal the twists and turns, including a feature called the Corkscrew—a section of track that drops the equivalent of 5½ stories. Or come in November for the family-focused turkey trot, when you can get a workout and support charities with your entry fee.

Laguna Seca also offers activities away from the track. The surrounding recreation area has a rifle and pistol range, with 25 shooting stalls and trained staff on hand for newbies. And outdoor enthusiasts can bring tents or RVs and stay in the park’s campground, open between April and October, with views of the Salinas Valley.

You’ll also find opportunities for wine tasting in the surrounding area. Check out the wineries of nearby Carmel Valley, which lean heavily toward Cabernets and Merlots. Several of the tasting rooms, like Joullian Vineyards and Holman Ranch, are close enough to each other for a DIY walking tour. Or hop onto a five-hour Wine Trolley tour from Monterey, where a vintage trolley takes you to wineries and provides lunch, as well as insider info about the area.

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