Can I Go To Pebble Beach Without Spending a Fortune?

This is Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein you write letters and I answer them with some tremendously exciting, interesting prose, except last week, when I was instead looking for moose in Subaru country.


If you’d like to participate in Letters to Doug, you can! Just send me a note on my Facebook page or send me an e-mail at, and I will promptly disregard your question and instead reply to someone else. Unless, of course, you are selected, in which case your question will be subject to scrutiny and scorn from the entire Jalopnik community.

This week’s letter comes to us from a reader I’ve named Roderick, who writes to us with a question about Pebble Beach.

Hey Doug,

Im in the bay area for a summer internship with Tesla and I am in a pickle. With the Concours (insert fancy word) taking place later this summer I have a choice to make, either miss out on seeing some of the coolest cars in the word because my friends are too cheap or risk some awkward moments alone at said car show. What should I do? Can I go to pebble beach alone and still have a great time that is worth the experience, an experience that I can only reminisce about with myself in the future? I might look weird carrying on a conversation with myself about which car had the shiniest brass right taillight shroud in Madison, Wisconsin in the dead of winter.



That’s a great question, Roderick. I especially like the part where you sign off by saying “Thank.” It is this sort of beautiful, perfect attention to detail that makes me think you’re the guy who created the door handles in the Model X.

Before I answer your question, let me start by saying this: nobody is going to read this column. When car enthusiasts hear “Pebble Beach,” they think about some crazy, high-end, tremendously expensive event, way out in California, where you have to wear a suit and a crazy hat just to get in, and it costs hundreds of dollars, and you stare at Duesenbergs. So they just gloss over it and move on to the next story.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Pebble Beach is for everyone. And it’s best enjoyed on the cheap.

I am not, it should be noted, referring to the actual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which is a rather stuffy event that takes place on the Sunday morning of Monterey Car Week. I attended this event only once, when I had a free pass through my employer, and I sincerely believe I will never go back. It costs hundreds of dollars, everyone there is about to celebrate their 387th birthday, and really: how many times can you look at the Duesenberg Model J 287 Flying Squirrel, currently being polished with a diaper, before you get bored?

No, what I’m referring to are the events around Pebble Beach, virtually all of which can be enjoyed almost completely free of charge. Indeed, my best memories of Monterey Car Week have come without spending a single dime to do a single thing.


Allow me to provide some examples. Let’s say you reeeeeally like those Duesenberg Model J 287 Flying Squirrels, and you want to see them without the pomp and circumstance and $450 ticket required to enter the Concours d’Elegance itself. Well, guess what? On the Thursday before the Concours, those cars are driven through Pebble Beach and openly displayed — for free — on Ocean Avenue in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. (Official Motto: Our town name is more pretentious than yours.) In other words: you can see all of the prestigious Pebble Beach cars without paying a single cent! You can even see them driving along, if you get a seat along 17-Mile Drive before they start their tour.

Want to check out what’s going on at the famous Quail Lodge Motorsports Gathering? Tickets are $500-plus — but you can roam around the parking lot completely free of charge. In last year’s parking lot, I saw a Ferrari 275 GTB, two Bugatti Veyrons, a Lamborghini Countach, and several LaFerraris, Porsche 918 Spyders, and McLaren P1s. Once the event is ending, you can just walk right in for free, seeing all the cars displayed as the vendors start removing their tables and tents.


It’s the same story in the towns of Carmel and Monterey, which are the primary places people stay and visit during Car Week. The best cars of the entire week are always street parked here in the evening, where you can walk around and see them completely free of charge. Some of my best memories from car week involve grabbing some food from a supermarket and simply sitting on a bench in Carmel with my friends to watch the rolling car show. Last year, the cars that rolled by included a Ferrari F50 and a Mercedes CLK GTR.

However, there is one event I always pay for: the Monterey Historics, which is a series of historic car races at Laguna Seca Raceway. Although the name of this event has been bastardized with a series of added sponsors, to the point where it’s now called something like the Breitling Historic Races of Monterey, Sponsored by Samsung and Cheez-Its, at the Nissan Laguna Seca Raceway, this still remains the absolute highlight of Car Week. Where else will you see a $40 million Ferrari 250 GTO at full throttle?


And so, Roderick, to answer your question: your friends should go down there with you and quit worrying about spending so much money. Because the best things at Pebble Beach are free. You’re welcome.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Bumper to Bumper and Plays With Cars, which his mother says are “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.


Can I go to pebble beach alone and still have a great time that is worth the experience, an experience that I can only reminisce about with myself in the future?

My opinion? Never pass on an opportunity to go somewhere, see someone or something because you don’t have anyone to do it with - especially if it’s something that you may never have an opportunity to do again.

An event like this - take a lot of pictures, chat with some new people, have a great time.