King City is a relatively new host for the Amgen Tour of California. The race sped through town as the peloton raced from Paso Robles to Monterey in 2011. This year, it will play host for the first time and bring attention to this small farming town located at the southern end of the picturesque Salinas Valley of Monterey County. The area is a thriving agricultural region made famous by the writings of John Steinbeck. The City lies 155 miles south of San Francisco and 277 miles north of Los Angeles on the famed Highway 101, providing convenient access to many different areas of California.
King City was named for founder Charles King, who came here in 1884. At that time, the Valley looked very different than it does today. Because the Salinas River fluctuated wildly from season to season, maps identified this as “the great Salinas desert.” Yet King recognized it’s potential. Where livestock grazing was the norm, King planted wheat and his successes proved critics wrong. King’s cash crop even attracted the attention of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886. Success bred development and slowly, King City started to change the trajectory of the Salinas Valley.
Today, King City is a friendly and close-knit community of about 14,000 people. The community features beautiful mountain views, tree-lined streets, and a quaint historical downtown. While one of its greatest assets is the peaceful small town environment, there is also much to choose from for local entertainment and recreation. Enjoy a round at the King City Golf Course or a swim at the community pool complex, eat at one of the many downtown restaurants, or visit one of several local parks. San Lorenzo County Park features a number of historical museums and buildings to visit, camping, picnic areas, and hiking trails.
Annual events include a Christmas Parade, 4th of July Parade and Fireworks, and the El Grito Festival. King City is home to the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds and Annual Salinas Valley Fair. Sol Treasures and the Stagehands promote the arts through local theatre, music and dance productions, as well as regular art exhibits and programs. Many of the performances take place at the Robert Stanton Performing Arts Theatre, built in 1939 with sculpturing by Jo Mora. No matter when you visit, there is likely to be a fun event being sponsored by one of the many local community groups and organizations.
One only needs to venture a short distance outside of King City to find a wide range of adventures. King City serves as one of the gateways to the amazing Pinnacles National Park. A few minutes to the north is the Santa Lucia Highlands, the heart of the Monterey wine region, featuring unique wine tasting opportunities with views of the Valley and the Pinnacles. Meanwhile, Nacimiento Lake and San Antonio Lake recreation areas are also easily accessible within a short trip.
Steinbeck tours are popular for literature fans visiting the area. John Steinbeck had strong ties with King City. In 1890 his father settled here, met his wife, Olive Hamilton, and developed his skills in bookkeeping and in the flour mill business. King City is featured in East of Eden and several of Steinbeck’s novels.
Often referred to as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” today the Salinas Valley is best known for some of the most fertile soil in the world. Visitors can view, and racers will be traveling along, the farms likely providing the vegetables being enjoyed at your dinner table. This makes it a dream location for Amgen’s campaign to Breakaway from Heart Disease™.