Santa Cruz is home to some of Northern California’s most beautiful beaches. With over 300 days a year of sunshine, this city is a dream for those who love the outdoors. In Santa Cruz you’ll find many hiking and biking trails where the Monterey Bay and coastal redwoods serve as your backdrop. Dine with the locals at their favorite modern eateries where the dress code is tank tops and flip-flops. There’s no shortage of fun from amusement parks on the water, to 14 state parks, and the sun-soaked beaches. Here are the top places to visit the next time you’re planning on visiting this magical beach town.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
This iconic amusement park sits right on an expansive beach and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Santa Cruz. Within the Boardwalk is Neptune’s Kingdom an arcade that features indoor miniature golf, billiards, air hockey, and more! The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is well-known for its historic landmarks including the Looff Carousel and the Giant Dipper roller coaster. During the summer nights you can enjoy free concerts on the Beach and catch Eddie Money who makes regular appearances. Enjoy a deep-fried Twinkie and other carnival fare after a long day of thrills. The amusement park is open from April to August seven days a week.
The WharfThe Santa Cruz Wharf sits over a mile south of downtown. This over 100-year-old shopping and dining district is the longest pier on the West Coast. The wharf boasts stunning ocean views where you can watch playful sea lions while eating fresh seafood. It’s a fisherman’s paradise, where you can fish right off the wharf or rent motorized skiffs and fishing gear. You can take the Interactive Wharf Tour and view outdoor aquariums, exhibits, and learn about the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. For the widest selection of fresh seafood, the Stagnaro Bros. Restaurant is unbeatable. On the menu you’ll find 20 different types of fish, steaks, pasta dishes, and kid-friendly foods. The Upper Deck Lounge is the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy a specialty cocktail.
Natural Bridges State Beach
Many visitors flock to this picturesque beach for the monarch butterfly migration exhibit, and to explore the tide pools. In the summer, children spend hours looking at sea stars, urchins, seals, shorebirds, and hermit crabs. Natural Bridges State Beach is a waterfront parkland that has hiking trails, picnic areas for BBQ’s on the beach, and a visitor center.
Soif Restaurant & Wine Bar
Soif is a chic restaurant and wine bar that provides a comfortable atmosphere to experience wholesome food and vintage wines. Each time you visit you’ll receive personalized service from their friendly and caring staff. Some standouts on the menu are the scallops wrapped in bacon, lamb meatballs, and the risotto special. Soif offers monthly specialty wine tastings from their wine making friends. Or just visit the wine shop to purchase some handmade wine to take home.
Roaring Camp Railroads
The Roaring Camp Railroads gives families the opportunity to explore the scenic areas of Santa Cruz on an old-fashioned steam train. During the spring, summer, and fall, you can ride the Santa Cruz Beach Train or the Redwood Forest Steam Train. You’ll travel through redwood groves up to Bear Mountain while learning about the history of the railroad from your tour guide. No matter what time of the year, there’s always an event going on such as Kids Fare, Night In The Encampments, The Moonlight Train Dinner Party, Day Out With Thomas, and the popular Brewgrass Festival. At the camp, children can watch demonstrations on candle making and blacksmithing.
Seymour Marine Discovery Museum
Close to Natural Bridges State Beach, the Seymour Marine Discovery Museum is an interactive educational center for kids. There are aquariums. a shark pool, and tidal pools where children can explore and touch the exquisite creatures. It’s home to the largest blue-whale skeleton in the world. The museum has daily education-focused guided tours that emphasize the significance of the ecosystem and conservation. This is an excellent place to go to keep the kids occupied all day long.
Downtown Santa Cruz
You will find one-of-a-kind eclectic stores and cafes while strolling down Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. There are many outdoor cafes great for people-watching and taking in the sun. There are vintage boutiques that sell beautiful pieces from local designers, artwork, and handmade jewelry. If you’re looking for the best beer selection in the city, head over to the friendly pub 99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall. Santa Cruz is known for their music scene, and you can hear impressive artists at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center weekly.