Fun in Santa Cruz

Local Attractions

Pacific Avenue is the main commercial street in downtown Santa Cruz. It's full of restaurants and various shops. The two streets parallel to Pacific also have some shops and eateries. There are drug stores, grocery stores, and most of life's basics in that neighborhood. 

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is Santa Cruz's most popular tourist destination. It's a beach-front amusement park with carnival rides, a video arcade, games, and an old-school wooden roller coaster. Admission is free, and you can just pay for a few rides, or you can splurge on a day pass. It's very touristy, but still pretty fun to see.

The Beaches and ocean! There are lots of great beaches in Santa Cruz, though the very cold water might be a rude shock for some of you folks coming from Florida! Ocean kayaking is easy (most days) and superfun. You'll almost certainly see seals and otters and maybe more. You can rent kayaks at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, or off the Capitola Wharf. Let us know if you want more details.

The Wharf is right near the Boardwalk and Main Beach - it's a long wharf that you can walk out on. There are many shops, seafood restaurants, and a great spot for watching (and hearing!) the big sea lions.

Right up the hill from the Wharf is West Cliff Drive, which has a long, beautiful path for walkers and bikers that goes along the cliffs for about 2 miles and ends at the Natural Bridges State Park. Along the way, you'll pass the world-famous surfing spot called Steamer's Lane & the very cute Santa Cruz Surfing Museum.

The Mystery Spot is sort of famous around town. It's an old vestige from the era of roadside attractions, and it's a very fun and hokey spot in the redwoods... where supposedly all science goes wacky and balls roll up-hill! Short people appear to be tall! Gravity goes bezerk! You have to take a little tour, and you get a souvenir bumper sticker afterwards.

Henry Cowell State Park is about a 20 minutes drive from downtown Santa Cruz, but there you can visit some truly amazing giant sequoia redwood trees. They are so big and so beautiful. Some are over 2,000 years old! Right next door is the Roaring Camp Railroads, which is a family-friendly spot with a bunch of old-timey stuff and a cool train that you can ride on through the redwoods.

About 45 minutes-1 hour south of Santa Cruz is the truly amazing and world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you've got the time, it is definitely worth a visit!!

The Big Sur coast is a two-hour drive to the south. It's full of super-dramatic vistas out over the rocky cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. It's definitely an all-day trip to drive there and back, but if you've got the time it's spectacular.