Things to do in Santa Cruz

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Santa Cruz which includes a city

Santa Cruz Attractions

Snuggled against the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Cruz is a running advertisement for the beauty of California’s central coast. Redwood forests echo with the sounds of crashing waves, sun-soaked beaches beckon visitors to work on their tan, and old-time amusements are scattered on boardwalks that hearken to a bygone era.

With a fairly young population largely based on the UC Santa Cruz campus, the city has earned a certain reputation for alternative living. From farmers markets filled with artisan goods to organic restaurants and cafes whipping up international dishes, there’s plenty to discover downtown, while creative communities offer everything from yoga classes to naturopathic spas perfect for an afternoon reprieve when you’re looking for things to do in Santa Cruz.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Santa Cruz

Seabright/Midtown

Follow lines of hipster shops, cafes, restaurants, and live music venues all the way to the beach in Seabright and Midtown. With an active nightlife, you can almost always find a place to let your hair down in this hip corner between Santa Cruz Harbor and the boardwalk.

Downtown

Santa Cruz’s bustling core is filled with the organic cafes, hip boutiques, and outdoor shops you’d expect out of this sea-meets-mountain town. It’s also the place to go to dive into the area’s arts scene at institutions like the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, and the Felix Kulpa Gallery.

Westside

Santa Cruz’s commercial hub is filled with more everyday shops, but you’ll still find breweries, cafes, and unique places to check out. It’s also the gateway to great hikes in sprawling natural spaces like Natural Bridges State Park, Derby Park, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and Lighthouse Field State Park.

The Boardwalk

Practice your ring toss and head to one of the last remaining authentic boardwalks on the west coast. Ride the carousel, grab some caramel corn, and play a few games to get whisked back in time at this charming corner of Santa Cruz.

What to See in Santa Cruz

Lace up your shoes and explore this small town’s urban core by foot. Peruse the shops downtown, stroll by the boutiques of Seabright and Midtown, schedule your visit to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for sunset, and allow for plenty of time to visit the area’s natural parks during the day. Natural Bridges State Park and Wilder Ranch are ideal for those looking for hikes along the coast, while Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park are perfect if you want to get your redwood forest fix.

Sightseeing in Santa Cruz

Along the beach, you can ride the clattering wooden tracks of the Giant Dipper at the Boardwalk, learn about the area’s most historic hang ten’s at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, and lay your towel down for some sun-soaked snoozing on Seabright State Beach before grabbing a bite of fresh seafood on the Santa Cruz Wharf.

In town, unleash your inner critic at the Museum of Art & History, take a day trip up to stroll the stunning grounds of the UC Santa Cruz campus, and check out local live music venues to see what up-and-coming bands are providing the evening’s soundtrack.


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