The Santa Cruz lifestyle includes leisurely brunch dates with friends, forest hikes with the pup, and surf sessions at sunset. There are plenty of lazy afternoons spent at your neighborhood brewery, evenings at local music venues enjoying a live show, and First Fridays on the town exploring the local art scene. It takes years to peel back all the layers of this dynamic city, but there are a few key landmarks and activities that embody the laid- back Santa Cruz culture. It’s a culture that beckons you to slow down and unwind, live in the moment, and take the time to appreciate life’s small pleasures.
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The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
This beach front amusement park has elicited screams of glee from parents and kids alike since it first opened in 1924. Ride the historic Giant Dipper and plenty of other amusement rides.
Wilder Ranch State Park
Beach front trails and for long walks, picnics, or mountain biking can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
The place to learn about marine science through interactive exhibits, a shark touch pool, indoor tidepool, and docent-led tours that include one of the world’s largest blue whale skeletons.
Westside Farmers Market
On Saturday mornings, the Westside Farmers Market is buzzing with families, young professionals, and health-conscious college students.
Food & Drinks
Stagnaro Brothers Seafood Is found on the end of the Santa Cruz wharf. Providing classic seafood fare with a beautiful view.
Lillian’s Kitchen is a local favorite for excellent Italian food and wine.
The Buttery has the perfect cakes and treats to meet every occasion.
For those 21 and older, head over to the Westside to sample the region’s wine, beer, and spirits. The Swift Street Courtyard is home to no less than five tasting rooms, plus a couple more within walking distance. This wine hub also features tasty local eateries, a sustainable charcuterie and butcher shop, clothing boutique, and yoga studio. Not a wine fan? Don’t worry. There are two breweries and a tap room within a two block radius. For those who prefer the hard stuff, Venus Spirits is just down the street.
The walking and biking path along picturesque Westcliff Drive offers prime viewing of the surfers at Steamer Lane, a famous surfing destination. Men and women drop into head-high sets, zig-zagging their boards along the wave’s shimmering face towards the Santa Cruz Wharf and arguably the best beginner surf break. The break at Cowell’s stays small in the summer and offers long, gentle waves perfect for longboarding.
It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon exploring the shops along Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz. Peruse the bookshelves of Bookshop Santa Cruz, find locally-made clothing and accessories at Wallflower Boutique, and satisfy your sweet tooth at Buttercup Cakes or Penny Ice Creamery. For lunch, check out the Abbott Square Market with six food vendors and two bars. The bustling downtown square (with live music on the weekends and a variety of public events) is connected to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History which features both permanent and rotating exhibits.
Go for the day or an extended stay. This resort and spa sits on 300 wooded acres with breath taking views of the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains. This is the place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, settle into our wide open and quiet spaces, dogs are welcome too.