15 Best Things To Do in Santa Cruz
Be it relaxation, blood-pumping adventure, serene locations or just a casual outing with family and friends, the quintessential beach town in California- Santa Cruz has everything to offer to its visitors. The city is inclusive of over 14 state parks, museums, wineries and plenty of outdoor activities to choose from. If one is planning to visit the beach town and is in a dilemma of which and all attractions to visit and which can be missed then, this article is undoubtedly gonna give one a head start to 15 best things to do in Santa Cruz United States.
1. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Built in 1907, this west coast’s oldest seaside amusement park is one of the sought out places for classic fun. The admission-free park features some of the famous thrills like Giant Dipper roller coaster, national historic landmarks- a 1924 wooden roller coaster and 1911 Looff carousel, Ferris Wheel, and so on. Not to forget the special treats of corn dogs, chocolate coated ice-creams, cotton candy, and saltwater taffy. The level of fun manifolds in summer as one gets treated with free midweek movies and Friday Night Bands on the beach.
2. Santa Cruz Wharf
A stroll down the boardwalk will take one to the wharf where one can check out the resident population of ever active and barking sea lions. While there, one should not miss out admiring the scenic beauty of the ocean and might get a chance to get glimpses of the regular visitors of gray and humpback whales in spring and fall. Even if one doesn’t get a chance to see the most magnificent mammals, the sights of elephant seals and dolphins are no lesser delights. Additionally, one should definitely gorge on the exemplary fresh seafood meal offered by the excellent fish restaurants.
3. Santa Cruz Main Beach
Apart from the beach boardwalk and the historic Santa Cruz Wharf, the town is mainly about beautiful and tranquil beaches. The warm and sunny weather, clean sandy shores and safe waters make Santa Cruz as one of the most sought out beach destinations in Northern California. Visitors have a wide variety of beaches to visit, but the most popular ones are the twin beaches-Main Beach and the Cowell Beach. Main Beach lies adjacent to the Boardwalk, and the Cowell Beach which is on the other side of the Wharf and beside the Main Beach. While the Main Beach is a popular location for sunbathing, swimming and quality family time with kids, on the other hand, Cowell Beach is the playground for surfers and body boarders.
4. Mystery Spot
People who get intrigued by magic and mystery should essentially make a stop at Mystery Spot for some quirky fun. 1940 built mystifying location is situated three miles from the downtown Santa Cruz and is located in the Redwoods. Tourists are fascinated by some gravity-defying sights such as the balls rolling up the hills, objects seeming to be tilted even when standing straight and water which appears to flow upward. One can effortlessly spend 45 minutes of the goofy tour trying to debunk the mystery behind the gravitational anomalies. It is highly recommended to make reservations well in advance to save oneself from hours in the waiting queue.
5. Roaring Camp Railroad
Located 10-minutes’ drive away from Santa Cruz in Felton; Roaring Camp Railroad is a great place for kids and for adults to rekindle the child inside them. This tourist spot provides one with an excellent opportunity to relive the olden times riding one of the oldest narrow-gauge trains. Traveling in an old train through the Redwood forests to the Bear Mountain takes one in an hour and 15 minutes of the nostalgic ride. Alternatively, one can also choose to take the three-hour-out-and-back trip in the standard-gauge train which takes the passengers to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. After having a fun ride, one can also head to the adjacent Cowell State Park for a family picnic, fishing opportunities or hiking trails.
6. Sunset State Beach
Located to the south of Santa Cruz, Sunset State Beach is a hot location not only for camping but also for beachcombing. The beach which stretches down three miles and meets the mouth of Pajaro River provides visitors with a stunning shoreline. One will find a number of tourists occupied in the enjoyable activity of sand dollar hunting. If one is wondering what a sand dollar hunting is, then for them, sand dollars are the marine creatures that reside at the bottom of the ocean, but their exoskeletons are usually found on the beach and are used for different arts and crafts. The beach also offers excellent picnic area amidst the largest dunes found in the country.
7. West Cliff Drive
Recent travelers to Santa Cruz have highly recommended West Cliff Drive and have put it on the must-do checklist of the county. The 3-mile long scenic walking and biking paths along the Pacific Ocean provides one with some of the best panoramas of the beach town. Throughout the way, the tourists are treated with pristine vistas of the Ocean and occasionally spotting the talented surfers riding the waves at Steamer Lane. One can also catch the glimpses of whales and dolphins cresting the water. The pleasurable drive takes one to mesmerizing Natural Bridges State Park.
8. Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
While walking or riding on the West Cliff, one is recommended to make a stop at Santa Cruz Surfing Museum which is housed inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. A bronze surfer statue welcomes the visitors to the world’s surfing museum. The place exhibits a collection of surfing memorabilia including the vintage photos of surfers in 1930s.
9. Pleasure Point
Though there are many beaches around the globe, there are only a few places where one can enjoy the sports of surfing or boardsailing. As long as one can swim, one should definitely give these sports a try at one of the top sports destinations in the world. Cowell’s Beach and East Cliff at the Pleasure Point are one of the best spots for the beginners. Even if one does not wish like conquering the rising high tides yet, one can still relax at the seaside restaurants and cafes and admire the surfers honing their talent.
10. Natural Bridges State Beach
If one wants to spend a calm and relaxing evening admiring the ocean and watching the sun go down beyond the sea horizons, then he should head to the Natural Bridges State Beach. The beach is home to sea stars, crabs, and sea anemones which are found along the shoreline and sometimes one can find otters and seals playing just offshore.
The remarkable sea arch which is the major attraction of this location was formed from the fractures in mudstone cliffs. One can easily find tourists pulling out their chairs and bird watching or butterfly spotting at the Monarch Grove.
11. Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Located a little more than a mile towards the west of Natural Bridges State Park, Seymour Marine Discovery Center is a kid’s educational facility. After reaching the center, one gets welcomed by the majestic skeletons of world’s largest blue-whale and gray whale. Part of UCSC’s Long Marine Laboratory it is a natural science indoor and outdoor museum consists of tidal touch pools with sharks and aquariums housing jellyfish and rockfish.
12. Rio Theatre
A visit to the Santa Cruz without catching a show or two at the landmark Rio Theatre sounds little incomplete. The theatre which opened several decades ago on 12 June 1949 first featured “Song of India” and “Law of the Barbary Coast” on its curved cyclorama screen. It is one of the most prominent performance venues of the nation hosting concerts, comedy shows, and film festivals.
13. Big Basin Redwood State Park
Driving 20-mile from downtown Santa Cruz, one lands in the oldest state park in California, Big Basin Redwood State Park situated in the Boulder Creek. The park has been attracting the visitors obviously with lush greenery but mainly with ancient coast redwoods, some of which are 2,500 years old! It is truly amazing to walk amidst some 300 and 500 feet long trees whose tops we can never see. The park is also a home to many magnificent waterfalls. One can hike the Waterfall Loop to see a series of three dramatic falls of which Berry Creek falls is tourist favorite.
14. Garden of Eden
Want to cool off on a hot summer afternoon? Then head off to the Garden of Eden a natural swimming hole and a true hidden gem in the redwoods between Felton and Santa Cruz. The route to this place is not exactly easy and convenient as one has to hike about a mile but the trek is worth every second as one can enjoy the trail till the pool and can also indulge in some refreshing deep river swimming.
15. Ano Nuevo State Park
Less than 30-minutes’ drive from the Santa Cruz takes one to the Ano Nuevo State Park. Marine creature lovers should definitely visit this place especially during the winter season which is the mating time of enormous elephant seals. The guided walks led by volunteer naturalists will take one to see the massive creatures in residing in their natural habitat inside the Natural Preserve.