Best Things To Do in Santa Cruz, California

Are you looking for what to do in Santa Cruz?

From beautiful coastlines to redwoods to historic attractions, you have it all in Santa Cruz. Head to the best seaside amusement park of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk overlooking the endless waters of Monterey bay. Get a gorgeously tanned skin at the shores of the Main and the Cowell beach. Question the laws of physics in the most surprising site of Mystery Spot that has been attracting a huge number of visitors all year around. Relax at the iconic natural beauty of Natural Bridges State Beach, filled with wildflowers and monarch butterflies. Go hiking and horseback riding in the California state park of Wilder Ranch State Park that offers some of the scenic views of the bay. Explore the historic Santa Cruz Surfing Museum that carries various surfing documentaries of the United States. Camp amidst the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park that is peaceful while offering the chance to go on a leisurely stroll. Spend quality time with your family at the Santa Cruz Wharf that offers plenty of activities like fishing, sea lion watching, boating, and dining. Scream at the top of your lungs at the wooden rollercoaster of Giant Dipper in the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park. Soak yourself in the informative tour of Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art and History. Bring out the child in you by riding on the steam train of Roaring Camp Railroad and end your day by visiting the lovely Mission Santa Cruz. Spend at least a minimum of 2 days to get the best of the city.

Below we have a list of things to do in Santa Cruz and the places where you want to spend the best moments of your trip. At the same time, the city offers you the best neighborhoods to explore and new foods to try.

This list should help you in deciding and prioritizing what you should plan on your Santa Cruz getaway. Find a mix of must-see tourist spots, underrated local hangouts, and maybe even a few new experiences you can try out.

Make the most of your trip to Santa Cruz with confidence.

Tourist Attractions in Santa Cruz

Here is the list of things to do in Santa Cruz and tourist attractions in city.

  1. Santa Cruz Wharf

    4.6 (423 Votes)
    Santa Cruz Wharf

    Restaurant, Winery, Market

    Located between Main beach and Cowell’s beach, the Santa Cruz Wharf is a behemoth of a structure that goes deep into the sea. Sprawling a length of 836 meters, the wharf is the longest on the whole of West Coast. Apart from giving an astounding view of the Pacific waters, the wharf is also home to a number of restaurants, wine tasting rooms, gift shops, small markets and candy shops. A fu...Read more
  2. Mystery Spot

    4.4 (315 Votes)
    Mystery Spot
    The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz is one of those rare sites where one can themselves visit and check out the apparent anomalies in the laws of nature. Both gravity and basic physics seem not to function over here. Mysticism aside, the Mystery Spot is actually a tilt-stimulated optical illusion, where the peculiar tilt of the floor helps in disorienting the visitor, making their perception of heig...Read more
  3. Main Beach

    4.5 (158 Votes)
    Main Beach

    Beach, Walking Area, Water Sport, Boating

    One of the major highlights of Santa Cruz, Main Beach is the most visited beach of the city, owing to the close proximity of several wonderful attractions like the Beach Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Wharf. A number of people can be seen here indulging in water activities like beach volleyball, swimming, boating, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing. Though it is busy on weekdays too, f...Read more
  4. UCSC Arboretum

    4.7 (164 Votes)
    UCSC Arboretum
    Though the UCSC grounds are already beautiful beyond doubt, the Arboretum is one of the prime gems of the University and also the city. A number of rare and endangered plant species are present in the arboretum, but aren’t there just for beautification. These plants and flowers are of high scientific interest and include a few from countries like New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. I...Read more
  5. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center


    Opened as a modern and futuristic visitor center, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center features a number of wonderfully engaging audio/video exhibits that provide an interactive and educational interface to its visitors. The new building was opened in 2012, very close to the ocean, right next to the Municipal Wharf. If you want to learn extensively about the marine worl...Read more
  6. Santa Cruz Harbor Beach

    4.6 (204 Votes)
    Santa Cruz Harbor Beach

    Beach, Walking Area, Restaurant, Court

    Wedged between Twin Lakes State beach and Santa Cruz Harbor, lies the very busy Santa Cruz Harbor Beach. The beach is always full of visitors looking to have a great time in the sun outside, lazing on the beach with a cocktail in hand or simply working on their tan. The beach with its many restaurants, shops, shacks and golden sand definitely does not disappoint in this aspect. A number of voll...Read more
  7. The Nickelodeon

    4.7 (135 Votes)
    The Nickelodeon

    Entertainment, Stage Show, Theatre, Cinema

    The Nickelodeon Theatre is a small but significant theater in Santa Cruz which has always showcased a number of foreign and indie films throughout its short but illustrious history. The feature that attracts a lot of people to the theatre is that a number of great snacks are offered here, so yummy that almost all visitors swear by the taste! Try and catch a movie show during your stay in Santa ...Read more
  8. Surfing Sculpture

    4.7 (39 Votes)
    Surfing Sculpture

    Beach, Walking Area, Monument, Sculpture

    Being a prime surfing city, it is quite expected to find a monument dedicated in Santa Cruz to the city’s favorite water sport and pastime. Just like the plaque states “This monument is dedicated to all surfers - past, present, and future”, the monument pays tribute to all the legends of this adrenaline rushing sport that gives viewers countless highlights to remember and cher...Read more
  9. Pleasure Point Beach

    Beach, Walking Area, Dine In, Leisure

    The dog friendly Pleasure Point beach is located in Santa Cruz’s Live Oak area. Though the beach is not very popular for its shoreline or scenic beauty, the real reason that attracts large numbers of people here are the excellent surfing spots with strong waves flowing. It is a favorite hotspot for experienced surfers, and usually a large number of people turn up to watch them in action. ...Read more
  10. Pacific Garden Mall

    3.4 (1 Vote)
    Pacific Garden Mall

    Restaurant, Mall, Shopping Center

    The Pacific Garden Mall is one of the busiest blocks of the city of Santa Cruz, resplendent with a number of shops, restaurants and bakeries. It is very popular amongst shoppers and visitors to Santa Cruz because of the excellent deals one might strike at the various retail outlets on this avenue. Quite often a number of street performers can also be spotted showing of their skills and entertai...Read more
  11. Storrs Winery

    Food And Drinks, Winery, Adults

    The Storrs Winery is reputed in Sancta Cruz for its wonderful collection of red and white wines, the likes of which can easily be compared to some great European blends. The Storrs family has also gained considerable reputation owing to some of the magnificent creations they have been able to produce and replicate for the masses, especially the visitors to Santa Cruz. On a visit to Storrs Winer...Read more
  12. Beauregard Vineyard Tasting Room And Winery

    Food And Drinks, Winery, Entertainment, Performance

    The Tasting Room of Beauregard Vineyard helps in bringing the excellent, savory taste of their wine to the masses in Santa Cruz city. Though a lot of events like wine festivals and live band performances keep on happening here, the tasting room is always great for a visit, courtesy its collection of excellent tasting wines. The Beauregard family is well reputed for creating some great wines, an...Read more
  13. Moore Creek Wildlife Preserve

    Outdoors, Trail, Wildlife Sanctuary , Nature

    The Moore Creek Preserve is a 246 acre restricted area in Santa Cruz which is almost exclusively open to the public for hiking purposes. These trails are also allowed to be explored only on foot. Use of bicycle on these trails is also prohibited. The reason for such strict rules is the rare and endangered plant and animal species that are housed in this preserve like the San Francisco popcorn f...Read more
  14. Santa Cruz Children's Museum Of Discovery

    Science Museum, Children Museum

    Conceptualized in 2012, the Children’s Museum of Discovery in Santa Cruz is a mixture of education, discovery and enrichment, all under a single roof. Children are welcome to explore the whole museum as they wish, inquire about whatever intrigues them and question to their heart’s desire. This results in kids learning things while they enjoy doing it, which further increases the lev...Read more
  15. New Bohemia Brewing Co.

    Food And Drinks, Brewery, Pubs, Entertainment

    The New Bohemia Brewing Co. is one of the best places in Santa Cruz to head to if you are in the mood for a few pints of some of the best tasting beer in the state. The specialty of New Bohemia Brewing Co. is its European-style crafted lagers and beers. A few are signature beers of the pub while others are seasonal. Some of the most popular beers available here are the Velvet Revolution, Nubo P...Read more