Santa Cruz, CA is located on CA Highway 1 about 75 miles south of San Francisco. Santa Cruz sits right next to the Pacific Ocean and enjoys moderate temperatures all year. The busy tourist season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day with the 4th of July being particularly busy. The Pacific coast in and around Santa Cruz offers up some of the best surf spots for beginners and experts alike. Mavericks stands out as a favorite surfing venue and hosts an annual surfing competition. In May Santa Cruz hosts the Art, Wine and Jazz Festival. The festival features local and national artists, international wine makers, and plenty of local musical talent along with jazz headliners.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
The boardwalk at Santa Cruz is a delight for children and grownups. The boardwalk, where Beach Street and Cliff Street intersect, has an arcade and amusement park that remind the visitor of the heydays of beachside entertainment. The amusement park rides range from a kid friendly carousel to the exhilarating Giant Dipper roller coaster. Numerous shops along the boardwalk offer everything from homemade candy to swimsuits. Neptune’s Kingdom dominates the west end of the boardwalk. The facility here was once a natatorium but now serves as exciting entertainment venue. The indoor miniature golf course is a family-friendly break from the shops on the boardwalk. Don’t miss out on a deep-fried Twinkie during your visit to the boardwalk.
Big Trees and Pacific Railroad
The Big Trees and Pacific Railroad operates from the Santa Cruz boardwalk and takes passengers on round trips from the beach through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to Roaring Springs Camp in Felton, CA. The round trips takes about 3 ½ hours. Passengers can ride in either open air cars or enclosed cars. The open air cars can be a little cool and if it is raining passengers will not have a roof to keep the rain off.
Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and Beach
The Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf is located at south end of West Cliff Drive, let the sound of barking seals guide you to the easy to find wharf. Seals enjoy resting on the substructure of the wharf. There are a few access points along the wharf to get under the wharf and get some great pictures of the noisy seals. It is not unusual to see people fishing from the end of the wharf. These fishermen are often encircled with seagulls looking for a handout. Among the gift shops on the wharf is a very cool kite shop called Pacific Coast Kites. Kite flying on the beach can be a blast. There are a number of restaurants on the wharf but my absolute favorite is Stagnaro Brothers Seafood. The seafood lasagna at Stagnaro Brothers makes a fantastic lunch after a day on the beach. The boardwalk and the municipal wharf enclose a beautiful beach with soft, warm sand. Swimming at this beach is good but sand castle building is much better.
Museums in Santa Cruz
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is the only surfing museum that I know of that is in an old lighthouse. The museum can be found at 701 West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. The museum houses photos and artifacts related to the history of surfing. The museum is open from noon until 4:00 p.m. from Thursday to Monday. Call (831) 420-6289 for information. The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center is located at 705 Front Street in Santa Cruz. The exhibits at the museum highlight the history of Santa Cruz County and work from local artists. Santa Cruz County is home to a number of other interesting museums.
Santa Cruz and its surroundings offer fantastic ocean views, beach access, and plenty of activities for adventurous families. Like most of the Pacific Coast the beach at Santa Cruz can be cool and rainy anytime of the year. Carrying a raincoat or a light jacket is always a good idea.