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Fun Things To Do In Santa Cruz,CA

by Pankaj Upreti
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Things To Do In Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is one of the more famous California destinations. A getaway for many tourists coming to the west end of the United States, Santa Cruz has a lot on offer for you and your family. Known for its sandy beaches and is the most sought after destination for a summer holiday. Primarily known for its beaches, Santa Cruz hides within itself so much more, that you can spend weeks on end here and find something new everyday.

Don’t just spend all your time at the beach and try to explore as much as you can, Santa Cruz Ca will not disappoint you! This article brings to you what we have found to be the best things to do here. Take a look and let us know your thoughts in the comments! Without further ado, let’s get on with our list of the best attractions and things to do in Santa Cruz in California.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

 Santa Cruz Ca is known for its famous beach boardwalk.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk | Photo Credit – Franco Folini

Starting with the essentials here, Santa Cruz Ca is known for its famous beach boardwalk. This seaside amusement park is free to enter and there is such so much you can do here. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is located ashore the Monterey Bay since 1907.

There are roller coaster rides here as well as rides for kids, families and adults. The vintage rides built over 50 years ago have not been replaced but are accompanied by modern attractions, and there is something here for every taste. This amusement park is world famous, and many people who visit Santa Cruz are bound to find themselves here.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has many things to do, boasting the best dining options, attractions and entertainment. There are arcades here filled to the brim with video games, air hockey, skee ball and more attractions. Not only this, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk also features laser tag, mini golf, and something called the Fright Walk under the Bridge where there is always Halloween.

There is such so much to do here at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk that you can easily spend an entire day and come back for seconds. Most people only find time to come here at the Santa Cruz Beach if they are on a one day trip to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Wharf

This place in Santa Cruz,CA is where sea lions come all year.
Santa Cruz Wharf | Photo Credit – Davidlohr Bueso

This Santa Cruz attraction is now used as a sightseeing point and fishing pier, but was earlier built for deep water vessels in 1914. Some of the major attractions here at the Santa Cruz Wharf are bird watching and sea lion viewing. This place is where sea lions come all year, making it a major attraction for tourists who can see these beings in their natural habitat.

The pier comes with a viewing point which makes it easier to catch these sea animals playing and shuffling around. What’s more, if you come here during the right time, you may even catch a glimpse of dolphins, otters and even whales. Be sure to make the best out of your visit to the Santa Cruz Wharf by renting some diving gear and exploring the ocean. You can kayak, surf, and swim in the ethereal waters of this place. Watersports are a major attraction for tourists visiting the Santa Cruz Wharf.

This place is known for its great seafood restaurants serving delicious fresh fishes and more. There are around 9 restaurants here and you can pick any one of them to enjoy a flavorful meal coupled with gorgeous views. While you are here, be sure to visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration center, a place with some interactive exhibits on safely and responsibly enjoying marine adventures. Check out the Biodiversity Kelp Forest, an Intertidal Touchpool and an Open Ocean mini theater. Do grab a souvenir from the gift shop before you go.

Natural Bridges State Beach

A great place for relaxing in Santa Cruz,CA.
Natural Bridges State Beach | Photo Credit – JKehoe_Photos

Home to tidal pools with some of the most exciting sea creatures, the Natural Bridges State Beach is a remarkable place of mudstone cliffs. A great place for relaxing, swimming and enjoying the birds that line the area, the Natural Bridges State Beach allows you glimpses of whales and birds from April to November. You can also find sea lions and otters here.

The Monarch Grove in the park is known to host a swarm of Monarch Butterflies in the winter months. Come here in November to enjoy these butterflies feeding on the eucalyptus trees that dot this location. There are many natural features here at the Natural Bridges State Beach like nature trails and tidal pools. You can take a guided tour to enjoy these features in their entirety or explore them on your own. Either way, fun is in, as the Californians say. Enjoy barbecue and great meals here and gather memories for a lifetime.

Dolphin And Whale Watching

 While you are visiting Santa Cruz, be sure to sign up for the fun of whale watching.
Dolphin And Whale Watching | Photo Credit – Teddy Llovet

Catching these sea mammals in their natural habitat is an attraction that is a staple here at Santa Cruz California. Sea life consisting of whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters and seals are abundant here and the city of Santa Cruz offers cruises and tours to catch these animals in their natural habitat. Starting April through November, migrating whales pass through here and some of them even stay the summer as the bay is rich in whale diet.

These are the months you will be able to catch these whales and dolphins while on tour. From Humpback Whales to Gray and Killer whales, you can picture them all in the Monterey Bay. What’s more, the nearby Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a place where you can learn all about these sea mammals and about the marine environment of the city. While you are visiting be sure to sign up for the fun of whale watching.

Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park | Photo Credit – Stanislav Sedov

The Wilder Ranch State Park is a breathtaking place filled with scenic views, hiking trails and more activities on offer. This state park lies north of Downtown and consists of around 34 miles of hiking nature trails. You can hike, bike and even ride horses here in this state park. The trails will take you around hills and valleys and beach locations that are one of the best in the world.

The State park also offers information about early ranches in the region. There are many historical reconstructions here such as the 1859 Gothic Revival Farmhouse and the 1897 Victorian home. The place offers guided tours for you to get the best of your trip. There is a lot to see and do here and a day spent at the Wilder Ranch State Park is certainly going to be one of the best things of your vacation. This state park is located at 1401 Coast Road in Santa Cruz California.

Santa Cruz Mission

One must visit this historic location at  Mission Hill state park and is located near Downtown Santa Cruz California.
Santa Cruz Mission | Photo Credit – Don DeBold

This historic location is part of the Mission Hill state park and is located near Downtown Santa Cruz California. Like many other missions in Ca, this mission was founded by Spanish missionaries and was the 12th mission in California. Earthquakes in California have been especially dangerous to missions, and the Santa Cruz mission was destroyed in 1857. A part of the building remains today and the rest of the area has been reconstructed in the 1930s in the reflection of the original.

While you visit the Santa Cruz Mission, you will find a replica of the 1797 church build in the scale of 1/3. There are many artifacts here at the Santa Cruz California Mission such as original paintings, crosses and white adobe constructions. Check out the painting of the Virgen de Guadalupe and enjoy the great wood beam ceiling and take in the minimalist grandeur of the church.

The Santa Cruz Mission Historic State Park also hosts exhibits about the Native Americans of America and features a Garden Project that takes care of native flora of Ca. The Santa Cruz Mission is located at 144 School Street, Santa Cruz, California.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Gray Whale Skelton | Photo Credit – Jay Galvin

By now you surely would have understood that a lot of the attractions to see and enjoy at Santa Cruz California are marine ones. Apart from the usual whales and dolphins tours you can take, you can come to the Seymour Marine Discovery Center.

Enjoy a huge and well maintained aquarium of filled with sharks, fishes, crabs, star fish and sea anemones. Not only are these the only things to do, but many of these exhibits are interactive and there are touch pools for you to enjoy. Great for families, visiting this Marine center is going to be a fun trip while at Santa Cruz.

The place Ro a discovery center that provides information about the conservationist efforts of UC Santa Cruz. Learn about seal behaviors and the myriads of ecosystems in the sea. Enjoy the shark exhibit and the invertebrate touch pool. Just outside the discovery center, there is something called Ms Blue, a 87 foot blue whale skeleton. There are research presentations here as well the Joseph M.  Long Laboratory that offers a behind the scenes tour.

West Cliff Drive

The West Cliff Drive is something of a crowning jewel of Santa Cruz.
West Cliff Drive | Photo Credit – ClatieK

The West Cliff Drive is something of a crowning jewel of Santa Cruz. Travelers to Santa Cruz California are bound to come to the West Cliff Drive, a six mile long pathway that is great for waking or biking. It runs along the ocean and from its almost flat path you can take in the natural beauty of the cliffs overlooking the pacific ocean.

The path is great for all people and all ages, it is even wheelchair accessible. There are many locations on the West Cliff Drive that boast extremely scenic views. And also there are benches for you to enjoy the views and you can overlook the deep blue waters of the Pacific. There are many surfers that you will catch a glimpse of as the Monterey Bay is really great for surfing. The West Cliff Drive also features a surfing museum in the Mark Abott Memorial Lighthouse. Be sure to come and enjoy the scenic pathway that is the West Cliff Drive on your next trip to Santa Cruz California.

Santa Cruz Ca Beaches

Santa Cruz Ca Beaches | Photo Credit – Nick Amoscato

This city is best known for its beaches. There are many great beach locations here and this section of this article will help you explore them. The sunny weather, coupled with the wavy ocean, beaches at Santa Cruz really have a way of staying with you and will certainly be the highlights of your this trip. The most popular beaches are the Main Beach and Cowell Beach.

These two locations are in close proximity to each other with the Main beach lying next to the boardwalk and the Cowell Beach located next to the Main beach. If you are into swimming, then Main Beach is the place for you. The beach is always packed with swimmers and sunbathers and is a great location for kids as well.

The sands are beautiful and the scenic views of the ocean surrounding Main beach are nothing short of extraordinary. Play volleyball with your other beach fellows and make some new friends. The Cowell beach is the place to be at if you are into surfing. Don’t worry about safety as the beaches in Santa Cruz are patrolled by on duty lifeguards. While there is much to see and do in Santa Cruz, beaches of the city are really the gemstone that tourists come here for. Certainly one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz.

Roaring Camp Railroad

Best place to visit in Santa Cruz,CA.
Roaring Camp Railroad | Photo Credit – Darold Massaro

There are two options to board while you find yourself at the Roaring Camp Railroad.  One is the Redwood Forest Steam Train and the other is the Santa Cruz Beach train. The Roaring Camp trains are a weekend affair during the fall and spring and run daily during the summer.

The Santa Cruz beach train takes you into the Santa Cruz mountains and through the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, ending at the boardwalk. There is a return trip which allows you to pay attention to the San Lorenzo River Gorge and an antique tunnel from 1875. The beauty of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park can be experienced once more in the return trip.

The Redwood Forest Steam Train takes you to the top of Bear Mountain and is an informative ride filled with fun and learning. You will get to see the history of the area and its activities in a fun filled ride. Find the Roaring Camp Railroad at 401 Graham Hill Road, Felton.

Mystery Spot

Mystery Spot | Photo Credit – Jonathan Haynes

This is one of those places about which when you read, you don’t really believe. So the next time you are at Santa Cruz, be sure to test out this legend for yourself. The mystery spot is a circular are with anomalies in the gravitational field. This spot is 46 meters in diameter and when you try to stand straight here, you appear tilted.

This phenomena is clearly one of the best things in Santa Cruz as it is still puzzling for scientists and yet it is a tourist location. The nearby forest is filled with beautiful redwood forests and you can enjoy a nature hike after you explore the mystery spot, making for a great and fun adventure. Check out their official site to know more about this attraction and find it at 465 Mystery Spot Road in Santa Cruz.

Downtown Santa Cruz

Downtown Santa Cruz | Photo Credit – Nick Amoscato

While there are a lot of things to do in Santa Cruz, like visiting the Henry Cowell park to the beaches and boardwalks, there is still something special about Downtown. The pleasant neighborhood is lined with restaurants, cafes and more shops of interest.

Many locations offer outdoor dining, meaning that you can enjoy delectable meals while taking in the scenic views of the streets of the city. There are many shopping centers at this place and you can find really great things for sale that are uniquely designed by locals. The city’s music scene is also located downtown and you can enjoy free performances during the summer.

What Can You Do For Free In Santa Cruz?

There are many free things you can do in Santa Cruz. This city is a major tourist attraction and it did not become one by having only those places you need to pay in order to be at. This section of this article will let you in on some of the free things you can do in this city in order to help you get the best out of your vacation:

  • Mystery Spot: This location has been dedicated a section above. We would like to mention it again as it is one of those places that you can visit for free. This gravity defying spot can keep you up at night as you will not believe the sights you will get to see here.
  • Boardwalk: Sightseeing at the boardwalk is free and it is the attraction that Santa Cruz is best known for.
  • Wharf: Same as the boardwalk, the wharf pier is free to go around and it is a place you certainly must not miss.
  • West Cliff Drive: This scenic path runs along the Pacific ocean and is the perfect place for an evening stroll. The terrain is extremely easy to hike and it is even wheelchair friendly. The pathway is a major scenic attraction and offers great views overlooking the ocean.

What Is Santa Cruz California Famous For?

The city is famous for its beaches, it great weather and welcoming people. The attractions in this city are never ending, unlike the minutes of your trip which will be ending soon enough with so much left too see. You know what that means, you need to come back to Santa Cruz as soon as you can. You will find that the city will have not changed at all as it waited for you and neither will it seem boring, as you will always find so much to do here.

We hope reading this article about the best things to do in Santa Cruz Ca has been informative and helpful to you. Use this article to plan your Santa Cruz vacation and enjoy the many fun things. The city has to offer to tourists like yourself. While you are here, be sure to practice all of the social distancing. And also take care of personal hygiene norms and guidelines strictly and be safe during your trip.

You will certainly make a hell of a lot of memories while you are here, enjoying the streets, parks and beaches of beautiful Santa Cruz. This city will welcome you and you will find people who will party with you till the sun goes down. This is certainly going to be a vacation that you are bound to remember so pack a bag, book the tickets and set off!

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