5 Ways to Spend New Year’s Eve in Santa Cruz

By Neal Kearney

There are so many ways to ring in the New Year. From house parties to bar hopping, most everyone wants to be doing something fun and spontaneous on December 31st. If you happen to be in Santa Cruz, you’re in luck, as there’s an array of awesome adventures to partake in. Here are five great ways to welcome the New Year in Santa Cruz. Disclaimer-these suggestions do not ensure a New Year’s smooch, that’s up to you! Go for it!

1) Party Like It’s 1987: Chaminade Resort and Spa’s “1980’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” Party

chaminade-resort-and-spa

The Chaminade Resort & Spa is well known, luxury, mountaintop retreat in Santa Cruz. The Mission-style resort offers breathtaking views of both the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains. Primarily a destination for executive meetings and wedding and birthday celebrations, it’s also a great place to just treat yourself to some heavenly rest and relaxation.

One of the Chaminade’s biggest events of the year, the “1980’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” party is a pretty exclusive ticket. Starting at 7PM, guests will be served appetizers and have access to a complete NYE package of beer, champagne, wine, and some select NYE cocktails. Attendees will experience a themed, strolling dinner experience, which lasts from 8pm to 10pm. After that you are free to partake in some rug cutting while the DJ plays your favorite 1980’s tunes, before a champagne filled countdown to 2017, complete with balloon drop. If you’re the type of person who wants to avoid the chaos downtown and have a taste for exclusive events, this party is one you won’t want to miss.

2) Crow’s Nest – Extra Large

crows-nest

The upstairs, bar/patio area of the Crow’s Nest restaurant, located in the Santa Cruz Harbor, is always a safe bet for a killer New Year’s Eve party. You can enjoy the fully stocked bar, which is sure to wet your whistle all night long. If you plan to eat before the party really gets going it would be a good idea to take a gander at their delicious appetizer menu, which contains fan favorites like fresh calamari and their mountainous Nacho plate. If you’re really hungry go for a Crow’s Nest Burger—they’re awesome and come with fries to die for.

crows-nest-calamariAt this end of the year celebration, come early, because things tend to fill up quickly. Being in such close quarters is unique as it makes everybody interact and laugh it up with friends, old and new. Local funk/feel good band Extra Large, who’ve been voted “Best Local Band in Santa Cruz County” nine times running. They play a mixture of funk, Latin, reggae and classic rock tunes that are sure to get the dancefloor hot and heated. Starting at 9:30, NYE at the Nest is a warm, safe place to party and boogie down with good people. The $15 cover charge is well worth it.

For more, see http://www.santacruz.org/upcoming-events/event-detail-page/eventgid/8989#sthash.ObYvtul8.dpuf

3) ”Griswoldia” – Light Up Your NYE

If crowds and raucous festivities aren’t your cup of New Year’s tea, there’s a more tranquil and thought provoking option that’s great for a casual date or some peaceful reflection at the climax of this holiday season. I’m talking about “Griswoldia”, a public art project at the Tannery Arts Center; a housing and studio space for artists and rehearsal and performance space for art organizations.

griswoldia

Instead of art being showcased inside the Tannery, this entire December, “Griswoldia” (named after Clark Griswold [Chevy Chase], who hung 25,000 Christmas lights outside his home in 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) will bathe the outside of two apartment buildings (better known as the “silos”) with LED lights and lasers. Installed by local sculptor Geoffery Nelson, and funded and sponsored by the Arts Council of Santa Cruz, the two giant “silos” will serve as a mammoth canvas of sorts.

Nelson will hang thousands of blue LED (light emitting diodes) on strings to achieve the appearance of a cascading waterfall. At the same time, mounted lasers will shoot back onto the face of the buildings and sidewalk below. The lightshow will run all of December, but will remain on until 9PM on New Year’s Eve. If you have a young family or a gap in your schedule of festivities, this is an end of the year memory that will burn itself into your memory.

4) Civil Disobedience – Last Night DIY Parade

last-night-diy2

Santa Cruz has long been known as a liberal haven, artist enclave, surf city, and home for those who inhabit the fringes of “acceptable” society. Haven’t you ever seen those, “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” bumper stickers? Embracing your oddball or inner geek just scratches the surface. There’s been a long tradition of peaceful protest and unsanctioned and spontaneous Do-It-Yourself events here (think of the yearly takeover/costumed parade downtown every Halloween). New Year’s Eve is no different.

last-night-diy

Since its inception back in 2005, the Last Night DIY (Do it Yourself) Parade & Street Party has been marching along Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz without city permits or other bureaucratic red tape. This de-centralized Halloween celebration includes a parade of performers: Stilt walkers, circus acts, puppet shows, musicians, and revelers dressed in their most elaborate Halloween outfits.

The parade starts at sunset around 5 PM near the Saturn Cafe parking lot, Pacific Avenue and Spruce Street in Santa Cruz. Parade takes off around 5:30 pm and ends in a street party at Pacific Avenue and Cooper Street. Remember, this is civil disobedience, so act civil; don’t show up wasted and/or disruptive.

5) Downtown Clock Tower Countdown

clock-tower-countdown

Last, but not least, we have the Clock Tower New Year’s countdown. Downtown Santa Cruz has to be the most beloved locations for locals and visitors alike to bring in the New Year. A fan favorite approach to a successful New Year’s downtown excursion is to enjoy the warmth and comfort of one of the many restaurants-places like Assembly, or El Palomar– for some fine dining and drinks.

From there you and your crew will want to bar hop your way down Pacific Avenue-try popular spots like Motiv, Rosie McCann’s, and the Red Room-inching towards your final destination, the downtown clock tower. Every year, the masses congregate around the tower in the minutes leading up to the new year, and every year, the city does something awesome when the clock strikes midnight–from fireworks to laser shows. The crowd always erupts in merriment and New Year’s hugs and smooches are distributed; a feel-good, traditional and communal celebration if there ever was one.

5 Things to Do in Santa Cruz for College Students

By Neal Kearney

Santa Cruz isn’t exactly the biggest city in Central California, but it’s still home to thousands of college students, thanks to our local community college, Cabrillo College, and the “City On A Hill”, UCSC. Between the two of these learning institutions, there are tens of thousands of college students living in Santa Cruz at this very moment. Every September, scores of undergraduate and postgraduate students settle in for the long year ahead. College is hard work, and both these schools aren’t a walk in the park, despite Santa Cruz’s laid back reputation.

With so much hard work being done, it’s only natural that these scholars need an outlet to spare them from the overwhelming stress of their coursework. Here are five activities suited for local college kids looking for an escape from the tortuous tedium of testing and the mind numbing memorization.

1) Surf City Billiards

Surf City Billiards

With hard work, one must find balance through play. I know that final was hard, but relax man, I know the best place to blow off some steam. Surf City Billiards in downtown Santa Cruz is the perfect place for a crew of young men and women to grab a bite, have a beer, and challenge each other to a number of game like billiards, darts, ping pong, fusbol, and shuffleboard.

The place is clean, roomy, and there are plenty of tables (15) and dart boards (4), to accommodate big groups.  Another bonus are the flat screen TV’s you can use to tune into your favorite sports games. The food is delicious and very fairly priced. My favorites are the sweet potato fries and smoked, pulled pork sliders.

And the drinks! Well, Kelly, the bartender is famous for his killer drinks and eternal good cheer. If you’re over twenty-one, he’ll make you one of the meanest Moscow Mules you’ll ever get the opportunity to get your lips on. All in all, a fun, lively place, perfect for friends to come together, especially big groups.

2) Petroglyph

Sometimes, when the stress and pressure of life as a full time student can threaten to scramble one’s brains, it might be a good time to do something meditative. There are many ways to meditate. Some sit. Some walk. Some chant. Other create! Petroglyph, located in downtown Santa Cruz, is a quirky yet calm space for anyone from pro’s to average Joe’s to appease their artistic side.

Petroglyph, Santa CruzTo start, you choose a ceramic piece from an extensive array of ceramic pieces. From your standard plates, bowls, and mugs, to intricate figurines, like a menacing dragon or enchanted fairy castle, there are tons of figurines to choose from. From there it’s to the paint kiosk where you choose the colors needed for your particular project. There’s a huge variety of tools and brushes, and eighty different colors to suit your need.

From there it’s time to get in the zone and paint your piece in any way you see fit. When you feel you’ve perfected your masterpiece, you can hand off your work to the on-site team who will glaze it, fire it, cool it, and have it ready for you to show off to your parents on Christmas in two-to three days. This is a great place to take a date or have a group get-together with your colleagues, as playful conversation and moments of focused silence are a welcome change from ninety minute lectures about Sir Frances Drake

Petroglyph Ceramic Lounge

125 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Hours: 10AM – 8PM

http://www.petroglyph.com/

3) Boardwalk Bowl

Broadwalk Bowl, Santa CruzYou’re up. There a palpable hush in the air as you pick up your sparkling weapon of choice. You stride up the lane with the confidence of someone who’s just completed a 200 mile marathon with two babies strapped to their back. You set your target, take those all important strides to the line then…wooosh! The bowling balls leaves your fingers with grace and lands smack dab in the middle of the lane, a guaranteed strike– you’re sure of it.

Slowly, yet surely, your ball starts to veer towards the left and you crumple with defeat as you hear the “clank” of yet another gutter ball. Your friends heckle you for what seems like an hour, yet you can live with another gutter ball: knowing well that you will one day bowl that destined strike. That’s what makes the Boardwalk Bowl, located on Cliff Street, right across from Neptune’s Kingdom so much fun: you can get both competitive and silly with a big group of friends.

Broadwalk Bowl, Santa Cruz

Located only just five miles from UCSC, the Boardwalk Bowl has everything a college kid could want; fun games, tasty fast food, and, for those over 21, pitchers of beer. To sweeten the deal there is a karaoke bar where on you and your friends can live out your dreams of being Justin Beiber or Freddie Mercury. Just pray no one is filming.

4) The Catalyst Club

The Catalyst Club

The Catalyst Club, in downtown Santa Cruz, is undoubtedly the gold standard for showcasing both local and international talent at their venue. It seems like every other week there’s some legendary band or artist performing there. From techno to reggae, thrash metal to indie progressive rock, the Catalyst hosts a myriad of different musicians; a perfect platform for college students looking to cut loose and scream till their voices go out.

There are two different rooms within the Catalyst: the smaller, more intimate setting of the Atrium, and the main floor. In the Atrium, considering its size, you are privy to an extremely intimate experience, literally inches away from the musicians. The main floor is standing room only, and spacious enough for a large mass of people dance their brains out.

The Catalyst Club

There’s also a bar, pool tables, and who can forget Rockers Pizza Kitchen, the small hole-in-the-wall pizza joint connected to the club that serves cheap, yet delicious pizza by the slice—perfect to grab after burning all those calories in the mosh pit. Although doors open an hour before the show starts, there tend to be very long lines, so it’s a good idea to arrive there as early as you can. A Santa Cruz staple, the Catalyst should be experienced by every college student, as it offers an unbelievable chance at getting up and close with their favorite musicians.

www.catalystclub.com

5) The Crepe Place

The Crepe Place, Santa Cruz

About five miles down the hill from UCSC, is a famous little restaurant called the Crepe Place. Since 1973, they’ve been serving delicious crepes of all types and flavors to the Santa Cruz Community, especially famished students. What is a crepe, you ask? Well, it’s a thin type of pancake made famous by the French, usually made with either wheat or buckwheat.

The Crepe Place, Santa Cruz

They can be served for brunch, drizzled with syrup, and laden with fresh fruits. Another favorite is the “Crepe Gatsby” for dinner, comprised of Sautéed Chicken Breast, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Spinach, Feta & Mozzarella Cheeses, Fresh Mushrooms, Scallions, and Tomatoes & Garlic. Sprinkled with Romano Cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? These are just a couple options on the extensive menu.

Along with being a cozy and pleasant place to grab some food and chat, they also host a plethora of musicians and performers on both their main stage and the newly constructed, large outside patio/stage. Almost every night of the week, The Crepe Place hosts these entertainers, from jazz to comedy, hard rock to spoken word. These shows are very popular with the college crowd and for good reason! With such eclectic mix of artists, there’s always something new and different to experience. A hip, trendy spot, especially for UCSC students looking for some artsy ambiance and delicious food.

Things to Do in Santa Cruz on a Rainy Day

Rainy days can be a bore, but when you are in Santa Cruz, there are plenty of things you can do to make things more exciting. Santa Cruz is known for its near-perfect climate, beautiful coastline and redwood forests. Santa Cruz is the largest city of Santa Cruz County and has many attractions to explore.

rainy2

Just because it is raining in Santa Cruz does not mean that your day is ruined. If you are vacationing in Santa Cruz, and it is raining, you will be happy to know there are plenty of indoor activities to take advantage of. Even though walking on the boardwalk or surfing might be out of the question, there is still no reason why you and the family cannot have a ball.

 

Places to Take Your Children

museum-discoverySanta Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery

This attraction is a great place to take your kids to burn off some energy. Here, your little discoverers can check out interactive exhibits with hands-on activities. Parents can also join in the fun and explore the beauty of Santa Cruz County through agriculture, ocean and forest themed areas.

Pacific Edge Climbing Gym

This is a popular attraction on the east side of Santa Cruz. Not only is this place fun, but it is also the tallest indoor climbing gym on the west coast. If you do not know much about climbing, they offer training and personal assistance. This place offers hours of fun for climbers of all skill levels.

Petroglyph Ceramic Lounge

Use the rainy day to get creative and make a mug, bowl or vase. All you need to do to have fun here is bring your imagination and they will provide the tools. The environment is very comfortable so you can feel at ease while you create your personal masterpiece.

Things to Do in Santa Cruz for Adults

There are many fun places for adults to go in Santa Cruz. Every year, thousands of people come from all over the globe to take advantage of the weather and attractions. The City of Santa Cruz has a moderate climate and is known for its natural beauty. It is famous for its boardwalk and is also known for being home to the University of California.

university-calif

Santa Cruz is a hotspot for vacationers. So you might be battling for the perfect spot on the beach, but there is always plenty more to take advantage of in this town. Sunup or Sundown, you can guarantee there is no shortage of fun activities to take advantage of.

 

Is it Expensive to Visit Santa Cruz?

There are plenty of things to do in Santa Cruz for little to no money at all. There are a number of museums and national parks that do not charge a fee to enter including Wilder Ranch State Park and Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Surfing is also another popular activity to take advantage of in Santa Cruz that does not cost any money at all.

 

Take Advantage of the Nightlife

Santa Cruz is a great place for adults to gather and socialize. When the sun goes down you can guarantee the streets are pulsing with activity. Check out popular bars and clubs including, Motiv and The Redroom.

 

Places to Eat

  • Mediterranean Grill & Go
  • Castagnola Deli & Café
  • Lillian’s Italian Kitchen
  • Linda’s Seabreeze Café
  • Laili Restaurant

 

Most Popular Beaches to Visit

When it comes to beaches, you can rest assured that there is no shortage in Santa Cruz County. Even if you are not a fan of surfing or swimming, you can catch some rays on the sandy beaches of West Cliff Drive. If you are looking for a dog friendly park, consider Seabright Beach. Other popular beaches include, Natural Bridges State Beach, Twin Lakes State Beach and Pleasure Point.

Things to Do in Santa Cruz Downtown

Downtown Santa Cruz has plenty of fun things to do for the entire family. Every year, thousands of people pour into Santa Cruz to take advantage of the beautiful weather and attractions. One famous landmark you should definitely check out is the Santa Cruz Harbor Walton Lighthouse. If you roll into Santa Cruz with an appetite, have a bite to eat at the Windmill Café.

windmill-cafe

Surfing is another popular activity to take part in when visiting Santa Cruz. If you have never surfed before, a great time to learn would be in Santa Cruz. Instructors make lessons available to beginners for affordable prices.

 

National Parks to Visit

  • big-basinBig Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Castle Rock State Park
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
  • Natural Bridges State Park
  • Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

 

 

Spending Time in Santa Cruz Is Affordable

Recently, Santa Cruz County has made some changes which make spending time there more affordable. There are many free activities that will not cost a penny. If you are vacationing on a budget, Santa Cruz is the perfect place for you.

One thing you should definitely not pass up is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This attraction is admission free and is commonly referred to as the world’s best seaside amusement park. During the summer, free concerts are held as well as other free, fun events.

 

Places to Eat

One popular place to go grab a bite to eat would be the Mediterranean Grill and Go. This restaurant is well-known because of its authenticity and low prices. If that does not sound appetizing, you can always try the Harbor Café.

Other popular restaurants include Shadowbrook, Lillian’s Italian Kitchen and Café Brasil. Santa Cruz has a lot of dining options to choose from, so choose wisely if you will not be in town for long. Food can be a big expense, but luckily when you are in Santa Cruz, you can dine out for much lower prices than you would expect.

 

 

 

 

 

Things to Do in Santa Cruz during Winter

If you will be visiting Santa Cruz during the winter, do not fret, Santa Cruz offers plenty of fun things for vacationers to take advantage of throughout the fall and winter months. Santa Cruz is a great place to spend a vacation during the winter months because of its mild climate and fewer crowds. One other nice thing about spending time in Santa Cruz during the winter is that hotel rates drop drastically.

sc-mountain-brewing

 

Places to Socialize and Have a Drink

  • Motiv
  • We Olive & Wine Bar
  • Pour Taproom
  • Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
  • Brady’s Yacht Club
  • Surf City Billiards Bar & CAFÉ
  • Poet &patriot Irish Pub
  • Callahan’s

 

Places to Go With the Family

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

This attraction is great for children and adults. You can observe how marine scientists work and even touch a shark. The Seymour Marine Discovery Center sets itself apart from other aquariums because it takes you behind the scenes of scientific research in our oceans. The exhibits are fascinating as well as hands on.

Roaring Camp Railroads

There are many other reasons to check out Roaring Camp Railroads, but the train ride to the top of Bear Mountain is one of many. Here, you can also watch a blacksmith forge tools, see a printing press in action and even see Thomas the Tank Engine. The main attractions at Roaring Camp Railroads are the trains.

Observe Monarch Butterflies

Make a trip to see the monarch butterflies migrate to Natural Bridges State Beach. Not only is it a beautiful sight to see, but there is no admission. Even if butterflies are not your thing, this is still a beautiful sight to behold. Typically, the best time to witness this is during November. 

5 Romantic Things to Do in Santa Cruz

By Neal Kearney

lighthouse-2

Whether you are in the midst of a budding romance or trying to reignite that long dormant spark with your significant other, Santa Cruz, California, is a great place for couples. It’s got everything: unbounded natural beauty, a quirky and creative community, as well as an amazing food, art, and live music scene. There are so many romantic activities to share with your partner here, choosing them can be a daunting task, especially if you are only on a weekend getaway. Here are five charming examples of the many ways in which to woo your significant other while in Santa Cruz.

Surfing

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Santa Cruz is also known by the moniker, “Surf City, USA”. Our County’s 29 mile long coastline is home to some of California’s most iconic surf breaks, as well as venues suitable for beginners and first timers. Surfing is an activity that can make you feel truly alive. It’s a great workout, you get to mingle with ocean dwelling critters like dolphins and sea otters, and there’s nothing like the rush of speeding down a rolling breaker. If you and your significant other already surf, perfect! Stop by one of the local surf shops like Freeline Design, run by the Mel family, including Peter, who’s a bit of a local hero for his courageous big wave surfing and professional surf commentating gig. If you need gear, as they will rent out wetsuits as well as surfboards, long and short.

Stopping by a local surf shop like Freeline is also a great chance to gather some intel about the best places to surf according to your skill level, browse some surf related merchandise, and make a new friend or two. If going at it alone sounds daunting, don’t worry, there are a number of surf schools in the area with professional instructors who will make your experience safe and enjoyable. A surf date like this is great for bonding. Surfing is an extremely challenging sport, and if anything can bring two people closer, it’s watching your partner take an awkward wipeout, only to resurface with an ear to ear smile. Don’t forget the salty kisses.

www.santacruzsurfschool.com

www.richardschmidtsurfschool.com

www.freelinesurf.com

Spa/Massage Date

well-within-2

 A little cold and sore from that epic surf session? What could be better than a relaxing, private hot tub/sauna/tea date, followed by a yummy massage?  Well Within Spa, is a hidden gem of sorts. Since 1985, this small piece of heaven has remained tucked discretely in the middle of downtown Santa Cruz. Each room overlooks a traditional Japanese garden with a koi pond and hypnotically trickling waterfall.

The tubs are complete with relaxing jets along with a Cedar lined sauna on hand to warm your bones. With soothing music playing in the background, herbal tea for two, as well as a shower with towels, shampoo, conditioner, and body gel, it’s hard not to feel pampered during your visit. This spa experience is perfect for weary travelers; or anyone who enjoys soaking in warm swirling water, while sipping tea with their partner in an enclosed sanctuary where the sound of trickling water is always present. They also offer aromatherapy massage and a “relaxation” facial treatment. A trip to the Well Within sensual and intimate date, one that keeps locals and visitors coming back time and time again.

www.wellwithinspa.com

well-within-spa

Wednesday Evening Sailboat Races

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Imagine having a glass of wine and some delicious appetizers while watching the sun set with your significant other, while a fleet colorful, recreational sailboats cruise by in droves.  Sounds nice, right? Well, each Wednesday night in Santa Cruz, from April to October, local sailors set sail in the early evening to compete and have fun, all the while providing sea gazers a beautiful scene. This view this awesome spectacle, you can see the action from the beach or any of the harbor’s restaurants.

crowsnest

One of the best ways to enjoy this friendly competition is on the outdoor, top deck of the Crow’s Nest restaurant. The Crow’s Nest has been a Santa Cruz staple for the past 45 years, and the outer deck offers a gorgeous, panoramic view of the harbor, wharf, Steamer Lane lighthouse, and of course, the Wednesday night sailboat races.  It doesn’t hurt that they have an “All-Night Happy Hour Wednesdays”, which begins start at 3:30 pm, where select appetizers are half-price and well drinks, house wines and pints are only $4.75!

If you’d rather opt for the beach vantage point, bring a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers, and beach blanket to enjoy these vessels as they sail into the setting sun.

http://www.santacruzharbor.org/

Scenic Capitola Picnic

capitola-2Nestled between Pleasure Point and Aptos lies a quaint village named Capitola. It’s known as the oldest beach resort on the West Coast, and with a fishing wharf, popular beach strip, downtown shopping, and user friendly surf break, it’s arguably one of the most treasured places in all of Santa Cruz County.  Downtown Capitola lies in a cleft between the cliffs, bisected by the Soquel Creek. This popular tourist and shopping area leads directly to Capitola Beach and the finally to a pair of jetties which mark the end of the beach. That’s where you’ll usually find the surfers riding mellow waves, usually on longboards.  Colorful houses and hotels line the slopes of the town leading back up to the clifftops. On the opposite cliff you’ll find Depot Hill.

depot-hill-stairs

Depot Hill Stairs, the narrow, steep concrete flight that leads out of the Capitola Village leads to a bench that overlooks the entirety of Capitola Village, the wharf, as well as Opal Cliffs in the background. This awesome vantage point is a great way to enjoy the beauty of Capitola, and is extremely romantic. Plan a stroll with your loved one through the picturesque village, equipped with a picnic platter and some wine. Set your GPS to 104 cliff Ave, Capitola and it’ll get you to top of stairs, where you’ll find the bench with a view to die for. Enjoy a beautiful sunset with some tasty snacks and a drink or two. You’re sure to score major brownie points with this one.

Roller Rink!

roller-rink-2

How many of you remember being a kid at the roller rink, skating around with your friends doing the hokey pokey or the limbo, with a pop hits playing in the background? Were you ruling the track or flailing like a startled Steve Urkel? Either is fine. So much fun!  In Santa Cruz’s Midtown, there’s a neighborhood known as Seabright. On Seabright Avenue, there remains an old school roller rink, the Santa Cruz Roller Palladium, which has been around for over sixty years.

roller-palladiumRoller skating has been found to be a great cardiovascular work out that builds core strength and promotes balance. But really, isn’t it really all about the hilarious wipeouts and licorice filled snack breaks that make the roller rink experience special? This is another great, out of the box date idea that will bring out the inner kid in both you and your partner. Imagine the grin on your loved one’s face as you lace up and bragging about how you are going to lap them, only to fall on your butt half way through the first lap. Just remember to take it easy, we’re not kids anymore you know.

The Best Free Things to Do In Santa Cruz

When it comes to having fun in Santa Cruz, it doesn’t take a pocket full of cash to have a great day that will be sure to be etched in your memories for a lifetime. Thanks to the Santa Cruz sun and a wide array of both outdoor and indoor venues, the local scene has a great variety of free things for people of all ages to enjoy day and night. Whether you enjoy attending special events or just relaxing in the wilderness, you are going to love all that Santa Cruz has to offer.

 

Wilder Ranch State Park

This beautiful state park was once a dairy ranch and since its origin in the 1800’s, it has grown into a popular area for locals and visitors to have fun visiting farm animals, picnicking and walking along scenic nature trails. Hiking through the Santa Cruz Mountains or even along the coastline at the top of the bluffs can all be done from Wilder Ranch State Park. This state park allows bicycles, horseback riding and plenty of outdoor fun for all ages. It’s a great place to bring the family for a free day of fun.

http://www.thatsmypark.org/parks-and-beaches/wilder-ranch-state-park/

 

Santa Cruz Wharf

The Santa Cruz Wharf is the perfect place to go when you want to take in a close look at the area, do a little window shopping or even sit and watch boats go by on the water. You can walk or ride a bicycle or even cruise down the street in your car while taking in all the natural beauty surrounding the wharf.

wharf-santa-cruz

While walking, riding or biking is completely free and always fun to do, you may want to take along a little cash when venturing down the road in this area as there are quite a few excellent local café’s, boutiques and small shops and even a few popular lounges right on the water. You can also rent boats or kayaks, spend time on the water watching for whales and much more.

http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/departments/parks-recreation/community-recreational-cultural-facilities/santa-cruz-wharf

 

Twin Lakes State Beach

A popular mile long stretch of beautiful shoreline where families spend hours at a time splashing in the water, soaking up a little sun and taking time to enjoy lazy days together.

http://www.santacruz.org/Things-to-do/Things-To-Do-Details/ThingGid/82759

 

Waddell State Beach

waddell-beachIf you enjoy windsurfing or flying kites, Waddell State Beach is the place for you. This is also the perfect location for surfers, boogie boarders and sunbathers that like to watch the action on the water from their comfy seats on the soft sand. For a little adventure, the beach is situated just across the street from Big Basin Redwoods State Park where you can enjoy long hikes into the woods or even spend a few nights camping out under the beautiful California star filled sky. The locals usually refer to this beach as Waddell Creek Beach and it is always a fun place to be. Best of all, the beach is free every day of the year.

http://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/waddell-creek-beach/

 

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

This is a must-see attraction and one that is suitable for the whole family. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is free to enter but they do ask for a small donation to help them keep the lights on in the lighthouse and to keep the heat on when it’s a little chilly out. The museum has some great pictures of surfers and events held on the water in Santa Cruz for the last 100 years and if you bring a little cash with you, you may just find the perfect surfing souvenir to take home with you when you leave. The museum has been open for more than 30 years and has been a popular place for tourists to visit when in the area.

http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/departments/parks-recreation/community-facilities/surfing-museum

 

One of the best things about Santa Cruz is that there are numerous places that a person, or family, can head to for some great outdoor fun and adventure without needing to spend a lot of money at all. Free is always nice, especially when you may be on a budget and need to find fun ways to keep yourself or others entertained.

 

Other free things to do in Santa Cruz

There are always areas where you can spend time walking down the shoreline, taking a quick dip in the ocean or hopping on your board and surfing for a while. There are also free tours at Wetlands of Watsonville where you can spend hours birdwatching or taking short nature hikes along the scenic trails.

One of the most popular locations is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The boardwalk is always free to enter and walk through and features carnival rides, concerts and plenty of food and beverage spots to grab a bite to eat or quench your thirst after a long day in the sun. During the summer, you can even catch a free classic movie right on the beach and best of all, most activities are completely free for all ages.

https://beachboardwalk.com/

 

Santa Cruz features nearly 30 miles of beautiful shoreline with some of the best waters for surfing in the entire state. No matter where you go in Santa Cruz, you can rest assured that the area will be beautiful and the people you meet will be friendly.

The Best Things to Do In Santa Cruz When You Have Toddlers

With a great selection of public parks, beautiful beaches and a wide array of fun activities to do indoors, Santa Cruz is one of the best places in California for great toddler entertainment. No matter what your young child likes to do for fun, you can find the perfect way to keep them busy and entertained all day long. Best of all, all of the great things that toddlers enjoy in Santa Cruz all just happen to be perfect things for the whole family to enjoy as well.

 

Natural Bridges State Beach

The beach is always fun for all ages and toddlers enjoy spending time on the soft sandy beaches of Santa Cruz. One of the more popular beaches is Natural Bridges State Beach and this beach has plenty to offer year-round. During the spring and summer, you can take your toddlers to see seals, whales and other sea life splashing around just a little way out from the shoreline.

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During the fall, it’s always fun for the kids to take a trip to see the beautiful monarch butterflies as they flutter around eucalyptus trees.  Along the shoreline kids always like to see if they can find seashells, sea anemones and other ocean life that may wash up onto the shore. There is a great picnic area at Natural Bridges and a visitor center where you can learn a little about the local history. Be sure to take your wallet because the kids usually like to grab a little trinket in the small gift shop in the center. There are plenty of nature trails surrounding the beach where you can take off on your own, or enjoy a guided tour where you can hear all about the local wildlife and get a glimpse into the history of the area.

 

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

What better way to entertain a toddler than letting them see, and touch, a shark! At Seymour Marine Discovery Center, the young and the young at heart can enjoy learning about sea life in a fun way where being hands on is the best way to learn. The center features a large aquarium where children and adults will have the opportunity to touch a live shark and see many other sea animals. Outside, there are large skeletal sculptures of elephant seals, gray whales and blue whales and families can enjoy hiking on more than 45 acres of beautiful coastal land where you can see luscious prairie land, wetlands and scrubland. Many animals live in the area and young children always like to see brush rabbits, bobcats and other animals while enjoying the beautiful area surrounding the center.

For directions and admission information, please contact Seymour Marine Discovery Center by calling: 831-459-3800.

 

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

From small workshops to crafts and demonstrations, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is one of the best places to spend the day with your child in Santa Cruz. The first Friday of every month the museum offers free admission to everyone and every third Friday, it is Kid Happy Hour from 4-5 pm where there is always plenty of play time and fun activities for kids of all ages.

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History can be contacted by calling 831-429-1964.

 

Roaring Camp Railroads

No matter what time of the year it is, Roaring Camp Railroads is always a popular attraction for families and children of all ages from toddler to teen and even older. Once you are all aboard the train, you can choose from taking a round-trip ride to scenic Bear Mountain and back or a longer ride all the way to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

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During the holidays, families enjoy taking a ride on the train when it’s all lit up with Christmas lights and children get to have a little visit with Santa Claus himself! The special rides begin at the boardwalk and the children will be able to ride the rides, play the games and enjoy great holiday snacks and other foods during their time on the ride and while visiting the boardwalk. This is an attraction that is fun every day of the year and people of all ages enjoy riding the train.

To reserve a spot on the train or for further information on times, special events and other information, you can contact Roaring Camp Railroads by calling 831-335-4484.

 

There are also several local movie theatres, public parks and of course, plenty of shoreline to take the kids to have fun at the beach while in Santa Cruz. No matter what your child enjoys, you can find plenty to do with them in beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

Things to Do in Santa Cruz When You Have Time to Be Alone

Sometimes, the best way to explore a city is to just take off all on your own where you have plenty of time to see the things you want to see, have fun on your own time and get a good view of what the world around you can offer. When in Santa Cruz, you will find a plethora of things a person can do all on their own. Whether you like swimming, hiking, shopping or dining, you can have it all in Santa Cruz. To make it easier for you, here are the top five things you may find of interest when you have time to spend roaming around town on your own.

 

Surfing!

If you can swim, you can surf. Even if you are a little shy on the board at first, or you just paddle out and float back in on a wave, you will find that being on the water has a calming effect and is truly a great way to spend your free time while at the beach. If you don’t surf yourself, maybe sitting back and watching the other surfers will be of interest to you.

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Santa Cruz is well-known as the best surfing spot in the nation, and if you don’t already know how to surf, there are plenty of great locals who will be more than happy to give you a few tips to get you up on the board. Cowell Beach is a great beach for those who are new to surfing as the waves are a bit docile but the area has a friendly vibe and meeting new people is going to be easy to do.

 

The Mystery Spot

mystery-spotThe Mystery Spot is truly a magical spot to visit and one that you will long remember. It is an area that spans approximately 150 feet and completely defies the laws of physics. Gravity is something that you cannot take for granted at this popular spot and some of the locals may tell you that there is an alien ship buried somewhere beneath the ground. You can take a 45-minute guided tour of the area and if you enjoy nature, you can take off on your own for a refreshing nature hike into the woods where you can catch a great view from atop a steep hill, see wildlife and beautiful flowers and eucalyptus trees all around and spend some serene time getting back to nature.

 

Glaum Egg Ranch

Glaum Egg Ranch, located in Aptos, is an organic, cage free farm where you can purchase eggs from a vending machine. Where else in this country can you pop a few bucks into a machine and get a dozen fresh eggs? While the eggs are being send down the chute, you’ll be able to listen to a silly chicken song and watch an animated chicken dance. While it may sound silly, it is entertaining to watch. Even better, you can take your eggs with you and have a great breakfast once you get home. This farm has been around since the 1920’s and is a favorite for locals as well as visitors in Santa Cruz.

 

Take a Hike

Hiking is such a peaceful thing to do and in Santa Cruz, you will find a wealth of trails where you can get back to nature and enjoy the wilderness. Big Basin State Park offers a great area for hikers and many tend to enjoy hiking to Berry Creek Falls. You may want to be in decent shape to hike to the falls as this is an 11-mile hike and you will be climbing up some pretty steep trails along the way. If hiking that great a distance is not something you feel up to doing, there are many other great trails within the park that will take you through the woods where you may catch a glimpse of wild rabbits, bobcats and other wildlife as well as some of the most beautiful natural scenes in all of California.

 

The Giant Dipper

The Giant Dipper is an incredible roller coaster right on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and it has been one of the most popular attractions since 1924 when it first opened to the public. The coaster travels at 55 mph and is a whopping 70 feet tall. It is one of the largest, and most popular wooden roller coasters not only in the U.S., but in the world. This roller coaster has not only been one that the young and young at heart have enjoyed riding, but it has also been featured in blockbuster movies including The Lost Boys in 1987 and Dangerous Minds in 1995. You can ride it one time, or you can grab a wristband at the ticket booth and get a pass to ride it over and over all day long.

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You can also spend the day at one of the beaches that line the 29 miles of shoreline or take a wine tasting tour, a fishing trip, whale watch, ride a train or just take some quiet time and sit by the water and watch the sun rise or set. Santa Cruz has something to do day or night and it is the perfect place to venture off on your own to take time to have a little fun all by yourself.