At the end of the long workday, night life in Santa Cruz is just revving up. There’s something for everyone here- British and Irish pubs, dance floors, wine tastings, and elegant dining with ocean views or casinos. No matter your musical preference, you’re sure to find a live band that’s music to your ears. The selection of night life options on this page features the best of Santa Cruz at the set of sun.
1) The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 831.423.1336
If you’re in the mood for a dive bar with pool tables, a jukebox, and some old- (and new) school arcade games, you’ve found it. The Catalyst has all this plus a reputation for hosting artists such as Neil Young, Papa Roach, Emmylou Harris, Ice T, Nirvana, Alanis Morissette, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, Pearl Jam & MORE. Large selection of beer and liquor offered.
2) Moe’s Alley
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, CA 831.479.1854
Moe’s Alley features the best in live entertainment 6 nights a week. From Blues to Salsa, Rhumba to Reggae, they have something for everyone to enjoy. Check out their spacious music hall, friendly staff, full bar, outdoor patio, and best of all the great live music. This hidden gem of Santa Cruz will give you an unforgettable experience.
3) Don Quixote’s
6275 Highway 9, Felton, CA 831.603.2294
Three in one! Don Quixote’s is a Mexican restaurant, a bar, and a popular music venue, drawing performers from local bands and the country’s best Americana/ Roots musicians. Great entertainment with chips and salsa- you can’t go wrong with that.
4) Surf City Billiards Bar & Cafe
931 Pacific Avenue (upstairs) (831)423-7665
Burgers, drinks, pool tables, and more! Sunday to Wednesday: $10 per hour/ per table
Thursday to Saturday: $12 per hour/ per table; membership available for unlimited playing time @ $95/ month for adults.
5) Bay Bar & Grill
209 Esplanade, Capitola, CA 95010 (831) 477-0749
Bay Bar and Grill is a great place to go play some pool, watch unlimited sports, have a drink ($5!), listen to jukebox tunes, and enjoy great eats by the beach. This place rocks at night!
6) Rush Inn
113 Knight St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 425-9673
Video games, pinball machines, and pool tables help make this dive bar one of a kind. Stop in and try one of the famous Irish car bombs.
7) The Red Room
1003 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 426-2994
Fried chicken and waffles, $2 PBR on Fridays, great music, and sexy red couches. Need we say more? Take some green, the bar is CASH ONLY.
8 ) Asti Café
715 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz (831) 423-7337
Celebrating more than 60 years of high spirits and fun times. Plus, three pool tables and one of the best jukeboxes in town. Reviews tout the strong drinks; smoker friendly.
9) The Avenue
711 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz (831) 426-3434
Well priced drinks, entertainment, four pool tables, an air hockey table, and even a couple of old-school video game machines will help the night go by. Enjoy outdoor seating on their large patio/deck. Stop in for “Drink and Drown” Wednesdays- select domestics $4.25/pitcher & $1.75/pint.
10) Blue Lagoon
923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 831-423-7117
Boogie the night away on Blue Lagoon’s full dance floor, play pool, hang out by the fish tanks, and drink up the daily $3 drink specials. Winner of the best dance club in the Goodtimes for two years.
11) Brady’s Yacht Club
413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz
With a history that dates back to the days of Prohibition and speakeasies, Brady’s is not a fancy cocktail lounge or an uppity wine bar. It’s a good, old-fashioned dive bar offering cheap drinks and salty company.
12) Britannia Arms
8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-688-1233; 110 Monterey Ave., Capitola, 831-464-2583
The Britannia Arms is about as close to an original old English village pub that you are likely to find on this side of the pond. Live music, trivia nights, karaoke, darts, pool, Internet jukebox, and video games. Imported beer plus a full menu.
3623 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-465-8200
Castaways is a festive neighborhood bar where customers say you can just be yourself and hang out. Two pool tables and a big screen, plasma TV.
14) Cava Wine Bar
115 San Jose Ave. Capitola, 831-476-2282
This little haven of a wine bar is just steps from the beach in Capitola. Chat with local winemakers while enjoying live music and one of their many theme nights. Their wide selection of wine includes local and not-so-local bottles.
15) Crow’s Nest
2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-476-4560
Weekday lunches and nightly dinners in the downstairs dining room offer fresh seafood, pasta, midwestern aged beef and daily chef’s specials. The upstairs Breakwater Bar and Grill offers a variety of appetizers and casual lunches throughout the day.
16) Cypress Lounge
120 Union St., Santa Cruz, 831-459-9876
This unique dining room is a former machine shop with vaulted ceilings, concrete floors, and exposed brick. You’ll find large tables for groups, and couches for those who prefer a more relaxed gathering. Cypress cooks up traditional, Cajun cuisine with a fresh twist. Half of their menu is dedicated to vegetarians, and the other half to carnivores, spice lovers, and fried food junkies.
17) 418 Project
418 Front St., Santa Cruz 831-466-9770
The 418 Project is a non-profit community center and performance venue. Enjoy dance, drumming, classes and more while supporting local and regional talent.
18) 515 Kitchen and Cocktails
515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz 831-425-5051
The impressive Mediterranean menu includes spiced ground lamb, feta cheese, pine nuts on baked flatbread, mussels panzanella and rigatoni with wild mushrooms. The extensive list of speciality drinks makes this place sizzle.
19) Henfling’s Tavern
9450 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond (831) 336-9318
One of the last American roadhouses, Henfling’s has great drinks, good food, and music that makes you move. Karaoke Mondays, Sunday blues bands, and more!
20) Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz 831-427-2227
A local icon, this long-running, intimate venue has an international reputation for hosting jazz, bluegrass, folk, Celtic and world music musicians. Think Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, and Rosanne Cash. During the shows, you can purchase drinks and organically prepared meals. All ages are admitted.
21) Mad House Bar and Lounge
529 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz (831)425-2900
The ultimate neighborhood bar! Enjoy free pool all day on Sundays, and a fine selection of DJs the other nights. Reportedly LGBT-friendly.
1209 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, (831)427-2516
MOTIV creates a space for “inspired culture”, engaging passions on many levels. The vital components of MOTIV’s DNA are music, art, food, drinks, politics, social causes and community events. Check out their stellar Happy Hour.
23) 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall Restaurant & Pub
110 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz 831-459-9999
This lively neighborhood pub is true to its name, offering 99 varieties of beer in stock, from breweries all over the globe. Their menu features pub favorites like burgers and fish and chips. Eat happily and enjoy live music, televised sports, and trivia games.
24) The Parish Publick House
841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-421-0507
More than 100 kinds of beer and great eats like deep-fried “Dixie” dill pickles, roast beef and brie sandwiches, and beer-battered salmon fish and chips. Happy hour 1/2 priced appetizers and $3 drafts.
25) The Poet and the Patriot
320-E Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-8620
Patrons to the Poet and Patriot represent a true cross-section of the community. Enjoy the great variety of tap brews while enjoying interesting conversation.
26) Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-9930
Known for its generous potions and creative beverages, Rosie McCann’s popular downtown venue offers about 25 beers on tap and a great selection of rare Bushmills, Jamesons, and other single malt scotches and whiskeys.
27) Soif Wine Bar & Merchants
105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz 831-423-2020
Soif offers a fine dining experience with the perfect pairing of food and wine. Purchase you favorite local or international wines in their wine store.
725 Front St. #101, Santa Cruz, 831-426-8466
This classy downtown wine shop has been featured in the Wall Street Journal for its offering of local wines and craft beers from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Impressive wine tastings and upscale eats.