A travel guide for things to do in Santa Cruz, California. We do travel guides that are fun, informative, entertaining. And in this guide, we’re going to be telling you everything you need to know if you’re planning a visit to this city. First, we’ll start with some general information about Santa Cruz. We’ll start with where is Santa Cruz located?

It’s located on the northern tip of Monterey Bay, Monterey, California. We also have thirty-two miles south of San Hosain, about 70 miles south of San Francisco. But it’s over this kind of mountain range to get here. And so it keeps Santa Cruz kind of feeling like a little world of its own from the rest of Silicon Valley. Well, let’s talk about major attractions. We’ll start the first one, then I’ll come back for some tips.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

This is the number one attraction in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz boardwalk. It’s been rated one of the best, if not the best oceanfront boardwalks in North America. It’s like an amusement park right on the beach. This is a pretty cool place. It’s been in lots of different movies.Which is open since 1987. If you’re coming to the boardwalk, though, make sure to check to make sure it’s open. Pretty much every day in summer, just certain weekends in the winter.

You know what? I really like the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Why? It’s just so much fun. Little kids or big kids. I’m definitely in that big kid category. In addition to the rides, there’s also food. There’s like corn dogs and pizza. This place sells saltwater taffy. I don’t know what it is about saltwater taffy and like boardwalks that you got to have that they look up here.

There is the Santa Cruz Giant Dipper, that wooden roller coaster. And I love to hear the screams, and that sounds if you’re truly an adventuresome writer. Definitely check that out. These types of wooden roller coasters were hallmarks of beach boardwalks. Back in the day, very few of them remain. So little piece of history right here. I think the most creative of their games here is called stinky feet. You see what looks like a toilet and you use the squirt gun to squirt the stinky feet of that guy in the bathtub.

Santa Cruz boardwalk

Santa Cruz Wharf

When you’re done exploring the Santa Cruz boardwalk, another big attraction just over this way. It’s the Santa Cruz Wharf. This it’s a really big pier. And it’s got restaurants on it. It’s got shops on it. Gift shops. You can actually take your car out there and park on that really big pier wharf. Santa Cruz, though, is probably most famous for being a beach town.

If you come here in the summer, this is like a mob scene. Everybody from the Bay Area comes out here because the Bay Area. San Francisco doesn’t really have a lot of wide sandy beaches. Certainly, the one for the boardwalk is good, but there’s actually a lot of beaches here. And what is Santa Cruz known for? Its nickname is called Surf City.

Because back in the eighteen hundreds. Three Hawaiian princes came to Santa Cruz and introduced surfing to the U.S. mainland for the first time. Right here in Santa Cruz. I will point out, though, that if you are coming to Santa Cruz to surf while the surf is considered good, it is not warm. This is definitely wet suit water pretty much all year round. So bring your rubber to keep yourself warm.

So another thing the Santa Cruz is known for, in addition to being Surf City, one of their mottos is to keep Santa Cruz weird.

Santa Cruz Wharf

Weird Things in Santa Cruz

They seem to have models and names like other cities, Surf City, like Huntington Beach. Keep Santa Cruz weird, like keep Portland weird. But Santa Cruz is pretty weird. In addition this is one of the hotels here, the hotel paradox. It’s pretty weird.

Is it an upscale boutique hotel or is it a renovated motel? I don’t know. But this is where we stayed. We’re here if you want to see how weird this hotel. But what else is weird about Santa Cruz? Well, there’s tons of artists that live here. There’s lots of weird art. I feel like the primary mode of transportation in Santa Cruz is by skateboard.

The University of California, Santa Cruz, their mascot is the banana slug. That’s right. And I picked up this newspaper in Santa Cruz. It’s the Santa Cruz comic news. That’s pretty weird. They don’t. They don’t need like writing for the news. You can just read comics for the news. I mean, it’s weird, but it’s kind of cool.

Banana Slug and hotel paradox

Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz

Really interesting Attraction in Santa Cruz is to visit the mystery spot. Why the gravitational vortex that makes everything lean just a little bit.

Although for entering to the mystery spot is a bargain. Eight dollars. But I will tell you, if you’re coming here, book your tickets online reserve ahead of time because it gets really quite busy. It’s about a 45 minute tour. And for eight bucks, how can you go wrong? Furthermore they do charge $5 for parking. There’s ample parking. And when you’re done, they give you a free mystery spot bumper sticker and they say, what should you do if you don’t have a car to put it on?

Well, there’s plenty of other cars in the parking lots. Put that bumper sticker on to this one has a lot of them. So they end the tour by trying to explain the theories behind this mystery. Could it be aliens? Could it be magma? Could it be a gravitational vortex? You know what? The tour guide didn’t know. What do we pay eight dollars for? Do you guys know? I’m curious, do you think it’s an optical illusion or some other force?

Hiking Paths

Oh, by the way, There’s also this hiking path that I’m on right here. And that’s just on the other side of the hill from the mystery spot. You can do this for free when you’re done. And it’s just it’s neat to come here because it’s like this cool redwood forest and where I’m from. There aren’t a lot of redwood forests. One protip if you’re coming to the mystery spot, whatever the forces are that are here.

Cell phones do not work. So we need Google Maps or things like that. Make sure you get some offline maps. Don’t expect to call an Uber from here because Uber can’t hear you. It’s probably a place to bring your own car. And that road to this parking lot. It’s about a half mile dirt, really lousy paved road. You really won’t want to be walking it.

Steam Trains

And you probably want to leave your nicely polished Ferrari at home for a really unique experience in Santa Cruz. Ride the roaring camp in big trees. Steam train is pretty. I am on it right now. And why do you ride this train? Well, they’ve got to they’ve got one that takes you around the redwood forest and they’ve got a second one that’ll take you down to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. But I would recommend  train, the one that goes see the trees.

Redwoods Rain forest

It’s an hour and a half train ride that cost. Over thirty dollars, we spend ten minutes at the top. And this is the deepest hunger. Yes, deep drain in North America. And they tell you about the redwoods here, the conductor right there. I can say to about a thousand times in volume. If you do decide to ride the steam train to roaring camp, I have two tips for you. The first one reserve on line.

They do sell out. When we were here, two of the trains sold out. So if you’re just showing up, well, you might not be able to ride a train for a while. My second tip for you is they have three types of cars closed in cars. Cars with little tent roofs and one that are open air. Try to get in the open air car because you’ll be able to see the canopy above the best. If for some reason you can’t get in the open air car, well, then try to sit in the corners of the car, the front or back, because you’ll be able to take pictures the best from that vantage point after your train ride.

If you’d like to get a little bit more up close and personal with the redwood trees, we’ll just on the other side of the tracks from the main station is the entrance to the Henry Cowell Redwoods Park. You can go hiking over there. You have to pay parking if you park over there. So pay here once. And when you’re done, just walk on over to the Redwoods Park. I’ll see you there.

200 year old redwood

So I mentioned the trees are big. There is the trunk of a hundred year old redwood. That is impressive. So this state park with the redwoods, it’s actually a rain forest, not a tropical rainforest, but a temperate rainforest here in Santa Cruz.

They get over a hundred inches of rain per year. That’s quite a bit. And each one of these trees, drinks like 500 gallons per day, drinks a lot of water from the root system, from the bark, and also from the actual branches and the leaves, from the fog. That is so prevalent here in the Monterey Bay. One of the best times to visit is right after it rained. It is a rain forest. And so you’ll find lots of the streams flowing and a lot of the rain forest activity.

But I’ll point out. It is cold here because it’s not really sunny. Well, it’s sunny right here, but it’s not sunny right here in most of this. You’ll want to bring some warm clothes because it’s 10 to 20 degrees colder in the rainforest than it is outside in the sunny parking lot. Oh, and it’s muddy, too. So bring some shoes that you don’t mind getting too yucky. Santacruz already feels like a world away from San Francisco or San Jose, but you come into the rainforest and it’s like a whole nother world away.


Nightlife and Capital Village by the Sea

If you’re looking for nightlife in Santa Cruz, while a great neighborhood for that is Capitola by the sea, there’s all these bars and restaurants that basically look out here on Capitola Beach. This is also a great place to have those views of the whole Monterey Bay down to Monterey. And then if we swing over this way. Capitola has its own wharf, though. This one’s a little bit smaller than the Santa Cruz wharf. They still call it a wharf because there are cars driving on a few restaurants down at the end.

But what’s really picturesque, if you love Instagram and pictures, is the Venetian right here, the Capitola Venetian, this housing development. I love that each one looks like a different color. Kind of looks like the houses in Morolto, Italy, which is right side right outside Venice.

Shopping In Down town Santa Cruz

If you’ve ever been there, if you’re looking for some place in Santa Cruz to do some interesting shopping, check out downtown. Santa Cruz is here on Pacific Avenue. And there’s some interesting shops in particular this one.

It’s called the Sock Shop and Shoe Company. This store started like 20 or 30 years ago. It started the sock craze that’s taken the country by storm. Everybody thought they were crazy, but I said, right. Santa Cruz is all about keeping it weird. So these people like Santa Cruz people will totally buy some interesting socks. If you want to know what their number one selling sock is, it’s socks with two sea otters holding hands. If you’re looking for coffee just, there’s a coffee shop called Verve.

It’s a Santa Cruz original coffee shop. And if you’re looking for pizza by the slice, there’s a pizza place on the street called Pizza My Heart. And I’m not saying the pizza is the best, but for $7, you can get a T-shirt and a slice of pizza. So that’s a great souvenir to bring back because his pizza. My heart, Santa Cruz. And you’ll fill up your Billy. Your Billy! You’ll fill up your belly, too.

If you've ever been there, if you're looking for some place in Santa Cruz to do some interesting shopping, check out downtown. Santa Cruz is here on Pacific Avenue. And there's some interesting shops in particular this one. It's called the Sock Shop and Shoe Company. This store started like 20 or 30 years ago. It started the sock craze that's taken the country by storm. Everybody thought they were crazy, but I said, right. Santa Cruz is all about keeping it weird. So these people like Santa Cruz people will totally buy some interesting socks. If you want to know what their number one selling sock is, it's socks with two sea otters holding hands. If you're looking for coffee just, there's a coffee shop called Verve.

We’ll see if your travels bring you to the San Francisco Bay Area. Definitely consider a day trip or maybe even a few days to Santa Cruz to kind of feel a little bit more laid back.