These Are The 7 Best Things You Can Do in Santa Cruz
What are the best things to do in Santa Cruz?
I lived in Santa Cruz for four years. During that time, I took full advantage of the beautiful city, beach, and mountains.
Santa Cruz is one of those places that you fall in love with from the get-go. Santa Cruz is located in the hustling and bustling state of California, but Santa Cruz residents prefer a slower paced lifestyle that brushes off on you after spending some time there.
Whether you're a tourist or a local, here are the seven best things to do in Santa Cruz when you have some free time:
1.) Walk Along West Cliff Drive
Walking or driving along West Cliff Drive, stopping to take pictures, and ending up at Natural Bridges State Beach for a picnic and fun is one of my favorite things to do in Santa Cruz. West Cliff Drive is a 2.75-mile stretch of sidewalk that runs right along the ocean. Locals generally spend sunny afternoons walking or cycling the length of West Cliff Drive. The path offers some breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and passes by some of the best beaches and icons of Santa Cruz such as the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at the lighthouse. Catch a glimpse of seals and surfers at sea and if you're in luck and it's the season, you'll see the Monarch Butterflies at Natural Bridges.
2.) Discover the Mystery Spot
The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly that has been puzzling residents since 1939 when it was first discovered. Basically, the Mystery Spot challenges your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity. If you’re a fan of illusions then you’ll definitely be impressed by a ball rolling uphill and water flowing upwards. Be prepared to second-guess all of your senses. Locals and tourists alike love this place due to its quirkiness and the mystery that surrounds it. It’s a great day trip for people of all ages and considered a must do if you're in Santa Cruz.
3.) Catch a Wave at Pleasure Point
In a place that’s nicknamed “Surf City USA”, you can expect to find nothing less of the best waves in the country. And Santa Cruz locals sure love their surfing. It’s one of the favorite pastimes for residents. If you enjoy surfing yourself then you want to make your way down to Pleasure Point. It’s a world-renowned surf destination that stretches along the coast. Get a taste of the Santa Cruz surf culture by catching a wave at famous surf spots including The Hook, 26th Ave, Steamer Lane and Mitchell’s Cove. Surfing is why Santa Cruz is considered one of the best places to visit and definitely one of the best things to do.
4.) Feel the First Friday Vibes
First Friday is a recurring monthly event that celebrates the artistic culture of Santa Cruz. On the first Friday of each month you can find various happenings organized throughout town. There are numerous art exhibitions, local bands playing live and creative workshops. Locals like the event so much that most shops, museums, galleries and venues work with extended hours. First Friday has become a local tradition that isn’t going away any time soon and it's one of the top things to do in Santa Cruz if you're in town on the first Friday. Admissions are generally free so you can organize a tour around town and visit multiple venues, including the Museum of Art & History which is a First Friday must.
5.) Spend Time at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
This is probably already on your list, but I'll mention it. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is definitely one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz. It's an oceanfront amusement park that is appreciated by tourists and locals alike. It’s the oldest amusement park in California, founded in 1907. Although one day isn’t nearly enough to see everything the park and surrounding area has to offer, it’s a good start. Take a ride on the iconic Giant Dipper – one of the oldest roller coasters in the world. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a chocolate dipped banana and root beer float from one of the food stands. You’ll love them! You can also walk to the wharf/pier from the Boardwalk and grab a cup of clam chowder in a bread bowl, yum!
6.) Wine and Dine in Westside Santa Cruz
A thriving neighborhood just five minutes from downtown, Westside Santa Cruz is a top destination for local wine lovers, connoisseurs of good food, and anyone looking to unwind and grab a bite to eat or a drink. Many would argue that Westside is the best place to wine and dine and with good reason. There are countless restaurants that serve anything from a simple grilled burger to a three-course gourmet meal. Dine with the locals and ask for the specialty of the house. You can’t go wrong. Westside is one of the best places to visit in Santa Cruz.
7.) Sit Down for a Coffee Downtown
Downtown Santa Cruz is every coffee addict’s dream come true. Why? Well, Santa Cruz locals take their coffee culture very seriously. There are countless cafes just waiting to serve you a dose of freshly brewed coffee. Whether you’re looking to sit in a café that’s trendy, historical or just eccentric, Downtown Santa Cruz has the perfect place for you. The specialty coffees, gourmet sandwiches, fresh baked pastries and signature wraps are the talk of this coastal beach town. And don't forget about the delicious pizza, ice cream, or drinks at one of the signature bars. Eating and drinking downtown is definitely one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz.
I forgot to mention one very important detail. If you're a fan of hiking you are in luck. Hiking in the redwood forest in the mountains of Santa Cruz is actually the best thing to do. So if you like to hike, do some research on the different trails in the area. The best place to hike in Santa Cruz requires a 30-60 minute drive and is called Big Basin Redwoods State Park, but there are other parks and trails that are closer than Big Basin.