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This quintessential California beach town is synonymous with sun, sand, and summer fun. Most tourists head straight for the boardwalk and don't get much farther than the nearby sandy beaches and fishing pier. However, Santa Cruz has so much more to offer. Spectacular seaside scenery, a historic mission church, and a charming downtown reward visitors who explore further. Just a short drive from Santa Cruz is the gorgeous Highway One route alongside Monterey Bay, with amazing ocean views.
In this pristine marine environment, seals frolic in the deep blue waters and surfers ride the crashing waves of the Pacific. Outdoor sport enthusiasts and nature lovers appreciate Santa Cruz for its serene beaches and unspoiled landscapes. Breathtaking coastal hiking trails are found at the rugged Wilder Ranch State Park, while lush Mediterranean flora and pink-throated hummingbirds thrive at the U.
Santa Cruz also offers interesting cultural attractions.
2. main beach & cowell beach
For an enchanting experience, tourists can attend a Shakespeare performance on a starry night in a magical redwood glen. There's also a Surfing Museum that gives visitors a taste of California surfing culture. Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues. Bicycles on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk delivers classic summertime fun, complete with amusement park rides, games, and attractions.
There is no charge to enter the expansive seaside amusement park, and you can decide between wristband access or ticketed ride admission, a nice option for families on a budget or those who are not staying the whole day. The park overlooks the Main Beach and has been delighting visitors since It's considered one of the best seaside amusement parks in the world because of its fantastic setting and historic roller coaster rides.
The Giant Dippera wooden roller coaster built inhas become a landmark in Santa Cruz. Other activities include thrill rides, family rides, and kiddie rides, with a good mix of classic and modern des to suit every taste. In addition to the rides, the boardwalk has a huge variety of attractions, activities, free entertainment, and dining options.
You will find multiple arcades that are home to both classic and modern video games, air hockey, skee ball, and other traditional arcade games. The beachfront boardwalk fun cheap dates in Santa Cruz also full of food vendors, where you can treat yourself to goodies like corn dogs, deep-fried artichokes, chocolate-coated ice-cream, cotton candy, and salt water taffy. Telescope overlooking Main Beach. Besides the boardwalk, the main reason to visit Santa Cruz is the beach.
The sunny Mediterranean weather, sandy shores, and safe waters make Santa Cruz one of the best beach destinations in northern California. Visitors can choose from several excellent beaches; the two most popular are Main Beach, adjacent to the Boardwalk, and Cowell Beach, which is next to Main Beach on the other side of the wharf. Popular for sunbathing and swimming, Main Beach is also great for. There's enough room for little ones to spread out and make sandcastles; and because the beach is in a sheltered cove, it is safe to wade in the waters.
Beach volleyball players also flock here to take advantage of the sand volleyball courts. In the same cove as Main Beach on the opposite side of the wharf, Cowell Beach is a famous surfers' spot. This stretch of sandy shoreline is also known for its coastal views and beautiful sunsets.
The Dream Inn on Cowell Beach offers stylish seaside accommodations. The Santa Cruz Wharf was built in to serve deep-water vessels, however today it is used as a fishing pier and sightseeing vantage point.
Tourists will find plenty of things to do at the wharf, and it is one of the most popular places to sample the local seafood at one of the nine restaurants here. This is also a great place to buy souvenirs, with plenty of shops and boutiques. Bird-watching and sea lion viewing are other reasons the wharf is so popular with tourists.
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Sea lions make their home here year-round, and their splashing and barking is easily heard from the pier. A viewing area allows visitors a good look at the sea lions resting on the pier structure. During specific seasons, whales, dolphins, and otters can also be seen in the waters. The wharf also has water sports shops that rent fishing gear, boats, and kayaks, so that you can get closer to the wildlife and enjoy the water. The facility features interactive exhibits that educate visitors about how to responsibly enjoy the ocean and help protect the marine environment.
A six-mile pathway on West Cliff Drive hugs the coastline and provides a scenic route for walking and cycling. Along the way, the panoramas of the Pacific Ocean are truly breathtaking.
The path is completely flat and wheelchair-accessible, making this sightseeing route appropriate for all ages and fitness levels. Well-positioned benches invite passersby to sit back and soak up the panoramas of undulating deep blue seas as seagulls soar above and flocks of pelicans hover near the water. Santa Cruz claims to be the original California surf town, and this picturesque section of the Monterey Bay is a favorite surfers' spot.
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A bronze surfer statue is found along the path, as is the world's first surfing museum. The small exhibit shows memorabilia, such as vintage photos of surfers in the s. The remarkable sea arch that graces this beach was formed from the fractures in mudstone cliffs. With its iconic natural beauty, this small protected sandy beach is an excellent place for relaxation and bird-watching. The location is also ideal for viewing migrating whales from April through November. Sometimes seals and otters can be seen playing just offshore.
Farther along, the beach has tide pools that are home to sea stars, small crabs, sea anemones, and other ocean creatures.
During springtime, the park near the beach is filled with vibrant wildflowers. From mid-October to mid-February, the park's Monarch Grovedeclared a Natural Preserve, comes alive with monarch butterflies. The grove's fragrant eucalyptus trees blossom in winter, providing the butterflies with a source of food. November is the best time to observe the monarchs.
The beach has a picnic area with barbecue pits and restroom facilities, located in a shady grove of pine and eucalyptus trees. Tourists looking for a change of pace can take an old-fashioned steam train ride through the most scenic areas of Santa Cruz, an activity that appeals to young and old alike. The trip ends at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and then embarks on its return trip. Alternatively, passengers can hop aboard the train at the Boardwalk station and take a reverse round-trip, however the last train at pm does not return to the beach.
Tickets may be purchased from the conductor at the Boardwalk departure location. The Redwood Forest Steam Train travels through soaring redwood groves, winding through the mountains to the top of Bear Mountain. During the journey, the conductor shares information about the forest and the history of Roaring Camp Railroad since it was created in the s to haul lumber out of the mountains.
Official site: www. A humpback whale breaches in Monterey Bay. Dolphin, whale, and ocean wildlife sightseeing cruises are one of the top things to do when visiting the California coast, and Santa Cruz is well-situated alongside the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where an abundance of sea life thrives in its protected waters. This protected ocean environment extends for miles along the coastline and provides habitat for 36 marine mammal species and fish species. Each year, from April through November, humpback whales migrate through the region, and there is also a small population of humpbacks that stick around all summer to feast on the bay's native buffet.
Gray whales are also very common here, and a migration season of December through April gives winter tourists the opportunity to experience whale watching. In late spring, tourists might catch a glimpse of migrating killer whales, and pods of the gigantic blue whale are seen in Monterey Bay with some regularity. Overlooking Monterey Bay, the U.
This exceptional site on the university campus is a vast outdoor classroom for scientific study, as well as a destination for gardeners and nature lovers. The acre site provides the ideal microclimate and topography for Mediterranean plants to grow.
Things to do in santa cruz, ca
Many of the plants are endangered in their native environments, and the Arboretum works to protect them from extinction. Special features of the Arboretum include the Australian Rock Garden; a fragrant Eucalyptus Grove ; the small Butterfly Gardenplanted with flowers and shrubs that attract butterflies; a research garden used to study the native flora of California; and "Hummingbird Hotspots" that offer a chance to see pink-throated Anna's hummingbirds.
Visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch in the picnic area with its stunning ocean views. The Arboretum also presents docent-led tours on the first Saturday of the month and art exhibits throughout the year. A highlight of the Arboretum, Norrie's Gift and Garden Shop sells beautiful Mediterranean plants that are ideal for home gardens.
This surprising site needs to be seen to be believed. The Mystery Spot is located on a circular area of the redwood forest that is 46 meters in diameter, where the normal effects of gravity do not apply. Objects and people appear to be tilted even when attempting to stand up straight, and the gravitational anomaly makes visitors question the laws of physics. The effect is utterly puzzling, and scientists have not been able to explain the phenomena at Mystery Spot since it was discovered in This has not stopped speculation, however, and both professionals and amateurs have come up with theories, from potential natural causes to the presence of extraterrestrial beings.
After taking a guided tour and pondering the scientific mysteries, visitors may go for a hike on the nearby trail, which winds through the redwood trees. Downtown Santa Cruz at night.