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Home » 15 Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz, California: Best Time To Visit 2023

15 Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz, California: Best Time To Visit 2023

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

15 Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz, California: Best Time To Visit 2023

Santa Cruz is a coastal city of approximately 65,000 people located in the Monterey Bay area of ​​Santa Cruz County. The city has been called upon in numerous things: Surf City, a laid-back seaside town, and a seaside resort community are just a few of the titles the city has earned over the years.

While Santa Cruz is widely known for its spectacular beaches, great weather, surf culture, and vibrant arts and cultural community, the city is known for many other things.

Visitors can participate in various outdoor activities, such as bird watching, cycling, hiking, and rock climbing.

In Santa Cruz, there are many world-class attractions, such as the Santa Cruz Pier, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and the vibrant downtown area, in particular, Pacific Avenue.

Many festivals in Santa Cruz include the Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival, the Santa Cruz Film Festival, the Santa Cruz County Fair, the Capitola Wine and Art Festival, and the Santa Cruz Blues Festival.

Best Time To Visit Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a place that many people visit almost all year round, but if you are looking for the best time to go, September-November is the time to visit. This is based on some factors, including weather, flight and accommodation costs, peak travel times, and more.

The hottest month of the year in Santa Cruz is September when the average temperature is around 23 ℃ (73 ℉), but on the hottest days of summer, temperatures can reach 25 ℃ (78 ℉). Winter weather, especially around December, can arrive at six ℃ (43 ℉).

The longest days in Santa Cruz are in July, so if you want to see the sights during the day when the sun is higher, it’s best to come this time of the year.

The rainy season in Santa Cruz usually falls in the months surrounding December each year. It is common for there to be decent rainfall or light showers during this time, but on some days, the weather seems fine most of the day, with only a few drops of rain falling from a passing shower.

Read on to learn more about the best times to go to Santa Cruz, the best things to do, and more.

1. Visit the Museum of Art and History of Santa Cruz

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

One of the best ways to learn about a place is to visit the local museum and learn more about the history and culture. The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is the place to do this in Santa Cruz.

This fascinating space is full of exhibits on culture, history and people told through light, art and sound.

Exhibits change from time to time, but past and current examples include Community is Collective Care, Santa Cruz County History Gallery, Mary and Harry Blanchard Sculpture Garden, In These Uncertain Times, Atmosphere, and Lost and Found.

2. Spend a day outdoors at Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park is a large wilderness area outside of Santa Cruz. You can participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding along the 34 miles of scenic trails inside the park.

The park is also the site of a historic dairy ranch that is now a living museum. Several buildings built in the late 19th century depict farmer life, including a farm, Victorian house, and a mechanical workshop.

The coastal area of this park is a protected area called Natural Bridges State Beach. Here you will see attractive tidal pools teeming with marine life and a huge sea arch.

Between October and February, you can see monarch butterflies in Monarch Grove.

3. Go back in time on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

More than just a boardwalk, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is a historic amusement park that has been a popular attraction in Santa Cruz for more than 100 years. It is considered one of the best amusement parks of its kind in the world.

There are a variety of thrilling rides on-site for all ages, including Logger’s Revenge and a wooden roller coaster built in 1924.

Also on site are laser tag facilities, miniature golf, several game rooms, a climbing tower, and bowling. When hunger strikes, plenty of food vendors offer everything from corn dogs to ice cream.

4. Satisfy your hunger at Crow’s Nest restaurant

Crow’s Nest Restaurant is a restaurant overlooking the water. This popular restaurant serves a variety of classic American dishes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. 

You’ll find many items on the menu, including appetizers, salads, soups, fresh seafood dishes, grilled options, burgers, and pasta dishes.

The Breakwater Bar & amp; Grill is where you can enjoy sandwiches and light meals to the sound of live entertainment in a lively atmosphere. The on-site Beach Market also serves snacks and drinks and sells unique jewellery and home decor. 

5. Take a historic trip with the Roaring Camp Railroads

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

Roaring Camp Railroads offers visitors to Santa Cruz the chance to ride a perfectly preserved 19th-century steam engine. It is an ideal activity for all ages and for anyone wishing to see some of the most picturesque places in the area.

There are two different routes to choose from. The Santa Cruz Beach steam train departs from a depot near Felton and travels through the Santa Cruz Mountains, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and St. Lawrence. The last stop is the Santa Cruz promenade.

The Redwood Forest steam train passes through beautiful redwood forests and mountains. During both journeys, an experienced driver tells passengers the railway history and the region.

6. Visit the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum

Since the early 1900s, the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum has been collecting, preserving, and sharing items related to the city’s natural history and the surrounding region.

The museum displays an extensive collection of Native American items and archaeological artefacts in various exhibits, including The Ohlone People, Geology of Santa Cruz, and Wildlife Habitats.

7. Learn about the history of surfing at the Santa Cruz Surf Museum

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is known for its world-class surfing and its long history as one of the top surf spots in the country. At the Santa Cruz Surf Museum, you can learn all about the history of this beloved sport and the culture that helped shape Santa Cruz today.

The best way to experience this little museum is by combining the experience with a scenic walk along West Cliff Drive. The coastal path leads to the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, where the museum is located.

Along the trail, you will see a statue commemorating the area’s surf culture. The lighthouse itself serves as a memorial to surfer Mark Abbott, killed while surfing in the area.

Inside the museum, you will find more than 100 years of surfing history displayed in various exhibits, house photos, videos, and vintage surfboards from multiple eras.

8. Tee off at Delaveaga Golf Course

Delavega Golf Course is located in a beautiful area surrounded by mountain and ocean views. This highly-rated 18-hole par 70 courses is challenging yet suitable for all skill levels.

On-site amenities include a driving range and pro shop; Lessons are available. The establishment also has two bars and a beautiful restaurant with a fireplace and outdoor patio.

9. Stroll along the Santa Cruz Pier

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz Pier once served a commercial purpose, but today, more than 100 years after its construction, the pier serves as a popular meeting place and tourist attraction.

Just walking along the pier and enjoying the beautiful scenery and lively atmosphere is an exciting adventure in itself. While strolling along the dock, you are likely to find many other things that pique your interest.

The Santa Cruz Pier is the longest pier on the West Coast. There are nine restaurants and many boutique shops along the dock. If you are interested in participating in water activities, several stores rent kayaks, fishing gear, and other boats.

Another popular activity on the pier is watching the sea lions that hang out there. Dolphins, whales, otters, and many species of birds are also seen in the area.

10. Learn about life beneath the waves at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Education and conservation are at the forefront at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. This fascinating centre, overlooking Monterey Bay, has exciting exhibits suitable for all ages.

Upon reaching the centre, the first thing you’ll notice is the 87-foot skeleton of a blue whale. The on-site aquarium displays a variety of marine species, including sharks. The tactile pool lets visitors touch starfish, sea urchins, and hermit crabs.

As you browse the showroom, you will learn about the behaviour of various marine creatures and the unique ecosystems that host them.

11. Sample local craft beer at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

Since 2005, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing has created unique craft beers using locally sourced and organic ingredients.

This family-owned brewery uses traditional, sustainable brewing techniques to create better-for-you, flavorful beers like Missing Piece IPA, Boogie Board Stout, Pressure Drop, and Daffodil Blonde.

These beers can be sampled in the on-site faucet room. Tours of the brewery are available.

12. UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is a 145-acre property that features a wide variety of plants from around the world, some of which are endangered. The plants thrive in various microclimates similar to their native climate.

You will see an Australian rock garden, eucalyptus forest, redwood forest, scent garden, and hummingbird trail as you explore the site.

13. Go Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

Several companies offer whale watching tours off the coast of Santa Cruz in Monterey Bay. During one of these tours, you will see a variety of whale species, including humpback whales and grey whales.

Orcas and massive blue whales are sometimes seen in the area. You will also discover dolphins, seabirds and other marine life.

14. Dine on authentic Italian cuisine at Lillian’s Italian Kitchen

You will sit in a cosy atmosphere at Lillian’s Italian kitchen and enjoy traditional Italian cuisine.

The menu features a variety of options, including appetizers, soups, salads, pasta sandwiches, and entrees like fettuccine alfredo, spring pesto and wild mushroom and kale ravioli. 

15. Explore Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

With more than 80 miles of hiking trails, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the perfect place to escape nature. As you walk through the park, you will see majestic redwood trees, canyons, waterfalls, and many species of birds.

How long do I need to spend in Santa Cruz? – Itinerary

It depends on how much you want to see and do. If you’re just interested in visiting the top attractions, you could spend a weekend in Santa Cruz. However, if you want to explore all the city offers, you could easily spend a week or more.

Here is a suggested itinerary for a 3-day trip to Santa Cruz:

  • Day 1: Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Natural Bridges State Beach, and Wilder Ranch State Park.
  • Day 2: Take a ride on the Roaring Camp Railroads, visit the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, and walk along West Cliff Drive.
  • Day 3: Explore the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, visit the Mystery Spot, and hike in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

No matter how long you stay in Santa Cruz, you will have a great time. The city has something to offer everyone, from families to couples to solo travellers.

Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things to Do in Santa Cruz

Is Santa Cruz good for surfing?

Yes, Santa Cruz is one of California’s top surfing destinations. Surfing hot spots include Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, which offer great breaks for different skill levels. Cowell’s Beach at the Boardwalk is beginner-friendly. Local surf shops offer gear rentals and lessons. Santa Cruz hosts several pro surfing competitions.

Is there anything to do in Santa Cruz?

With over 14 state parks, wineries, museums, farmer’s markets, and outdoor activities like hiking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, canopy tours and mountain biking, there is plenty to choose from. Visit the SantaCruz Beach Boardwalk, Roaring Camp Railroads, the Santa Cruz Wharf, UCSC, and lots more!

What is Santacruz famous for?

SantaCruz is known for its moderate climate, natural environment, coastline, redwood forests, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings.

Is Mystery Spot worth seeing?

Tripadvisor ranks the Mystery Spot high on their list of things to do in Santa C. People can’t seem to get enough of taking wacky pictures of their friends appearing to walk on the walls or floating in mid-air. They also praise the tour guides saying “The guides are fantastic and fun to be with.

What is the mystery of the Mystery Spot?

The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa C, California. It is a circular area of effect around 150 feet or 46 meters in diameter. Within the Mystery Spot you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned.

What are some fun facts about Santa C?

O’Neill Wetsuits has its headquarters in Santa C, where it has been since the 1950s. The company is credited with inventing the modern wetsuit. The still-popular Santa C Beach Boardwalk is the country’s oldest amusement park, operating continuously since 1915.

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