Santa Cruz is the perfect spot to explore if you’re looking for a laid back, relaxing, beachy area full of fun and excitement. Famous also for its hippy culture, Santa Cruz is surrounded by gorgeous redwoods, and of course, it is home to the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Grab the entire family and head out to this picture-perfect town to enjoy these fun things to do in Santa Cruz.
Always remember to double-check dates, opening times, and weather conditions before traveling.
What to Do in Santa Cruz: Top Fun Things in the Area
Outdoor Things to do in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
- Address: 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
The boardwalk is one of the main staples of Santa Cruz. It has been featured in movies and television shows, and we can see why. The boardwalk is an old-fashion fair that sits on the beach and offers classic rides to their visitors, and one of the most popular Santa Cruz activites.
There is also treats galore, like kettle corn and taffy, plus a ton of little shops you can have fun in. If the weather is less than ideal, you can still head out to the boardwalk since they have an indoor arcade you can have some fun in. It is open almost every day from May to August, plus on weekends and holidays.
West Cliff Drive
- Address: 174 W Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
West Cliff Drive is a four-mile trail that your family can enjoy along the coast. The scenery is stunning, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos while enjoying the outdoors.
You have two options for enjoying West Cliff Drive as well. One is taking it in your car and driving the road, which is heavily trafficked but still worth it. The second is by walking on the trail.
Roaring Camp Railroads
- Address: 5401 Graham Hill Road, Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz is known for its mountains, and who wouldn’t want to ride a steam train through them. The train is a 19th-century logging steamer used for hauling giant redwoods off the mountain. Today, instead, it transports guests around the gorgeous area.
This tour, among the most entertaining things to do in Santa Cruz Ca, usually takes a little over an hour, and the conductor will tell stories as you climb through the mountains.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Address: Off Hwy 17 at Mnt. Hermon Road, Santa Cruz, CA
A 40-acre redwood state park is exactly what everyone needs in their life. This state park is home to a 277-foot redwood that is one of the tallest trees in the park and has been hollowed out so you can walk through it. While at the park, you can enjoy hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, and more.
The park is also dog-friendly but check out their website for rules and restrictions and check what trails have been closed due to fire damage.
The Mystery Spot
- Address: 465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz, CA
This gravitational anomaly has been a lot of talks when mentioning Santa Cruz, but it’s a must-stop spot. The optical illusion is a prime attraction in Santa Cruz and is a great way to spend some time outdoors and snap great photos. It is a popular attraction so buy tickets ahead of time online if you plan on visiting.
Best Things to do in Santa Cruz CA (indoors)
- Address: 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
While it isn’t the biggest museum you’ll visit, this little surf museum is one of the top attractions in Santa Cruz as well as an excellent spot to check out if you’re in the area.
It is housed inside a small lighthouse, and it overlooks an internationally renowned surfing spot called Steamer Lane. Throughout the museum, you will find artifacts, including photographs and surfboards, from over 100 years ago. The museum has limited hours, so head to their website before dropping in to make sure they’re open.
Del Mar Theater
- Address: 1124 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
This classic American theater, built in authentic Art-deco style, originally dates back to 1936, when it worked as a vaudeville theater. You can still enjoy the older aesthetic while modern times since they play current movies today.
Their snack pair has a little hippy vibe to it; we’re talking nutritional yeast flavored popcorn. Beer and wine are also available! Check what’s on every week on their website.
Bigfoot Discovery Museum
- Address: 5497 Hwy 8, Santa Cruz, CA
The legend of bigfoot is real, and there is a museum in the Santa Cruz mountains that is solely dedicated to him. If you love bigfoot or looking for something unique to do, stop in to learn more about this elusive creature and maybe learn something new.
The museum has odd hours, so make sure to check out their website to plan your trip accordingly.
Mission Santa Cruz
- Address: 130 Emmet Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Mission Santa Cruz is now a church, but it is also one of the 21 missions throughout California. Originally named La Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz, the mission was founded in 1859 by Father Fermin Francisco.
You can still head over to the mission to learn about its history and gain a little more education on the Spanish roots.
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
- Address: Porter College, Santa Cruz, CA
This cutting-edge art museum is perfect for all ages and shows everyone that art can be interpreted however they want. The museum is located at UC Santa Cruz, a two in one trip, and is open Tuesday through Saturday during the academic year.
Wineries in Santa Cruz CA
- Address: 10 Pine Flat Road, Santa Cruz, CA
Visitng the local wineries is probably one of the best things in Santa Cruz which you will not want to miss. This 65-acre vineyard sits in the redwoods of Santa Cruz and is waiting for you to come to enjoy a tasting. They are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and features wines like a Brut rosé or a Zinfandel label.
A tasting is $25, and they offer snacks while you enjoy your tasting. They recommend to make a reservation since they have limited seating spots.
Storrs Winery and Vineyard
- Address: 303 Potrero Street #35, Santa Cruz, CA
This organic vineyard sits in a serene setting in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
Their rustic tasting room opened back in 1988, and today they invite you to come to enjoy a tasting with them. Tastings are $20, and you can easily book online with them.
Breweries in Santa Cruz CA
- Address: 402 Ingalls St #27, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
If you’re looking to have the hard work taken out of finding the right brewery, take the Brew Cruz. This brewery tour will transport beer lovers in a restored vintage VW bus to local breweries and pour houses to find their perfect fit.
You can do public or private tours on the bus, depending on what mood you’re in. Check here for availability.
Humble Sea Brewing Co.
- Address: 820 Swift Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Humble Sea Brewing Co loves to use German recipes in their beer. They are famous for their IPAs and pilsners, plus they have a beer called the Blood Orange Beermosa IPA and the Bahama Fluff. Their Instagram focuses on their craft, and it is the perfect spot to relax with a cold one.
Shanty Shack Brewing
- Address: 138 Fern Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains is Shanty Shack Brewing, one of the coolest places to visit in Santa Cruz. The brewery has a more laid back and chill vibe, exactly like Santa Cruz, and they offer a plethora of unique beers for you to try.
Locals recommend the Raspberry Raven or if you like Imperial stouts, try out the Serenity Now.
- Address: 303 Potrero Street, Suite 40-H, Santa Cruz, CA
Uncommon Brewers has the tagline “Uncommon beer for uncommon people”, which might sound appealing to you. They use unique recipes to create balanced, delicious beers that taste out of this world.
Restaurants in Santa Cruz CA
- Address: 1010 Fair Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
If pizza is on the menu, head over to Bantam, which offers wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. Their menu is unique since they specialize in pizza but also offer chowders, fried chicken, and more on top of that.
Enjoy local beers and wine with your meal and have an overall enjoyable experience.
- Address: 1203 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Oaxacan fare comes to your table at Copal Restaurant, which opened in 2020. If you’re a Mexican food aficionado, the this is among the best places to visit in Santa Cruz. They are known for their moles, and this restaurant also hosts pop-ups and events, so their food is always around. If you’re looking for a true Oaxacan delight, try the tamales wrapped in a banana leaf.
Alderwood Santa Cruz
- Address: 155 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
Alderwood is known for its raw bar, where you can get local seafood straight from the source. The restaurant is relatively new to the Santa Cruz area and offers expert cocktails and dishes loaded with steaks.
Their menu will impress you, yet the way they plate the food is jaw-dropping; you’ll have to snap a photo.
When heading out to Santa Cruz, you can expect a fun and relaxing vibe. You’ll never have to worry about rushing around or getting from one place to the next; just relax and enjoy the time you are spending on the coast.