from short trips to traveling the world
& living abroad

from short trips to traveling the world & living abroad

Santa Cruz, California: a small coastal city at the north end of Monterey Bay, 75 miles south of San Francisco. It is best known as a countercultural hub, with a bohemian feel and youthful vibe, and fun weekend tourist attractions. The relaxed beach lifestyle is supplemented by some high tech industry and a vibrant university culture.

Why visit Santa Cruz

Whether you already live in California or are traveling by car from another state or even by plane from a location overseas, Santa Cruz should definitely be on your list of great places to visit as you travel through California.

Santa Cruz is a laid back coastal town where surfing is a predominant pastime and college students and others have a vibrant lifestyle with plenty to do within the local scene. From museums and art galleries to plenty of outdoor adventure and outstanding hot spots to hit at night, there is so much to do when you are looking for something fun in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk & Amusement Park

Things to do in Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Amusement Park

Many coastal cities have boardwalk, and some even have Oceanside amusement parks, but none have the flair and ambiance that is found in Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Amusement Park is open year-round, although if you want to catch the excitement of the carnival rides you need to go before the end of August as the amusement park is not open in the fall or winter.

This boardwalk has so much to offer however, that you most likely won’t miss the kiddie rides at all. There is plenty of shopping, indoor arcades and even a miniature golf course. If the whole family isn’t traveling with you, be sure to pick up a gift or two at one of the gift shops or locally owned boutiques. On top of everything that the boardwalk has to offer, keep in mind that the beach is right here as well and it’s the perfect way to spend a day frolicking in the sun.

For more information about the boardwalk and amusement park you can visit Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Santa Cruz Lighthouse and Surfing Museum

Things to do in Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz lighthouse and surfing museum

If you are visiting Santa Cruz, you may be interested in knowing a little more about the local surf scene and the deep history that it has.

This museum is packed with surfing memorabilia including surfboards that date back to the 1940’s as well as pictures of surfers from Santa Cruz’s history. The museum has been opened for more than 30 years and has become a popular location to hear surfing tales and other fascinating Oceanside stories.

If you want to know who rode the biggest wave, surfed the longest or used the longest board on the Santa Cruz coast, then you should check out the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum where you can learn all about the history of surfing in the area and may even be able to meet some of the local surf celebrities that frequent Steamer Lane for the great waves that make Santa Cruz the best place on the west coast for surfing.

You can learn more and check opening hours by visiting the City of Santa Cruz Surfing Museum page.

Motiv, Downtown Santa Cruz

Motiv Santa Cruz, California

Moving away from the great outdoors a little, you can find quite a few good spots to celebrate all through the night in Santa Cruz.

One of the most popular nightclubs in Santa Cruz is a culture filled hotspot called Motiv. Located on Pacific Avenue in the downtown area, Motiv caters to college students as well as those that enjoy beautiful and unique art, music and dance. They have a superb selection of food as well as plenty to drink and live music every night of the week.

Motiv hosts several charity events and social gatherings each year and is a great place to hang out when you want to be with like-minded people with creative minds and free spirits.

You can find out more about Motiv on their website.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon, Santa Cruz California, USA

When you want to have a good time with friends in Santa Cruz, The Blue Lagoon is the place to go whether you want to have an early evening out or spend half the night dancing away to music by some of the areas most talented DJ’s.

This popular nightclub is right downtown on Pacific Avenue and they are one of the few spots that not only has a lively crowd and great music to dance to, but they also do not charge a cover fee for entry! You can experience a wide array of musical selections at this nightclub ranging from 80’s dance night to music from the 90’s, grunge and techno, house music and much more.

The Catalyst Club

The Catalyst club Santa Cruz

The Catalyst Club is a venue where you can check out some of the best music in Santa Cruz but also from musicians from all over the world. While most shows are for those 21 and older, they do have some that are for all ages but you must be 21 to drink while in the club. The club also has a pizza kitchen where you can order fresh, made from scratch pizzas from early in the afternoon until late at night.

Aside from the great music, patrons can find a pool table in the upstairs lounge and plenty of space to unwind after a long day by stretching out your legs on the dance floor or socializing with friends.

For more information on show times and other events at The Catalyst Club, be sure to visit the club website.

Mountains to the Bay Wine Tours

Wine tours Santa Cruz, California

Mountains to the Bay Wine Tours is not your typical wine tour at all. While others may allow you to walk through a winery and taste their latest wines, Mountains to the Bay Tours takes you on a breathtaking tour through the beautiful and majestic Monterey Bay area where you can check out the marine sanctuary, see beautiful forest flowers and maybe even spot a small forest animal or two during the walk. The tours also include spectacular views of the redwood forests and the spacious Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Lucia Mountains.

You can enjoy private tours as well as shared tours with small groups and there are many options to have included with the tour including a picnic lunch, elegant cheese platters and even a catered lunch.

For further information on available wine tours and the many amenities included to make every tour special, be sure to visit the Mountains to the Bay website.

Things to do in Santa Cruz

This article was created in collaboration with Things To Do In Santa Cruz. Please visit their website for further information about Santa Cruz. Things To Do In Santa Cruz offers a glimpse into the beauty and vibrant nature of Santa Cruz and the many exciting things that the area has to offer residents and visitors all throughout the year.

For further travel inspiration also check out Visit Santa Cruz for a Chill Weekend Getaway and my other articles about destinations in California.

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Check out what not to miss when visiting Santa Cruz, California. #SantaCruz #travelCalifornia #travelguide #traveltip

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Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing (
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this blog to share some of my international experiences and travel tips.