Santa Cruz Things to Do
A fun beach town in Northern California, Santa Cruz is a fabulous West Coast summer vacation destination for families and adults alike.
If you want to feel like a kid again, the Boardwalk has all the throwback entertainment you’ll ever need. The Boardwalk is one of the only amusement parks on a beach on the West Coast, and features 34 rides full of old-fashioned fun. Favorite rides with visitors include the Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster that hits speeds of 50+ MPH, and the classic carousel, built over 100 years ago.
Not a fan of rides? There’s also arcade games, mini-golf, classic carnival food, and during summer evenings, concerts. You can also take a walk on the wharf, a which has lovely beach views, shopping, seal watching, and tasty seafood restaurants.
Relax on the Beach
With warm summer weather and great waves, Santa Cruz has several beaches popular with surfers, swimmers, sailors, and sunbathers. The best known beach is the Boardwalk’s beach, located just a few feet from the rides. This beach tends to be very busy during summer and is full of exciting activities, such as hosting the Boardwalk’s summer concerts and events.
Other beaches are quieter and have more local visitors and nature spots. Try visiting Natural Bridges State Beach, which has a beautiful natural bridge and a butterfly migration area, or the Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, home to the pretty Walton Lighthouse.
Defy Gravity at The Mystery Spot
Want a truly unusual experience? The Mystery Spot is a special place in the Santa Cruz woods that literally defies gravity. In the entertaining tour, watch objects move uphill and trees standing at strange angles. It’s fun for all ages, and will engage your sense of humor and curiosity.
Visit Redwoods and Nature on an Old Fashioned Steam Train
You can take a round trip ride on the Roaring Camp Railroad train from the Santa Cruz boardwalk to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and a beautiful gorge. The train is an old steam train and takes you for the experience of a lifetime through gigantic redwood trees. The state park is a perfect place to go hiking and redwood spotting.
Go on a Shopping Trip
Do you like casual clothes and beach and surfing gear? Downtown Santa Cruz has you covered. The area has tons of fun, casual shops with quirky items made by local artists, that you can only find in Santa Cruz. It’s also the perfect place to get beachy saltwater taffy and see a movie.
Editor’s note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about things to do in Santa Cruz.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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