Things to do in Santa Cruz

  • Seymour Marine Discovery Center Fun museum for families with young children to go and learn more about ocean wildlife.  Open Tues-Sunday from 10am-5pm.  Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children 3 and older.


  • Natural Bridges State Beach  –Beautiful scenic beach with a delicate arch covered in pelicans.  Great place for taking little ones to play in the sand.  Also where the monarch butterflies migrate to in the winter.


  • West Cliff Drive scenic drive along the Santa Cruz coastline.  Gorgeous views of the ocean and sea cliffs.
  • Santa Cruz Surfing Museum located inside the Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse.  Open 10-5pm closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse located at Point Santa Cruz.  Great benches for sitting and watching for boats sail around the harbor.  We have also gotten lucky and spotted whales from this lookout.IMG_3678
  • Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf – You can park on the wharf for $1 an hour for the first 4 hours.  We like to start off our day in Santa Cruz here because there are always a myriad of sea lions on the docks.  They also have a few restaurants and shops.


  • The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk  Fun carnival atmosphere right alongside the beach.  You can buy a wristband for $33.95 and get an all-day rides pass or you can pay $3-6 per ride individual rides.  They also have some fabulous food options.  I recommend getting a deep fried Twinkie or Oreo as well as the garlic fries.  In the summer is open daily Sun-Mon 9am-11pm, Tues-Thurs 11am-11pm, Fri Sat 10am-11pm. In the winter the boardwalk is open from 12pm-5pm on weekends. The beach is always free to walk to as well.  This beach is a lot more crowded than others around Santa Cruz due to the amusement rides being right there. They also do free concerts and movies on the beach throughout the summer.


  • Seabright Beach located just east of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  A great place to get away from the commercial stores and crowds.  Free parking along the roadside and in the subdivisions.  Large staircases to climb down to access the beach.


  • Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse Small lighthouse marking the entrance of the Santa Cruz marina.  You can access it from the Twin Lakes State Beach or the Seabright Beach side.


  • Twin Lakes BeachOne of my personal favorites when I go by myself with my toddlers.  There are close restrooms and easy access from the parking lot to the beach.
  • Marianne’s Ice Cream A trip to the beach wouldn’t be complete without some delicious old fashioned ice cream at the fine ice cream shop!


  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History Museum is open Tues-Fri 11am-4pm and Sat-Sun 10am-5pm.  Admission is $4 for adults and free for children.  Admission is also free the first Friday of every month.
  • Santa Cruz Mystery Spot– Parking is $5 and you can purchase tickets online for $8to make sure you get in a tour.  You can also purchase them for cash only at the door.
  • Mission State Park– Open Monday and Thursday-Saturday from 10am-4pm Sunday 12-4pm.  Free Parking.  Great picnic areas and museum historical exhibits.
  • UCSC Arboretum
  • Wilder Ranch  –This state park is open from 8am-sunset and is an old ranch right along the beach with lots of family friendly hiking trails.  There is a $10 parking fee.
  • Roaring Camp Railroad(Felton) Paradise for any train lover.  Here you can hop on board a Redwood Forest Steam Train or take the Beach Train to Santa Cruz.  Tickets can be purchased online $27 for adults and $20 for children.IMG_7551
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park(Felton) Beautiful place to take a hike through the redwood forrest.  Park hours are sunrise to sunset but the visitor center is only open from 10am-4pm.  Parking is $10 and you can walk to Roaring Camp Railroads next door.


  • Ano Nuevo State Park Beautiful scenic walk by the beach and docent led tours to learn about the amazing elephant seals.


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