With permanent exhibitions including an observation beehive, snake display, and touch pool full of wiggly aquatic life, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History appeals to both individuals and families looking to learn more about the naturally occurring world around them. The museum's current exhibition, Bones: An Inside Look at Nature, explores adaptation and biodiversity by looking at the skeletons of different animals, a bone-crown topped with the skelegem of a never before seen whale fossil, whose age is counted in the millions.
The Museum of Art and History's magical meld of contemporary art and Santa Cruz County history came into being in 1996, when the art museum and the Santa Cruz Historical Society were fused. An individual membership gets you free admission to the museum's diverse collection, invitations to members-only exhibition previews, a discount to the museum's public programs, and, among other benefits, resistance to the wail of the banshee. Revisit the days of writing on paper and typing with one finger at the Don’t Forget to Write: Correspondence in the Pre-Electronic Age exhibit, which compares 1918 wartime letters with 2010 Facebook posts and showcases out-of-date communication methods, such as typewriters, fountain pens, and styrofoam cups connected by floss. Machines of Memory: Sculpture and Works on Paper by Joseph Zirker, an exhibit about the Bay Area printmaker's innovative work and methods, displays three- and two- dimensional compositions aglow with biomorphic shapes and symbols.
"The Nick" showcases alternative, foreign, and art-house films in a theater steeped in the stylings of Hollywood. Beyond the elegant marquee lights, in a smoothly styled lobby, the walls are accented with stained-glass detailing comedy and tragedy masks. The retro chic movie house boasts two intimate and two large screens, which will soon play host to a bevy of upcoming shows. Current features include Academy Award nominees Black Swan, Another Year, The Illusionist, and Biutiful, the story of a crime boss who is diagnosed with a serious illness which forces him to reconcile his good intentions with his lawless lifestyle.
Founded by equine expert Sharon North-Pohl, who draws on more than 20 years of experience in training and rescuing horses, Willow Pond Ranch's trainers provide rich educational experiences during lessons and day camps. At the redwood-ensconced ranch’s riding school, students are matched with one of 17 gentle horses and ponies after instructors consider skill level, personality, and quality of whinny. The covered riding arena enables educational trotting even when rabid snowflakes are on the prowl in the scenic foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the horse-rescuing ranch nestles its stables.
The Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory has long been at the forefront of marine research. Opened in 1978, the UCSC-affiliated center is set on a bluff overlooking the rich natural laboratory of Monterey Bay, called the “Serengeti of the Sea” for its diversity of marine life. Complementing the laboratory's mission to advance knowledge of the marine environment, the 20,000-square-foot Seymour Marine Discovery Center opened in 2000 to educate the public about the bay and the process of scientific research. Carefully designed to resemble a lab rather than a traditional museum, the center's hands-on exhibits delve into specific research projects while colorfully answering such questions as "what is science?" and "why is science important?" Aquariums and touch tanks facilitate up-close encounters with marine life, and an 87-foot blue whale skeleton—one of the largest in the world—soars majestically outside.
From Dance Dance Revolution Extreme and Mario Kart to skeeball, the more than 100 video and redemption games housed at Nickel City only cost one nickel per play. Additionally, more 30 arcade classics are playable for free—such as Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter—during which gamers battle evildoers trying to prevent them from repaving the road. Once players accrue enough tickets, they can swap their stubs at the redemption counter for prizes such as army men, stuffed animals, and electronics. In between the virtual action, guests can reenergize with a bite from the snack bar or join friends for celebrations in the party room.