Though still the same game at heart, the bowling competitions at Valley Center Bowl take on a sci-fi spin. The center's 30 lanes use flat-screen televisions to report bowlers' scores, play 3-D graphics, and display a digital clock counting down to the robot uprising. During events such as the Rock-N-Bowl, black and colorful lights dance along the walls and floors while videos pour from six 42-inch screens. Electronic entertainment coaxes visitors away from the lanes an into a newly remodeled, 3,200-square-foot redemption arcade that sits beside the Lazer Frenzy laser maze. Recently renovated with comfortable seating and flat-panel screens, Monterey Lanes entices bowlers of all ages to strive for a perfect 300 score while enjoying good company and crisp refreshments from the cocktail lounge. Weekend glow bowling and an onsite arcade keep gamers amused, and the pro shop caters to more serious bowlers. Monterey Lanes routinely lends its slick surfaces to charity events, such as Bowl Over Breast Cancer.
Managing 27 grocery stores and more than 2,500 employees is a stressful task. Nob Hill Foods owner Michael Bonfante learned that the best way for him to manage that stress was to retreat to a shady, secluded spot surrounded by majestic trees. These occasional escapes into nature inspired Bonfante to found a park dedicated to teaching visitors of all ages—but especially children—how to appreciate horticulture, wildlife, and trees in particular. Along with his wife, Claudia, Bonfante eventually sold his grocery stores and committed all of his efforts to educating the public and spreading his love for nature.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park receives virtually all of the Bonfantes' attention now, and it attracts visitors with combination of educational exhibits, carnival games, and amusement-park rides. The map features more than 40 possible destinations where guests can learn something new about local horticulture, enjoy an adrenaline-pumping joy ride, or simply enjoy the scenery. With family-friendly attractions available for all ages, the park includes everything from carousels to paddleboats to a mine-cart roller coaster that takes passengers through a thrilling series of dips and speedy turns.
Even while visitors are standing in line or buckled into a ride, they are still surrounded by nature at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park. Five waterfalls—representing the five major styles of waterfalls that occur in nature—gush with torrents of water. The grounds also feature 19 of Axel Erlandson's famous Circus Trees, which he created by grafting saplings so that they grew to form shapes such as hearts, lightning bolts, and basket weaves. In addition to touting the importance of animals such as monarch butterflies and honeybees, the park features six distinctive gardens brimming with informative displays and everything from conifers to tropical and subtropical flowers.
Perched on an 80-acre ranch complete with a lighted outdoor sand area and a round riding pen, Johnny 6 Stables beckons equine enthusiasts of all riding levels to its picturesque confines for hands-on lessons steeped in the English riding tradition. Students grasp the basics of saddle seat, a riding style known for its beginner-friendly methods, while trotting along the quarter-mile jog track alone or beside a fellow rider. Patient and skilled tutors work with fledgling gallopers during the 30-minute lessons, imparting enough riding rudiments to launch an equestrian hobby or model for the cover of a romance novel.
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 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.
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.