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Top Things To Do In Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a coastal town on the Monterey Bay south of San Francisco. This city is a classic beach town where locals prefer to spend their days outdoors along the shore or in the nearby California Redwood forests. Also the home of the University of California, Santa Cruz, residents tend to live a more progressive, West Coast lifestyle. Check out all of the iconic attractions and things to do in Santa Cruz.

Visit for Two, Four, or Six to Bay Area Discovery Museum
Visit for Two, Four, or Six to Bay Area Discovery Museum
Sausalito
4.8
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$31.90 $29.90
6% discount_off
Admission for Two
General Admission at California Academy of Sciences
General Admission at California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco
4.7
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$33.89
One Youth (ages 3-17), Student, or Senior (ages 65+) General-Admission Ticket
Wine Tasting for Two or Four at Puma Road Winery (Up to 51% Off)
Wine Tasting for Two or Four at Puma Road Winery (Up to 51% Off)
Soledad
4.7
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$30.00 $15.00
50% discount_off
Wine Tasting for Four: Three to Five Pours of Select Wines for Each Person
General Admission or Family Membership at the National Steinbeck Center (Up to 46% Off). Three Options.
General Admission or Family Membership at the National Steinbeck Center (Up to 46% Off). Three Options.
Salinas
4.7
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$29.90 $16.00
46% discount_off
General admission for two adults and two youth
Golden Gate Bay or Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise for One Adult or Youth from Red and White Fleet (Up to 8% Off)
Golden Gate Bay or Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise for One Adult or Youth from Red and White Fleet (Up to 8% Off)
San Francisco
4.8
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$23.00
One Adult Ticket for the Golden Gate Bay Cruise
Computer History Museum Visit for Two with Optional T-Shirts, or a Visit for Four or Six (Up to 51% Off)
Computer History Museum Visit for Two with Optional T-Shirts, or a Visit for Four or Six (Up to 51% Off)
Mountain View
4.8
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$35.00 $17.00
51% discount_off
Admission for up to four people
Up to 20% Off Whale Watching at Sea Goddess Whale Watching
Up to 20% Off Whale Watching at Sea Goddess Whale Watching
MOSS LANDING,
4.8
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$58.00 $50.99
12% discount_off
Up to Three Hours of Whale Watching for One Person

Beaches define life in Santa Cruz. Check out the top beaches in town – Cowell Beach is a local favorite, Seabright State Beach is popular with visitors, and Natural Bridge State Beach is one of the most photogenic beaches in town.

Check out the best things to do in Santa Cruz:

  • Spend the day outside at the DeLaveaga Park
  • Explore the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk
  • Enjoy the pedestrian-only Pacific Garden Mall on Pacific Avenue
  • Visit the famous California giants at the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
  • Admire the modern art at Tannery Art Campus

The Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk is one of the most famous boardwalks in the country. The boardwalk is home to a thrilling amusement park, complete with a roller coaster, midway games, a carousel, and mini golf.

Don’t miss these other popular attractions near Santa Cruz:

  • Ride a train through the forest with Roaring Camp Railroads
  • Lose yourself in art at the Museum of Art and History
  • Learn about sea life at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center
  • Celebrate the radical sport at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
  • Experience the past at the Santa Cruz Mission

Pogonip is a greenbelt that connects the UCSC campus and the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The trails across the 11.5 miles of green space are open year round for biking, horseback riding, hiking, and dog walking.

Here are some more fun things to do in Santa Cruz today:

  • Have lunch at Crow’s Nest restaurant
  • Ride the mountain bike trails at Nisene Marks State Park
  • Drive over to the Capitola Mall
  • Take ‘gram worthy snapshots at the Natural Bridges State Beach
  • Buy trinkets from gift shops along the Santa Cruz Wharf

Kuumbwa Jazz is a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve, educate, and share the magic of music and jazz with the community through weekly concerts. Their concert hall is the 200 seat Kuumbwa Jazz Center, a space that is often rented out for private parties, workshops, and theater. Between beach walks to jazz performances, you’ll always have things to do in Santa Cruz at night.

Nighttime activities near Santa Cruz include:

  • Comedy nights at The Blue Lagoon
  • Evenings walk along the beach at West Cliff Drive
  • Live music every night at The Crepe Place
  • Dance parties at Moe’s Alley
  • Local shows and tours at The Catalyst

With plenty of things to do with kids in Santa Cruz, the city is perfect for family-friendly vacations. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a protected ocean area between San Francisco and the Big Sur coast. The Sanctuary Exploration Center in Santa Cruz is full of exhibits that teach visitors about understanding the impact the ocean has on people and the impact people have on the ocean.

The top family-friendly things to do near Santa Cruz include:

  • Have a Tiki themed dinner at Hula’s Island Grill
  • Explore the tidepools at Santa Maria Beach
  • Sign up for all age surf lesson as Santa Cruz Surf
  • Learn about slugs at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
  • Pick fruit at Swanton Berry Farm

The Lick Observatory is an active research facility on the UCSC campus that is open to the public. If you’re looking to stay inside a while, visitors can come during the day to hear about the observatory's history while looking at the telescope dome, visitor’s gallery, and exhibits. Visitors may also come at night during an evening program.

Here are some more things to indoors in Santa Cruz:

  • See the Grateful Dead archives at the McHenry Library
  • Lose yourself in the lights at the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery
  • Create a custom candle at Glow
  • Mold your own inventions at Good Life Ceramics
  • Pamper yourself at Tea House Spa

The UCSC Arboretum & Botanical Gardens are a 135-acre plot near the campus that contain more than 300 different species of unique plants native to Mediterranean climates. Check out some of the rare plants native to countries on the other side of the world, like the Spring Torch from Australia and the Cape heaths of South Africa.

Other active things to do in Santa Cruz include:

  • Riding the waves in the iconic Surf City
  • Swimming in the The Garden of Eden scenic swim spot
  • Sailing out to watch whales with Stagnaro Charters
  • Fishing inshore at Pinto Lake
  • Skating at the Mike Fox Skate Park