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Things to do in Santa Cruz, California

Karen Miner is the Food Associate Editor for SheKnows, ChefMom and FabulousFoods. She is a freelance writer, recipe developer and is also the cook, author and photographer behind the food blog, Tasty Trials, a collection of original reci...

Take a walk on the boardwalk

Dust off your surfboard, lather on the sunscreen and head out to the coast. You'll have no shortage of sun and fun in Santa Cruz, California.

Santa Cruz boardwalk

Santa Cruz is known for its low-key vibe, beaches and, most of all, the boardwalk, but there is a lot more to do in this coastal city. Spend the day visiting some of the most iconic Santa Cruz spots.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Visit this amusement park on the beach for rides, midway games, miniature golf, laser tag, classic carnival food and more. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been operating since 1907 and is home to the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, which has been thrilling riders since 1924. During the summer, catch concerts on the beach in front of the boardwalk or just enjoy the sand and the waves. Admission is free, although tickets are required for rides.

Santa Cruz Wharf

Just past the boardwalk, the Santa Cruz Wharf offers a quintessential seaside stroll. Gift shops and restaurants line the wharf, with tons of options for souvenirs and fresh seafood. Walk all the way to the end to see hundreds of sea lions lounging and noisily barking on the docks below the wharf.

The Mystery Spot

Feeling mysterious? Take a trip to The Mystery Spot, a gravitational anomaly located within the redwood forest. Heights and perspective seem completely off here and there are many theories as to why this occurs. Experience it for yourself on a 45-minute guided tour. After you've had your fill of mystery, take a hike through the beautiful redwoods.

Spend the day in Santa Barbara, another beautiful California beach town >>

Natural Bridges State Beach

Away from the crowds of the boardwalk, Natural Bridges State Park is a quiet place to take a walk and enjoy the scenery. Named for a natural bridge formation, the park is home to tide pools and plenty of sea life off the coast. Catch a glimpse of otters, seals and even the occasional whale from the beach. During the winter months, Monarch Grove becomes home to 100,000 Monarch butterflies, which can be seen on guided tours through the preserve.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Surfers will love a visit to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which opened in 1986 and is the first such museum in the world. Explore the sport's history and culture, see old surfboards, memorabilia and more. You can even see a surfboard that survived a shark attack!

Surf City Vintners

After a long day of roller coasters, corn dogs and cotton candy, head to Surf City Vintners for a well-deserved wine tasting. This collective of a dozen boutique wineries clustered within a renovated warehouse space is the perfect spot to unwind and relax. Park the car and wander from door to door as you try some of the wines that the Santa Cruz Mountains have to offer.

More California travel ideas

7 Best theme parks in California
B&Bs along the Southern California coast
Best family camping spots in California

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