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Surfers, students, travelers, and all sorts of eccentrics gather in this coastal counterculture hub. Santa Cruz is a quintessential California beach town, from its killer surf breaks to its bohemian spirit to its boardwalk with carnival rides. Life here feels like a never-ending summer vacation, thanks to a temperate climate, mellow vibe, and free-spirited population. Santa Cruz is situated on the north end of Monterey Bay, just 75 miles south of San Francisco.
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Start your adventures in the sunshine at the colorful Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Play arcade games and ride the carousel. Ride an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster and eat cotton candy on the sand. Spend the afternoon delighting your inner child, and then head to downtown Santa Cruz for a fun evening of premium people-watching.
Hang out with college students from the University of California Santa Cruz. Browse vintage clothing boutiques and crystal shops. Eat at New Age cafes and sip on kombucha cocktails. On Wednesdays, hit up the downtown Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market. This colorful market covers a city block and features live music, handmade crafts, and organic produce.
Vibe out on the spectacular beaches in Santa Cruz, which are some of the most pristine (and famous) in the country. Surfing was introduced to California right here, and you can see surfers hanging ten on Steamer Lane. Watch for whales off the coastline, especially during gray whale migration season between December and April. Try stand up paddle boarding or play a pick-up game of disc golf. Just a few miles inland you can traipse through ancient trees at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Snap share-worthy selfies at the Mystery Spot, a kitschy tourist trap with anti-gravity illusions. Discover crazy stories at the Surfing Museum and cruise along West Cliff Drive. Bring your sense of adventure to Santa Cruz and be inspired by the beach town’s child-like enthusiasm and beautiful coastal setting. Get ready to play!