October 30, 2011

A Few Days in Santa Cruz

We went to college in Santa Cruz and I think it has the most idyllic hippie beach-town charm in all of California. We recently spent a long weekend in Santa Cruz and we had a really great three day/two night itinerary that captured the essence of the place.

DAY 1:

We started off in San Francisco  in the morning and drove down beautiful Highway 1 south. You can stop at Half Moon Bay for brunch or continue down to Pescadero for an 11:00 am tour at Harley Farms. Harley Farms is a goat dairy and they make the most divine cheese! There is a shop you can get picnic-y food at.


Arriving in Santa Cruz, drive out to Natural Bridges State Beach and into town along West Cliff Drive. Stop along the way to watch the surfers and consider visiting the lighthouse and surfing museum.

With some time to spare before checking in at the hotel or vacation rental, stop in and enjoy local creations Bonny Doon Winery's Cellar Door and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery's tasting room.

We adored our rental house. I discovered this cute, historic property on Homeaway and was delighted that the in-person impression was even better than online. It's in the Seabright neigborhood- a local area, farther away from where most of the UC students live.

Our vacation rental in Santa Cruz

If you prefer a hotel, the Dream Inn is the best option.

In the afternoon head downtown for some shopping and entertaining people-watching on Pacific Avenue. See the Museum of Art & History, chill out at iconic Bookshop Santa Cruz, and definitely stop in at The Penny Ice Creamery! The Santa Cruz mission is also nearby.

Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz

For dinner there are a lot of good choices. Upscale options are Laili, La Posta, and Gabriella Cafe. Safe bets for a more casual experience is Rosie McCann's (shepherd's pie, bangers and mash!), El Palomar, and Vasili's.

DAY 2:

Up and at 'em to hit a local Farmer's Market. There are so many!

Next to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (if you are there in the summer). This dirty yet kind of delightful amusement strip along the beach is a popular destination, and it's worth a visit. Ride the famous carousel, take in the view from the skybuckets, and taste some funnel cake, if you dare. The wooden Giant Dipper rollercoaster is great!

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Carousel

The food at the boardwalk probably didn't look too appetizing, so good thing The Picnic Basket is just a five minute walk up the boardwalk, where you can get delicious sandwiches (below is a roasted beet, goat cheese and arugula panini), salads, baked treats, good beer, and The Penny Ice Creamery ice cream.

Lunch at The Picnic Basket in Santa Cruz

After lunch, drive into the hills a bit to a grove of redwoods and the Mystery Spot. Prepare for the laws of physics to be challenged because regular gravitational rules do not apply. You may need to buy tickets online in advance, so check that out.

Tonight cook up your farmer's markets goodies or visit another one of the restaurants I suggested above.

DAY 3:

Gayle's Bakery for delectable pastries or brunch or picnic lunch is a good start for exploring the tiny village of Capitola, on Santa Cruz's southern border. There are all kinds of shops to browse before heading home. Or get a margarita at Margaritaville

That's a lovely weekend in Santa Cruz!

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