In February 2016, Super Bowl 50 descends upon the San Francisco Bay Area, celebrating its golden year in the Golden State. The landmark game takes place at Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the 49ers and less than 40 minutes from our sandy shores. If you’re in town for the big game consider Santa Cruz as the best sampling of California in one nearby locale: beaches, redwoods, vineyards, surf culture, and a historic beachfront theme park. Here are ten super ideas for things to do during your visit:
1) Bury Your Toes in the Sand (Yep, Even in February) Take advantage of Santa Cruz’s year-round Mediterranean climate with a day at the beach. Many sunny days are in January & February. We had several days in the low 90’s during 2015— what many of you might know as the dead of winter! Sunny Cove is just one of many scenic spots along our 29 miles of coastline. From secret coves to wide sandy expanses, you’ll find a beach that’ll help you forget what month it is.
2) Clink Local Beers. Lots of ‘Em. California is home to some notable craft beer destinations, but Santa Cruz is the next big thing. New breweries and taprooms are sprouting up what seems like each month and a supportive, convivial community — not to mention delicious, quality brews — make for an enjoyable day on the beer trail. Start at New Bohemia Brewing Company for Czech and German style lagers served in a stylish tasting room. Or grab a seat on the sunny, new beer garden at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing which is celebrating 10 years of brewing organic beers. .
3) Modern Thrills at 108 Year-Old Beach Theme Park No one mixes nostalgia and contemporary thrills better than the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The festive, waterfront amusement park is the place to nibble homemade fudge from a 100 year-old candy maker before taking a whirl on a new, spinning rollercoaster. You can shoot digital zombies in the massive arcade and pitch softballs at a stack of metal bottles on the midway. Don’t miss the Giant Dipper, a 91 year-old coaster — and National Historic Landmark — that still draws the crowds and the screams. Our favorite ride is the Merry-Go-Round with it’s elegantly hand-carved Horses and the rare Ring Toss that still operates for you to grab a ring from your horse and throw it into the Clowns Mouth for a great fun surprise!
4) Marvel at Earth’s Largest Living Things Northern California is home to the tallest living things on the planet: Sequoia Sempervirens, or Coastal Redwoods. You’ll find groves of these colossal trees literally minutes from Santa Cruz’s sandy shores. Stroll 15 miles of trails at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park or hop aboard the vintage steam trains at Roaring Camp Railroads that haul passengers through mountaintop, old-growth forests. For the truly adventurous, harness up for a series of Zip lines and sky bridges amidst the treetops on a Redwoods Canopy Tour.
5) Get Out on the Water Santa Cruz’s most cherished feature is arguably the Monterey Bay. For close up views, test your balance on a stand-up paddle board with lessons and rentals from outlets like Capitola Beach Company. You’ll stay drier — and sip more wine — on a scenic leisure cruise on the Bay. But if you turn green just from looking at the sea, consider a stroll on the Santa Cruz Wharf. The longest wooden pier in the state extends far into the bay, offering front row views of the Bay’s wildlife, from barking sea lions to leaping dolphins and the occasional spy-hopping whale.
6) Get Stoked on Local Surf Culture If there was a Surfer Bowl, Santa Cruz would be its host city. You needn’t hop on a board to soak up the town’s rich surf culture. Santa Cruz became the birthplace of mainland surfing when Hawaiians showed locals how to catch waves using repurposed redwood planks. And it was here that Jack O’Neill invented a crazy, neoprene contraption called “the wetsuit.” You’ll learn those stories — and the history of surfing throughout pop culture — at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, housed in a historic lighthouse overlooking famed surf spot, Steamer Lane.
7) Pop the Cork on Santa Cruz Wineries The Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is home to over 200 vineyards and a whopping 60+ wineries. Sample the region’s famed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — as well as other varietals — at the numerous tasting rooms of Santa Cruz’s small, independent producers. Settings vary from the bucolic Alfaro Family Vineyards toBonny Doon’s stylish tasting room to a series of walkable wineries on the Westside including MJA and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.
8) Hit the Links Santa Clara may have the pigskin, but Santa Cruz has the greens. Avid golfers shouldn’t miss an opportunity to tee up at Pasatiempo Golf Club, a championship course with stunning bay vistas. The lauded course was designed by Alister MacKenzie — who crafted three of the top six courses in the world — and was ranked #21 for public courses in the US by Golf Digest. Afterwards, swap stories over Cowboy Steaks at Back Nine Grill & Bar which features huge flat-screen TVs and a deck overlooking the second fairway.
9) Watch the Game (From the Beach): Couldn’t nab tix to Levi’s Stadium? You won’t miss the crowds while you’re enjoying the game on big screens at beachfront spots like Ideal Bar & Grill, Crow’s Nest, and Cafe Rio on the Beach. If the beer commercials finally get to you, pull up a chair at 99 Bottles of Beer whose screens are complemented by 42 taps and over 250 bottles in the cold case.
10) Make the place you Sleep as a Destination From beachfront Vacation Rentals to historic inns, Santa Cruz lodging offers more than a place to rest your head. The cheery, California-inspired Dream Inn sits directly on the sand of Cowell Beach with unparalleled Bay views from every room. Looking for a more scenic escape? Check out Seascape Beach Resort nine miles south of Santa Cruz in Aptos and set on 45 acres of breathtaking coastal bluffs. For historical charm, grab a porch seat at the West Cliff Inn, a modern B&B housed in a striking 1877 Italianate home overlooking the Bay. Or spread out in a vacation rental and enjoy our laid-back lifestyle in a quintessential California Beach Bungalow. The network of friends at aGreatPlaceToStay.net specialize in providing Free Local information gathered & updated since 1999 and they are available from 7am-7pm, 7-days a week to help make your stay the BEST that it can be! They have vacation homes that sleep from 2 to 22 guests, all within an easy stroll to the beach, and many of them are pet friendly, so you don’t have to leave your best 4-footed friends at home.
Remember, as our Visitor’s Center is fond of saying…Our 29-miles of Sandy Beaches are Just the Beginning.