Uniquely Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California, is my first love. I grew up there, had my first love there, had my first heartbreak there, had my first job there, had my first child there, and had forever love there, in that order. Santa Cruz will always mean the world to me, and even more so because it has my entire family there - my parents, three of my sisters (two are sister-in-laws) and my brother, nine of my nieces and nephews, and all of my extended family. Brando and I lived there again for a year five years after we got married, and enjoyed the town with a whole new meaning than we had when we were kids. We explored it, and got to know it, for us. This list of our favorite things to do in Santa Cruz (also copied below) is a result of that year of exploration, and now, each time we go back, we make even more precious memories in all our favorite places and new ones as well. Check back here often for links to additional activities as I post about them.

Small plates at Soif. You feel like you get a $100 meal for $20. We did this this last trip to Cali and took this picture. That’s just the appetizer though… often, afterwards, we would go get El Palomar Taco Bar
Chicken quesadillas and a $5 delish margarita at El Palomar Taco Bar (walk through Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company to get there or go through El Palomar next to the bar).
Marini's Downtown Santa Cruz
An apple pie apple at Marini’s.
Cafe Limelight Santa Cruz
A Root Beer Float at Cafe Limelight.
Breakfast on the sea at Aldo’s for a beautiful setting and good food. Usually we’d bike down there on our bikes to enjoy a Sunday or Saturday morning breakfast.
Walnut Avenue Cafe Santa Cruz
Incredible breakfast food at Walnut Avenue Cafe. There are so many places to shop and browse if you happen to catch them on a Sunday morning and get a 45 minute wait.
Bunny's Too is practically next door to Walnut Avenue Cafe and my favorite boutique to shop on Pacific Garden Mall for inexpensive but unique items.
Petroglyph Santa Cruz
Petroglyph was our all time favorite family past time this year. You can paint pottery for hours. Once you start you really can’t stop, it’s a strangely relaxing hobby.
Further up Hwy 1, approximately eight miles past Davenport turn left into Greyhound Rock State Park area (that link also contains an interesting list of coastal access points and beaches I can't wait to explore). A gorgeous beach and some fun rocks to climb. If you go at low tide you can get on the actual Greyhound Rock where seals sunbathe.

Unbeknownst to me until several years ago, four minutes up the road from Greyhound Rock is Ano Nuevo State Beach which has the largest mainland colony of elephant seals. Peak time to visit them is December through March, and something I tried desperately to do this last time. However, it fell off the priority list, so take lots of pictures if you go.
The Farm Aptos, California
The Farm on Soquel across from Cabrillo College in Aptos for lunch with a friend or a picnic at the beach. The Mediterranean Chicken sandwhich is out of this world with fresh mozzarella and herb bread. My hubby loves the tri-tip as well. They’re also a great stop for breakfast on any random morning. The best thickest French Toast and excellent bacon and egg croissant sandwhiches. They also have great Cafe Au Laits.
Pacific Edge Rock Climbing Santa Cruz
Pacific Edge Rock Climbing to take the kids. $8 on the boulder for however many hours you want, no repelling training necessary. We were always surprised how long we were there.

Crows Nest UPSTAIRS to spend an in expensive evening watching the sunset. Or sitting inside next to the fire pit on a cool evening or outside they have heaters next to the building that work wonders. Downstairs where this photo is from is fancier, not as good of food and pricier to boot.
Stockton Bridge for a special evening out. Their Peach drink that I wish I could remember the name of is so very yummy.

Another photo from our last trip, Paradise Beach Grille is down the street from Stockton Bridge, and arguably has even more amazing food and the perfect ocean view deck for a warm summer evening. Peachwoods Scotts Valley, California
Peachwoods is my all time favorite for a special occasion. Their artichoke cakes and peach fritters are out of this world. My favorite part is their 4 course dinner, starting with the soup or salad complete with chilled gold forks, the peach sorbet to cleanse your palette, and the peach iced tea. Each of their many clocks does something completely different and fun at the top of the hour.
Santa Cruz Wharf
Riva’s on the wharf for Cardinal Margarita’s, fried zucchini, and Chocolate Hazelnut gelatto. Their other food is decent too if you want to spend an evening on the water.
Pizza My Heart Santa Cruz
Pizza My Heart for pizza and salad, they have a $7 pizza, salad, and soda deal that will feed two. Their pizza is so delicious that along with Kianti's they catered our vow renewal celebration with pizzas named for our favorite beaches including one we renewed our vows on, Natural Bridges.
Mr Toots Coffee Bar
Mr. Toots for coffee in the cool summer mornings spent at the beach in Capitola.

Saturday mornings at the Aptos Farmer’s Market in the Cabrillo College parking lot. They have the most amazing stuff there. My favorites were the Kawasaki (sp?) farm for cucumbers, and there was one on the corner of the very top row next to the exit that I wish I could remember the name of, but they always had the best stuff for the most inexpensive prices. Blood oranges, strawberries, you name it. Felton Farmer’s Market was always a blast as well – they have Hawaiian shaved ice on Tuesday afternoons and roasted corn. Yum!
Capitola Wharf
Ice cream at Polar Bear, now known as Cafe Violette, in Capitola. Perfect after a long bike ride, or after a hot afternoon at the beach. My favorite was Where Have You Bean All My Life? It’s actually coffee with ground up coffee beans.
Kianti's Restaurant Santa Cruz
Pizza and salad at Kianti’s. Their Friday and Saturday night show of Riverdance like dancing from their waiters and music turned up extremely high, then the owner’s nephew flipping pizza dough in the air, behind his back, and alcohol being thrown on the fire. It’s quite a production. And the best part was the kids being entertained with their own roll of pizza dough to play with. Their outdoor seating is perfect for an afternoon of people watching.
The Buttery Santa Cruz
Cakes at the Buttery. Their sandwhiches are yummy, too, and their pastries. Further down if you feel like walking is a lingerie shop that I wish I could remember the name of. The owner is extremely friendly and used to own the flower kiosk downtown for years before she sold it and decided to open this in her Seabright neighborhood.
The Santa Cruz County Fair for small town fun. If you’re ever visiting in fall, this is so much fun. My kids still talk about the Sea Lion show they had.
Twin Lakes Church for our souls. Pastor Renee Schlaepfer is so wonderful he’s actually been to the church we go to and love out here and we tell people how much we miss him and then tell them who and they say “Ooooh, now I get it.”
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for good ol’ entertainment and a really fun date. Several times B and I had the chance to escape here for a ride or two, just us, when they wouldn’t close til’ late at night in the middle of the summer. It was like being a kid again. The Giant Dipper always gives me a headache but is a must ride. They have a new twirly ride that I rode and screamed the whole time. The guy across from me was laughing his head off at me and said he didn’t know if I was laughing or dying on there.

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts forever and figured it was about time to draft it and get it out here for anybody vacationing in Santa Cruz anytime soon. And it’s making me miss there so. very. much.



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