Things to do in or near Santa Cruz, California on a weekend?
January 26, 2006 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Things to do in or near Santa Cruz, California on a weekend?

My girlfriend is coming to visit me up here. I attend UC Santa Cruz but I don't really know what there is to do around here besides hike around campus.

Someone told me to drive up to Davenport. He said it's really nice up there. The Año Nuevo State Reserve has guided walks to see the Elephant Seals during mating season but all the spaces are full.

Anyone have any ideas? Strange areas to explore are very welcome. We're not really interested in spending very much money (free or cheap is best).
posted by redteam to Travel & Transportation around Santa Cruz, CA (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When I was a student (before last June), I used to spend lots of time walking up and down pacific; also, the beaches on west cliff and east cliff are beautiful, as I'm sure you know. There's a really nice beach right off Portola in capitola which is worth checking out, too. Davenport never interested me too much, but there are nice wine tastings and suchlike in Bonny Doon. Feel free to e-mail me for more suggestions.
posted by clockzero at 5:06 PM on January 26, 2006

If you don't mind a bit of touristyness, you should try the Mystery Spot . It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I've found it pretty fun. It's just outside of Santa Cruz, and will kill a few hours. Their bumper stickers are very popular in the area.

There's also the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz itself, but having worked there a couple summers, I can't really endorse it.

There's also lots and lots of hiking, and just being in downtown Santa Cruz means exposure to some incredible street performance and lots of amusing weirdness.
posted by Durhey at 5:09 PM on January 26, 2006

Drive down to Big Sur -- it's about 70 miles or so, I think, and the scenery between Carmel and Big Sur is just spectacular. Lots of opportunities for walks/hikes as well as watching whales and seals. Watch the sunset from the deck at Nepenthe -- you can get a beverage if eating there is out of your budget. If you want to spend the night, you can get a cabin at Ripplewood for fairly inexpensively (at least by Big Sur lodging standards!) -- the smaller ones without fireplaces are around $80/night, though I always like to make sure to have a fireplace when I stay there.
posted by scody at 5:12 PM on January 26, 2006

If you want to spend the night, you can get a cabin at Ripplewood

If you don't want to spend the night, have an thrilling drive back! =)
posted by idontlikewords at 5:14 PM on January 26, 2006

Depending on your inclination, check out the MetroActive Events Guide or grab a Good Times (both free papers available every in town). Lots of stuff listed in them both.

I like getting out on West Cliff and riding my bike out to Natural Bridges and back but its a great walk as well.

If you play volleyball there will almost certainly be games on Main Beach.

If you seek solitude, Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos has alot of space to get lost in.

The Mystery Spot on Branciforte might be fun but I've never been and it does charge an entry fee.

And there are all kinds of bands to see, some big names too.
posted by fenriq at 5:16 PM on January 26, 2006

If you go down Big Sur way then definitely stop at Nepenthe for lunch, the views are worth it!
posted by fenriq at 5:17 PM on January 26, 2006

Rent wetsuits at the O'Neill shop (about $12 each, plus deposit) and borrow a boogy board from someone and head to the beach. I did it two weeks ago and had a blast.
posted by spork at 5:34 PM on January 26, 2006

Drive north on 1 to Moss Beach and check out the tidepools at low tide. Completely free!

Just south of there is Half Moon Bay - you can walk around town (free) and get something to eat (reasonable if you look around).

Go down to the beach where Route 1 & 84 connect and build things out of driftwood and wade in the ocean (free (park across the street if the parking lot is collecting fees)).
posted by mikepop at 6:01 PM on January 26, 2006

It's been a while for me, but Zachary's is a great breakfast place. Peppers was one of my favourites for Mexican food. You might catch some music at the Catalyst--Willie Nelson is pricey, but there are less expensive bands.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:45 PM on January 26, 2006

If the weather's right, there is a great nude beach @ Bonny Doon,

Er, not that I would know about it. Nope.
posted by bhance at 6:51 PM on January 26, 2006

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the finest in the world and it's right down the road from you. It's great!
posted by wsg at 8:07 PM on January 26, 2006

Monterey ... the aquarium ... the 17-mile drive ... have a picnic on the beach. It's great.
posted by frogan at 8:41 PM on January 26, 2006

Lighthouse point on west cliff is a really nice place to take a walk (between there and natural bridges state park). Driving up to Davenport is also very nice. Henry Cowell state park is a good place to see redwoods (I think 9 is open again). Walking around the downtown area on a weekend evening can be fairly entertaining in and of itself. Also, I think the monarch butterflies might still be in the area (at least I keep hearing about it on the radio), but I'm not sure exactly where one would go to see them. Unfortunately I'm not sure how good the weather will be this weekend.

One final thing that I don't see above is the tasting room for bonny doon vineyards, which I've heard can be a lot of fun.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the finest in the world and it's right down the road from you. It's great!

But not so cheap...
posted by advil at 9:14 PM on January 26, 2006

(mystery spot) Their bumper stickers are very popular in the area.

They used to stick them on cars whether you wanted one or not, or at least this is what I'm told.
posted by advil at 9:16 PM on January 26, 2006

I second Bonny Doon. I once ended taking a wrong bus up there (another UCSC alum here), and have never regretted it. It is quite literally, one of the most beautiful sites on the coast, especially at sunset.

And I'm sure you already know all the best places to eat on or around Pacific Avenue;-)
posted by invisible ink at 9:41 PM on January 26, 2006

Response by poster: Hey there everyone. Thanks for all the responses. Recommendations like those from mikepop are definitely what I'm looking for. Any more?
posted by redteam at 10:50 PM on January 26, 2006

Durhey writes "There's also lots and lots of hiking, and just being in downtown Santa Cruz means exposure to some incredible street performance and lots of amusing weirdness."

If there's one thing that I like more than incredible street performance it's amusing weirdness. Can anyone elaborate on this suggestion a little?

posted by stuart_s at 11:37 PM on January 26, 2006

I live here and am echoing durhey. On weekends you'll find a bunch of street performers. One of the best acts I saw was this 5-6 member band banging on wooden xylophones across the street from Borders. Great show.

Oh, and say hi to crazy umbrella guy. He dresses up in a pink dress, has a pink umbrella with its interior lined with tin foil and walks real slow up and down the main street in downtown Santa Cruz. I heard he does it just to watch people and to see their reaction. I love the guy and say hi to him every time I see him.

Also, Bookshop Santa Cruz (free) is right next to Chocolat (not free) but then, you're there with your girlfriend so at least take her out for some hot chocolate. And go walk along West Cliff drive to watch the surfers, tourists and the ocean. There's a free surfing museum at the lighthouse too.
posted by Tacodog at 11:56 PM on January 26, 2006

For a budget taqueria, you can't beat Tacos Morenos on Soquel Ave. Plus, sometimes you'll find the owner's daughter working the register... you'll recognize her by her picture on the amateur women's boxing posters all around the restaurant.

And for late night coffee, Lulu Carpenter's on Pacific is great. To view the late night wildlife, I'm sure you know of Cafe Pergolesi.
posted by Tacodog at 11:59 PM on January 26, 2006

Stop at the Davenport Cash Store (an excellent place for lunch), and don't miss the path down to the beach that is directly across Hwy 1 from there.

There's still plenty of redwood goodness behind campus -- start at the Crown apartments and hike the fire trail.

The lighthouse on West Cliff is not in itself interesting, but there are almost always surfers in the water there, and a nice walking trail runs parallel to the cliff.

Head down to Aptos, and Sea Cliff State Park. The park isn't much, but it is home to the remains of the S.S. Palo Alto, a World War I era oil tanker with a cement hull.

Also in Aptos, the Forest of Nisene Marks state park has incredible mountain biking, as well as a hiking trail leading to the Loma Prieta Quake epicenter.
posted by tkolar at 12:45 AM on January 27, 2006

If there's anything going on at the time, there's the Laguna Seca Raceway which isn't too far away either
posted by mabelcolby at 5:22 AM on January 27, 2006

Second fenriq's Natural Bridges, there's frisbee golf, explore campus (tree nine, the river past the Porter Meadow, Pogonip, the Arboretum, etc), Big Sur, Cowell Park, Midnight Movie at the Del Mar, go for a picnic up Empire grade, Long Marine Lab has a public/student-accessible aquarium.

If you're looking for good food, moderately priced, hit up the Sabieng, the Crepe Place, Chocolate, Pink Godzilla, Zachary's, or Pleasure Pizza.

I assume you're underage/frosh, but if not and looking for a place with good drinks, I recommend the Red Room and the Poet & the Patriot.

Hope this helps; email's in link if you need some more ideas.
posted by duende at 5:27 AM on January 27, 2006

Yup, the Monarch butterflies should be in Natural Bridges this time of year.

You can also try Pacific Grove if you can get to the Monterey area.
posted by plinth at 6:25 AM on January 27, 2006

I like Marianne's Ice Cream -- red building at 1020 Ocean St. Way back from the beach, but worth a visit.

And when I visited the Mystery Spot a couple years ago I came away with a bumper sticker, because they have stacks of 'em available at the ticket counter -- but they certainly weren't putting them on cars in the parking lot, unrequested (in California? They wouldn't dare. In fact, the only time I've ever experenced this practice was at a cavern in Virginia in the early 1960s -- my Dad was furious!) And recently, on el Camino here in Sili Valley I spotted a car covered with Mystery Spot bumper stickers -- very well done, I might add.

posted by Rash at 9:22 AM on January 27, 2006

I would definitely recommend 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach and also Point Lobos just south of Carmel. Some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.
posted by gallois at 9:31 AM on January 27, 2006

Re: Downtown coffee/Hot chocolate. Chocolat has good stuff, but I've felt it's pricy and kind of snooty. I recommend Pergolesi, which is on the other end of downtown, plays cool music, has hot baristas, and is very near Logo's, which is a tremendous used book/music/video store, in which you can spend literally hours browsing.

RE: Mystery Spot: The sneaky bumper-stickerage tale is something of a local urban legend. In my experience, they've never done it, and I've been there a few times. The stickers are either free or extremely cheap, which I think accounts for their popularity, as well as the fact that they can be easily modified to read "Mystery Pot" (Note: No one will think this is funny).
posted by Durhey at 9:32 AM on January 27, 2006

Just north of booked-up Ano Nuevo is a great place to take a short hike. I'd park at the Gazos Creek parking lot (off Hwy 1) and walk south along the beach/bluffs to Franklin Point - there is a little deck/benches at the point that are a great place to eat a pack lunch and enjoy the view.
posted by lpqboy at 11:38 AM on January 27, 2006

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