Santa Cruz Travel Guide
Santa Cruz is California's premier surf city. It has great beaches, more than two dozen of them, scores of surf shops, a surfing museum, and some of the best surf on the California coast. There's also a Coney Island-style amusement park here, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, with roller coasters, a ferris wheel, carousels and a full array of rides and carnival games, fronting on Santa Cruz Beach, as well as a popular wharf, colorful little beach cottages alongside restored Victorians, bars serving kickass margaritas, shops selling souvenirs and beachwear, a downtown with street musicians, pavement art and skateboarders, vegetarian restaurants and aromatic cafés, Starbucks and Jamba Juice, festivals celebrating the arts and popular culture, and the loveliest of the University of California campuses, UC Santa Cruz, perched on a hill above town and surrounded by pasturelands and redwoods. Inland from the coast and northward from Santa Cruz lies Scotts Valley, with a handful of pastoral towns and gorgeous stands of virgin redwoods, from where visitors can ride a vintage steam train right into the heart of Santa Cruz, all the way to the Boardwalk. Ultimately, though, it must be fair to say that Santa Cruz is the very essence of California, at once progressive, tolerant, liberated, affluent and spirited, where the surf culture, the hippie culture, the bar culture, and the arts, have all come home to roost.
Santa Cruz is located at the northern end of Monterey Bay in north-central California, roughly 80 miles south of San Francisco. Directly to the north of Santa Cruz, on Highway 9, is the popular Roaring Camp with the Big Trees Railroad – a 19th-century logging-era theme park – and the San Lorenzo Valley, with its redwood state parks and small mountain towns; and just east of Santa Cruz, on Highway 1, sits the historic seaside village of Capitola, adjoined to its southeast by Aptos. Two other nearby areas of interest, northeastward from Santa Cruz on Highway 152, are Watsonville and the Hecker Pass district, the latter with a half-dozen or so small, family-run wineries and a developed mountain-top park.
Santa Cruz can be reached from San Francisco on either the coastal route, Highway 1 south, or a combination of Highway 101 (or 280 ) south to San Jose, then Route 17 southwestward directly to Santa Cruz. Either way, it's approximately 80 miles distant from San Francisco.
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