48 Hours in Santa Cruz

By Alanna Bradley

I have always loved Santa Cruz – the beaches, the town, the laid-back vibe. The place is a perfect wind-down for those of us that are well, wound a little too tightly. I even entertained going to college there, but the pass/fail grade system was too much for me…my neurosis required an A-F grading system – how on earth could I put in an A’s worth of effort and get the same mark as someone who only worked for a C! That did not compute. But, I digress.

For the past nine months I have had the wonderful opportunity of working on a destination advertising campaign for Santa Cruz County. Of course this has meant lots of wonderful trips to the area.

Distance from Sacramento = approx 146 miles.

The Vibe

For anyone planning a low-key weekend getaway, Santa Cruz is your place. Whether you’re trying to affordably take the kids for a trip, planning some time away with your honey or just looking for some time away from friends this place has got you covered.

Dream Inn

A Place To Lay Your Head 

  • Dream Inn (175 West Cliff Drive) – If you go the hotel route, this place is beautiful and located right on Cowell’s beach. The interior décor is clean and modern and the rooms overlook the ocean with views of the Monterey Bay. Also, noteworthy, the pool area is right on the beach and features the most amazing orange loungers and of course drinks service. Like the Citizen Hotel, the Dream Inn is a Joie De Vivre property – basically, this means the property is beautiful, well manicured and comes with a fantastic restaurant, Aquarius. The Aquarius restaurant is oceanfront and serves all my favorite meals: breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner (I know, that’s all meals, what can I say, I like to eat.)
  • Vacation Rentals – Santa Cruz has no shortage of vacation rentals that are perfect for larger groups and family trips. The power of the internet makes checking these properties out before you book almost entirely painless. For a list of vacation rental companies in the area visit www.santacruz.org/VacationRentals.

Hungry, Thirsty


  • Linda’s Seabreeze Café (542 Seabright Avenue) – For those of us with a sweet tooth, ask for a cinnamon roll as your “toast.” The cinnamon roll is worth every calorie. The scrambles and omelets are also great. Be warned, the line can be long on the weekends so go early.
  • Zachary’s (819 Pacific Avenue) – Don’t be tempted by the lunch menu, the breakfast is where it’s at! Artichoke frittata and Mike’s mess are awesome, but you can’t go wrong here. Also, if you like a little booze with your brunch skip the mimosa and go for a Velvet Hammer – it’s champagne and Guinness … sounds weird but it is absolutely amazing.
Source: MetroSantaCruz.com


  • The Buttery (702 Soquel Avenue) – Bakery with great sandwiches on fresh baked bread. They also make pot pies – yum!
  • Las Palmas Taco Bar (55 Front Street) – An inconspicuous dive taco bar next to the beach — small place with GREAT food located right behind the dream in across from the wharf.


  • Crow’s Nest (2218 East Cliff Drive) – Enjoy panoramic views of Santa Cruz Harbor, lighthouse and wharf while having a fancier meal downstairs or a more casual experience upstairs. This place also offers entertainment so check their calendar when you book your trip.
  • Lillian’s Italian Kitchen (1116 Soquel Avenue) – Call Lillian’s the day you are going (around noon) and ask to be placed on the waiting list early. There can be a wait here. The food is great here! Be sure to get the house wine and the mushroom app and always ask about the specials.


  • Penny Ice Creamery (913 Cedar Street)– Oh man is this place good. They continually have new and adventurous flavors to try and every batch is made completely from scratch. They also use seasonal ingredients for their flavoring and use locally farmed and organic ingredients.

Source: Geology Cafe


  • Surf City Vintners (402 Ingalls Street) – The Surf City Vintners collective of micro-boutique is a collection of tasting rooms in a walkable, urban setting of former warehouse space. The vintners are all extremely knowledgable and personable. This is a great pre-dinner activity in Santa Cruz.
  • The Boardwalk – Oh, sweet nostalgia. Growing up going to the Boardwalk, I have to visit this place on every trip to Santa Cruz. A chocolate dip cone and a ride on the big dipper make me feel like a kid again.
  • Natural Bridges – Man is this beach beautiful! This is a wonderful place to sit and watch the waves and enjoy a good book. There is also a wooded area just above the beach with picnic benches for a little lunch. Pick some sandwiches up from the Buttery and head here.
  • Lighthouse Point – This lighthouse is the location of a surfing museum and also Steamer Lane, a famous surfing spot. It’s a beautiful view and also fun to see the surfer’s catch their waves if you’re there at the right time.

I know there is so much to do in Santa Cruz and that I’ve only scratched the surface here. What do you recommend we try on our next trip?

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