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Our summer stylebook has us California dreamin’, which is why we thought it was high time we cruised downstate to check out the charming beach town of Santa Cruz. Home to the historic Boardwalk, world-renowned surfs, scene of The Lost Boys, this beach resort town is just what you needed to kick off the summer.
We asked stylist and blogger Toshiko of It’s Not Her, It’s Me to give us a local’s tour of Santa Cruz, and dish on where to eat, stay, and play.
Think on the sunny side when dressing for Santa Cruz! Our tour guide, Toshiko, wears the Afternoon at the Oasis Dress in Pineapples and Stylish Sidekick Wedge.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (400 Beach St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060)
“Whenever someone says, ‘Santa Cruz,’ one immediately thinks of the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is an oceanfront, admission-free amusement park filled with rides, arcades, and oh-so-yummy-but-not-so-healthy snacks (think funnel cake and garlic fries). It’s right at the beach, so if you get tired of the rides, you can always just relax and soak up some sun. As a local, I prefer walking through the park when it is closed. Something about an empty amusement park [is] eerie but whimsical.”
Loch Lomond (100 Loch Lomond Way, Felton, CA 95018)
“A hidden gem. Just 25 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz, Loch Lomond is a reservoir and recreational park where you can easily spend a day doing all sorts of activities! There are lovely hiking trails along the lake and abundant picnic areas to eat and have a BBQ. The best part is that you can even rent a paddleboat, canoe, or motorboat (if you don’t feel like having a workout) and float around the lake! This place is huge and you won’t believe its existence until you see it for yourself!”
Henry Cowell State Park (101 North Big Trees Park Rd., Felton, CA 95018)
“Besides the ocean, there are also beautiful redwoods in Santa Cruz. Henry Cowell State Park has plenty of walking and biking trails where you will encounter old train trestles and abandoned tunnels. The San Lorenzo River runs through the park as well, so if you are feeling tired, you can always rest along the river and dip your feet in the water. Hiking isn’t the only way to enjoy the redwoods; you can board a steam train at Roaring Camp that will take you on a lovely journey through the redwoods.”
Dream Inn (175 W. Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz, CA 95060)
“If convenience is important to you, then Dream Inn would be the ideal choice. It is not only located right next to the Boardwalk and the wharf, it is also within walking distance from downtown. Dream Inn has the best ocean view (all the rooms face the ocean) where you can see out to the Monterey Bay, enjoy a beautiful sunset, and watch surfers hit the waves.”
“Santa Cruz gets pretty busy during the summer and other holidays, and so finding accommodation can be difficult. I highly recommend checking out Capitola Village, which is only about 10 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz. The Capitola Beach Esplanade has a row of beachfront Venetian vacation rentals. They are super cute and colorful and you literally step out the door right into the sand.”
Walnut Avenue Cafe (106 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95060)
“Walnut is the perfect spot for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Located in the heart of downtown, this little place has delicious food and friendly staff. There isn’t one thing I have tried that I didn’t like. My top two favorites are shrimp and tomato benedict, and teriyaki chicken salad with thai peanut dressing. Be aware that there is usually a pretty long wait on the weekends, but hey, good food is worth the wait!”
Buttercup Cakes (109 Locust St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060)
“This little hole-in-the-wall cupcake shop makes the cutest and the most delicious cupcakes! Whether it is raspberry rose, double chocolate, earl gray, or hibiscus, everything is flavorful and delightful!”
The Penny Ice Creamery (913 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060)
“Oh my goodness, where do I even begin? I am seriously addicted to The Penny! This is the only ice creamery in Santa Cruz that makes everything from scratch in house with the finest organic ingredients. Unique flavors are changed regularly, so you are always in for a surprise! Some of my favorite flavors are caramel popcorn, rose geranium, juniper lime, roasted chestnuts, creme fraiche date, and whiskey custard. Did I mention they also have the best waffle cone? If you can only eat one thing in Santa Cruz, let this be it!”
Thanks, Toshiko! If you’ve been to Santa Cruz, is there any place you’d add to the list?
california, guest post, summer in focus, tours, wanderlust
WOW! Modcloth in Santa Cruz!!! I love it! I live in Santa Cruz and absolutely love Modcloth. It’s a perfect fit for our quirky little community. Many of us love vintage looks and being creative. And you picked 3 of my absolutely favorite places to eat around here. Yummy – Buttercup Cakes! Thank you for coming here and sharing!
This makes me want to plan a trip to Santa Cruz right now! I’ve been there several times, but Loch Lomond seems like it would show a whole different side of the place.
I too love Santa Cruz, but have only been there twice and only spent time close to the boardwalk/beach. I will def have to check out the Henry Cowell State Park next time! Thanks, Toshiko!
There is a space themed retro vegetarian diner that is amazing and I cannot for the life of me remember what it is called!
Charli, it’s called Saturn!
that pineapple dress is so so so cute! I haven’t been to the west coast in 9 years… really need to plan a trip cross country soon.
I live about an hour away from Santa Cruz and visit often throughout the year but I have only ever been to the beaches, Capitola, and the Boardwalk… After reading this, I am so excited to take another day trip soon and visit all of these other places! Yay! Thank you!!
Check out the Swift Street courtyard on the Westside. Cute boutique shops, a delicious French bakery, and 5 laid back local wineries open for tasting!
Also for a dose of hippie, check out the fire dancers every Sunday night at Lighthouse State Beach.
If you come in October the Swift Street community (as well as the whole county) has Open Studios (artist studios) every weekend.
I love Marini’s Salt Water Taffy at the Boardwalk. That do me is a must do in Santa Cruz.
Marini’s downtown on Pacific Ave has amazing ice cream, soda fountain and candy galore! Downtown is really adorable and very lively on the weekends.
That’s funny, there’s a retro-themed, all-vegetarian-but-mostly-vegan cafe in downtown Berkeley called the Saturn Cafe too! Must be a few around Central California.
I used to spend my summers in Santa Cruz when I was growing up. It’s a quirky and lovely community with great arts and eats. It holds a little place in my heart. =]
The drive up Hwy 17 from Santa Cruz to San Jose thru the Redwood trees is awesome!
Wow! I never thought about visiting Santa Cruz, but it looks lovely and relaxing! Thanks for the insider look, Toshiko.
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