Free Things To Do in Santa Cruz
- #1View all PhotosfreeWest Cliff Drive#1 in Santa Cruz1.3 miles to city centerHiking, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND1.3 miles to city centerHiking, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
This 3-mile walking and biking path offers some of the best views of the county – and it's a great workout too. Along the way, you'll be treated to pristine vistas of the Pacific Ocean and you might even spot some surfers riding the waves at Steamer Lane or whales and dolphins cresting the water at Lighthouse Point. You can also stop in to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum along your stroll, which is stationed inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse.
Recent travelers and locals said West Cliff Drive is a must-do. According to reviewers, the beauty is unparalleled, and the benches that line the path are a nice pit stop along the 6-mile round-trip walk. To avoid crowded paths, some travelers recommend visiting on a weekday and also note parking can be difficult to come by on weekends.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Santa Cruz1 mile to city centerBeaches, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerBeaches, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Santa Cruz Main Beach is also known as Boardwalk Beach since it stretches the length of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. In the summer, it's one of the busiest beaches in Santa Cruz thanks to its lengthy list of amenities, including lifeguards, restrooms, nearby food options and amusement park rides and games. During other seasons, it's a popular place to take scenic strolls.
With its on-duty lifeguards and fairly gentle waves, travelers say this is a great beach for families. If you're visiting during the summertime, reviewers recommend arriving early in the day to stake out a prime spot, as the sand can get crowded quickly.
- #6View all Photos
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a mile-long boardwalk and amusement park just south of central Santa Cruz. Operating for more than a century, the boardwalk boasts a plethora of rides, two of which – the Giant Dipper and the Looff Carousel – are National Historic Landmarks. The boardwalk also touts a bevy of carnival fare, including corn dogs, deep-fried artichokes and deep-fried Twinkies. You'll also find an arcade, a two-story miniature golf course and a laser tag arena, among other attractions.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a favorite among both locals and visitors, who comment on its old-timey charm and Americana appeal. Some travelers recommend visiting on Friday nights in the summertime when the boardwalk hosts two free concerts at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Others appreciated the ample parking across the street.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Santa Cruz1.5 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND1.5 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum overlooks one of the most renowned surfing spots in Santa Cruz – Steamer Lane. Along with historic surfing photographs and boards, the museum features a bevy of surfing memorabilia. Visitors can also purchase souvenirs, such as books, the proceeds of which support the nonprofit museum.
Many travelers say this small museum is worth a short pit stop, and they recommend popping in during a walk on West Cliff Drive. Others suggest building in some time to watch the surfers on Steamer Lane.
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