Must-see & do Attractions in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is full of fun things to see and do, but if you don’t have time to do everything on your list, consider this list of the top must see attractions.
1. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is recognized as the best seaside park in the world. Our vibrant, bustling amusement park is renowned for its great rides, remarkable history, spectacular beach setting, and friendly attitude.
The Boardwalk has been operating since 1907, and it hasn’t missed a beat! We believe in affordable family fun – that’s why admission is free, summer entertainment is included, and ride tickets are affordable.
Two of our rides are National Historic Landmarks, but don’t let that fool you. The 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster still thrills riders with its hair-raising dips and turns and the Looff Carousel’s unique ring toss provides a surprising challenge. Our indoor arcades offer the largest selection of games in Northern California with the latest video and redemption games, pinball machines, a vintage game collection, two-story miniature golf course, and laser tag arena. There’s also a family bowling center right across the street.
Many people visit just for the food. Choices include corn dogs made from a secret family recipe, deep fried artichokes, chocolate covered bacon, and deep fried Twinkies!
The Boardwalk spans a wide sandy beach along Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where it’s not unusual to see otters, dolphins, sea lions, and even whales swimming just offshore.
2. Mystery Spot: The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa Cruz, California. It is a circular area of effect around 150 feet or 46 meters in diameter. Within the Mystery Spot you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned. But don’t take our word for it, come and decide for yourself!
The Mystery Spot was discovered in 1939 by a group of surveyors and opened to the public in 1940. The Mystery Spot has amazed and perplexed hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world, and many return time and time again to experience these puzzling variations of gravity, perspective, and height.
Some speculate that cones of metal were secretly brought here and buried in our earth as guidance systems for their spacecraft. Some think that it is in fact the spacecraft itself buried deep within the ground. Other theories include carbon dioxide permeating from the earth, a hole in the ozone layer, a magma vortex, the highest dielectric biocosmic radiation known anywhere in the world, and radiesthesia. Whatever the cause is, it remains a mystery.
The Mystery Spot is fun for all ages! It is a great place to spend a few hours with the whole family from the 45 minute fully guided tour to our wonderful hiking trail. We have a gift store with all things Mystery Spot and more! Come and join us for a refreshing day of outdoor fun!
3. Mount Hermon Adventures: From the beginning Mount Hermon was envisioned as a place where people from all walks of life could retreat from their normal surroundings and the busyness of their lives in order to connect with friends, families, creation and the Creator. Founded as the first Christian retreat center west of the Mississippi, Mount Hermon has adhered to this founding vision for more than 100 years. Mount Hermon now operates five camp centers serving tens of thousands of guests each year.
Our vision is to provide people of all backgrounds a quality, authentic and inspirational experience in the outdoors using challenge and adventure experiences. We believe that bringing groups of people together in a safe space, inviting them to try something new and exciting, and helping them reflect on their experiences is the best way to make our world a better place.
Mount Hermon Adventures has grown immensely since it began and has become an internationally recognized provider of adventure experiences and team development programs. We now operate the world-famous Redwood Canopy Tours, multiple aerial adventure courses, intentional Team Building programs, and provide Mount Hermon overnight guests with mountain biking, surfing, sea kayaking, target sports, aquatic facilities, paint ball, skate park and more.
4. Natural Bridges State Beach: Natural Bridges State Beach is a 65-acre California state park in Santa Cruz, California in the United States. The park features a natural bridge across a section of the beach. It is also well known as a hotspot to see monarch butterfly migrations.
This park and beach is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, as well as seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, public access tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, shore crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub and grasslands, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows through the park, forming freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh before it reaches the sea.
5. Seabright Beach: Seabright Beach is a popular sandy beach next to Santa Cruz Main Beach in Santa Cruz, CA. Seabright Beach is on state-owned property in that is part of Twin Lakes State Beach. It spans a wide stretch of sand from the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor entrance to a narrow natural rock wall that juts out into the surf at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.
At the bottom of this rock wall is a small rock arch opening that lets river water pass through. Shifting sand sometimes closes up the arch, but at times it’s possible to crawl through and wade the river water to reach Main Beach. People are no longer allowed to walk the trail on top of this narrow fin, but many locals jump the fence and go out on the rock wall despite the “area closed” signs.
There is a park on East Cliff Drive where you can take in the view of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Amusement Park, Main Beach, and Seabright Beach. The Walton Lighthouse is at the end of the Santa Cruz Breakwater where a paved walking path allows you to walk out and look back at Seabright Beach.
6. Santa Cruz Whale Watching: The Stagnaro family has been serving the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz area for over a century since Italian Patriarch Cottardo Stagnaro settled in Santa Cruz in 1879. We’ve provided Ocean Adventures to thousands of people each year, and now offering the best Monterey Bay whale watching on our luxurious charter boat, Velocity.
Join us on our Santa Cruz & Monterey Whale Watching Trips & Sea Life Excursions & “Sea For Yourself”. Climb aboard the 60 foot Velocity, or 56 foot Legacy. Both of our luxury charter boats will let you experience the Monterey Bay area like never before! In winter or summer, we take you to the heart of whale territory as we spot these magnificent creatures and much more!