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The green, gray and blue town of Santa Cruz sitting beautifully between San Francisco and the Monterey Peninsula is an ideal vacation destination, either by itself or as part of a California central coastal escape. It has it all. Sandwiched between the Redwoods and the sea, this is an ultimate, quite, laid back Victorian, super-progressive city.
There is a trendy downtown with a couple of hundred shops, restaurants, cafes, bistros, bookstores and coffee houses…some with poetry reading. There is plenty for you to enjoy.
The city is located 45 hair-raising stomach-churning minutes from the San Jose International Airport. You can fly directly to San Jose from Palm Springs on Horizon Airlines, rent car and drive the 35 miles, or if you make this part of a central coast adventure drive out of the desert on the 10 to the 210 to the 5 to Los Banos. Head west from there on SR 152 to Gilroy (smell the garlic!) and go north on the 101 to the 85 to the 17.
The full day of driving will take almost 8 hours.
You should plan on staying three or four nights so that you will absorb the fabulous atmosphere. Very cool, liberal, counter culture values are the trademark for this lovely town. The presence of the University of California Santa Cruz and its bucolic 2000-acre campus set the tone. The population is a majority of young people bringing to the place surfing, partying and left wing politics.
Along with many seniors not far from the Haight Ashbury times of San Francisco in the 1960s, the place reeks of fond memories of those lovely times. It was the first town in the country to defy the feds and establish medical Marijuana clinics.
There is plenty to do and the carefree atmosphere will become infectious. The town began as a logging community, but by the turn of the 19th century, beach tourism developed. The now famous Boardwalk and its amusement park were built in 1904. The world famous Giant Dipper roller coaster was built in 1924 and as carried more than 25 million passengers. Roller coaster fans give this thrill a ten!
Lighthouse Point is still one of California's most famous surfing areas, and young lovely surfers of all genders are found year round searching for the perfect wave.
The famous Boardwalk is a Gothic flashback to an early century amusement park. It is opened everyday during the summer, but only on weekends during the winter. For those of you who saw the film, “Lost Boys” you will remember the Boardwalk via Kiefer Sutherland's vampire romp through its spooky atmosphere. In the sun, mist and fog, it remains one of the best of California classic Gothic films.
Walking around the beach and the cliff side neighborhoods above, you will be enchanted by the lovely wooden California Craftsman cottages and hanging gardens. One of the best is to walk he length Ocean View Avenue. It is an outstanding street of turn of the century Gothic mansions.
The University of California campus is one of the most remarkably lush and beautiful campuses in the country. Built on a 2000-acre ranch with a huge stand of Redwoods, it is a wonderful place to spend some time. The Arboretum is second to none.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1992 to protect the entire area of and around Monterey Bay. It was too late for the sardines, but it has saved it in time for us to enjoy. You can explore the tide pools and Natural Bridges State Park. There has a wonderful visitors center and it’s another site for the Monarch butterflies especially from October through February.
When you choose to sleep there are many accommodations. One of California's most wonderful bed and breakfast accommodations is the Babbling Brook at 1025 Laurel Street. Built in the 1920s and owned by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 40s, the place is stunning.
Chaminade of Santa Cruz is a full service resort with tennis courts, restaurants and a sweeping view of the ocean.
The Dream Inn has fabulous rooms with views of the beach. It sits nearby the Boardwalk and on Ocean Drive.
Downtown is full of lovely places to eat. Just stroll around and find a great one that will become your favorite. But a real culinary requirement is the Beach Street Cafe. Located across the street from the Boardwalk it serves up the finest breakfasts and lunches you will find anywhere. The food is consistently good, made with fresh ingredients, and they have champagne brunch daily. It is opened from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday. The building has been in use as a restaurant since the early 20th century.
After spending time in the ultimate, upscale, latter day hippy, progressive, lost in time, surfer paradise, you will have changed your outlook on most everything. It is a positive, lovely spot. You will feel better about everything-guaranteed.
Traveling just in California can be grand. Its close by, easy to navigate, and great fun. Rediscover our own state today. Just hit the road.
For this and other trip ideas, email George at firstname.lastname@example.org