Families can unwind together in Santa Cruz County, where kid-friendly beaches and fun attractions can make today’s vacation tomorrow’s precious memory.
Spend the day at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton and take a nostalgic ride through the redwood trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains aboard a vintage steam locomotive. Stroll along the “town” with old west storefront facades. Enjoy dinner on the Santa Cruz Wharf at any of a number of family-friendly restaurants. Afterward, walk to the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf and watch the lumbering sea lions suddenly acquire a ballerina’s grace the moment they hit the water.
Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk , set along Santa Cruz’s Main Beach and adjacent to the wharf . The legendary Boardwalk was named “Best Seaside Amusement Park” in the world by amusement industry experts. Ride the Giant Dipper , a vintage wooden roller coaster that has thrilled visitors for over 85 years. And take a spin on one of seventy-three hand-carved horses which prance proudly to the music from two beautiful antiques, the park’s original 342-pipe Ruth band organ and a showy Wurlitzer 165 band organ, at the famous Looff Carousel , built in 1911. Opt for a self-guided walking tour of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s 28 points of interest. Indulge in Boardwalk fare with all-American corn dogs, funnel cakes and cotton candy (hey it’s your vacation!).
Young marine biologists will enjoy the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab , on Santa Cruz’s Westside. Spend the afternoon examining marine life at seawater tables and aquariums, or take a docent-led tour and a behind-the-scenes peek at the lab’s facilities and Younger Lagoon Natural Reserve. Natural Bridges State Beach is an idea place for tidepool exploration. Bring your binoculars for seasonal visits to this picturesque spot, home to California’s only state park butterfly preserve. Each fall marks the return of thousands of monarch butterflies that spend their winters in a protected grove inside the park. Pick your own berries and apples at local farms, or take a picnic lunch to the grounds of the Agricultural History Museum in Watsonville, where educational exhibits chronicle the history of the local agriculture throughout the past 150 years.