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Colouria Media/Alamy

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

With its hybrid terrain of coastline, redwood forests and mountains, the university town of Santa Cruz is a natural magnet for families thanks to an old-fashioned amusement park on the boardwalk. But it’s also home to the century-old Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, set above Seabright Beach. Call in for the touch pool—with living, local inter-tidal plants and animals—and then visit the live honeybee exhibit or the Ohlone exhibition that shows what life was like in the pre-colonial Central Coast. (Bonus: admission is free for kids.)