11 Fun Activities For Families In Santa Cruz

things to do with family in santa cruz

When it comes to spending quality time together, nothing beats a family vacation filled with fun activities that everyone can enjoy. If you're planning a trip to Santa Cruz, California with your loved ones, you're in for a real treat. From amazing beaches and stunning nature reserves to exciting amusement parks and delicious eateries, this charming town has something for every age group. Here are 11 fun activities for families in Santa Cruz that will keep you busy and entertained throughout your stay. Get ready to make unforgettable memories with your loved ones!


Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Source: Beautiful Brown Adventures
Characteristic Description
NameSanta Cruz Beach Boardwalk
TypeAmusement park
WebsiteGo to website
Rating / Review count4.6 / 40,677
Address400 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone(831) 423-5590
HoursSunday - 11 AM–8 PM
Monday - 11 AM–6 PM
Tuesday - 11 AM–6 PM
Wednesday - 11 AM–6 PM
Thursday - 11 AM–6 PM
Friday - 11 AM–6 PM
Saturday - 11 AM–9 PM

Santa Cruz is a beautiful coastal town that's perfect for a family vacation. With so many exciting things to do and see, you're sure to have an unforgettable time with your family. One of the best places to visit in Santa Cruz is the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the oldest amusement parks in California and features a variety of thrilling rides and attractions. The park has something for everyone, whether you're looking for a terrifying roller coaster or a calm ride on the Ferris wheel. Some of the most popular rides at the boardwalk include the Giant Dipper, which is a wooden roller coaster that has been a fixture of the park since 1924, and the Double Shot, which launches riders up to 125 feet in the air.

In addition to the rides, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has a variety of other attractions that are perfect for families. You can take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean, enjoy a game of mini golf, or participate in one of the many seasonal events that take place throughout the year.

One of the best things about the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is that it's affordable. You can purchase a wristband that allows you unlimited access to the rides all day long, or you can pay for individual rides if you don't plan on riding everything. There are also plenty of food options available, including classic boardwalk fare like corn dogs and funnel cakes as well as healthier options like salads and smoothies.

If you're planning a trip to Santa Cruz with your family, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a must-visit destination. With its mix of classic charm and modern thrills, it's sure to be a hit with everyone in your group. So grab your sunscreen and get ready for a day of fun in the sun at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!


Go hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Source: www.tripadvisor.com

Santa Cruz is a city along the coast of California that boasts of several fun activities for people from all ages. The city is a perfect place for families to spend a weekend break. There are several things to do with family in Santa Cruz, from visiting beach spots, amusement parks to hiking in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. In this article, we will explore the reasons why going hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a great activity for families visiting Santa Cruz.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a famous park in Santa Cruz, which is known for its towering redwoods, lush-green landscapes, and clear streams. Hiking at the park is an exhilarating experience that appeals to all family members from young kids to senior members. The hike is a fun-filled way to spend quality family time while exploring different sections of the park and witnessing awe-inspiring sights.

The park is easily accessible, with several entry points, ample parking spaces, and well-maintained trails. There are several trails to explore, from the popular Sequoia Circuit that stretches for a mile, the River Trail, to the Henry Cowell Redwoods Loop. Each trail has a unique experience, and families can pick the one that is suitable for their age, fitness level and preferred adventure.

Another great reason to go hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is that it is an educational opportunity for children and adults alike. The park offers guided tours that provide visitors with insights into the flora, fauna, and history of the park. The knowledgeable guides share fun and exciting facts about the park's ecosystem and its inhabitants. The trails are also marked with signs denoting the different tree species and providing valuable information about the redwoods.

Hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is also an excellent way to introduce children to the outdoors and encourage them to appreciate nature and its beauty. It is also an opportunity to unplug from the fast-paced city life and spend quality time with family, surrounded by serene and fresh air.

In conclusion, Santa Cruz is a city with several fun activities for families, including hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The park offers an experience like no other, with towering redwoods, clear streams, lush-green landscapes, educational and fun activities for everyone. It is an excellent way to spend quality family time, unplug from the busy city life and appreciate nature. So, next time you visit Santa Cruz, grab your hiking shoes, water bottle and take a hike through the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and make memories that will last a lifetime.

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Explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Source: familyvacationist.com

If you're looking for a family-friendly activity in Santa Cruz, exploring the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a must-do. With miles of coastline and diverse sea life, there's plenty to discover and enjoy. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your visit and explore this beautiful sanctuary.

  • Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium: Located in Cannery Row, Monterey, this aquarium is an excellent starting point for any visit to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The aquarium features a vast array of exhibits, including the famous Kelp Forest and the Open Sea exhibits, where visitors can observe sea turtles, giant ocean sunfish, and other marine life.
  • Take a whale watching tour: Whale watching is a perfect family activity and provides the opportunity to catch a glimpse of migrating gray and humpback whales. You can book a whale watching tour from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey or the Santa Cruz Harbor, where experienced guides will help you spot these majestic creatures.
  • Walk the Coastal Trail: If you prefer to explore on foot, the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail is a perfect choice. The trail meanders along the coast and offers breathtaking views of the ocean and coastline. You can also stop at various beaches and parks along the way.
  • Go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding: If you want a more active experience, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding are perfect options. You can rent equipment from various vendors in Santa Cruz or Monterey and explore the coastline at your own pace.
  • Visit the Santa Cruz Wharf: The Santa Cruz Wharf is a bustling street with restaurants and shops. It's a great place to grab lunch, shop for souvenirs, and watch the sea lions and pelicans in action.

In summary, exploring the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is an unforgettable experience for the whole family. From whale watching tours to walking the coastal trail, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. So, why not plan a trip today and create memories that will last a lifetime?


Have a picnic at Natural Bridges State Beach

Source: www.parks.ca.gov

Santa Cruz is a popular destination for families looking for some quality time together. With its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and pleasant weather, it's no surprise that Santa Cruz has something to offer for everyone. One of the best ways to spend quality time with your loved ones is by having a picnic at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Located just a few miles from downtown Santa Cruz, Natural Bridges State Beach is a must-visit destination for any family. This beach is known for its natural bridge, which was formed by the waves that carved a large hole through the rocky cliffs. This bridge is an iconic landmark that offers a beautiful backdrop for your picnic.

Before arriving at the beach, make sure to pack all the essentials for your picnic. Pack a cooler with sandwiches, fruits, chips, and drinks. You can also bring a blanket or a beach chair to sit on. Don't forget to bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect you and your family from the sun.

Once you arrive at Natural Bridges State Beach, find a spot on the sand and set up your picnic. The beach has numerous picnic tables and benches where you can enjoy your food. If you prefer, you can also spread your blanket on the sand and enjoy your meal under the shade of an umbrella.

After your picnic, take a walk on the beach and explore the tide pools. The tide pools are teeming with marine life such as starfish, crabs, and anemones. You and your family can spend a couple of hours exploring these fascinating habitats.

If you're visiting during the winter months, head to the beach during the late afternoon or early evening to witness a magical phenomenon. Natural Bridges State Beach is home to a large colony of monarch butterflies that migrate to this area during the winter. You can watch as these beautiful creatures flutter through the air and land on the eucalyptus trees that line the beach.

In conclusion, having a picnic at Natural Bridges State Beach is an excellent way to spend time with your family in Santa Cruz. With its breathtaking scenery, calm waters, and fascinating wildlife, you're sure to have a memorable experience. So pack a picnic basket, gather your family, and head to Natural Bridges State Beach for a fun-filled day!


Take a scenic drive along West Cliff Drive

Source: www.tripadvisor.com

Santa Cruz is a beautiful coastal city located in northern California that is perfect for a family vacation. One of the many activities you can do with your family in Santa Cruz is to take a scenic drive along West Cliff Drive.

West Cliff Drive is a six-mile long coastal drive that stretches from the top of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to Natural Bridges State Park. The drive offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Cruz coastline, making it the ideal place for a scenic drive with your loved ones.

As you drive along West Cliff Drive, you will come across several breathtaking viewpoints, including the famous Surfing Statue and the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. You will also be able to see the stunning natural beauty of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is home to numerous marine life such as whales, otters, and dolphins.

If you're lucky, you might even spot some surfers catching waves at Steamers Lane, a renowned surfing spot that attracts surfers from all over the world.

Apart from the scenic views, West Cliff Drive also has several picnic areas and benches where you can stop and take a break with your family. You can pack a picnic basket and enjoy a meal with your loved ones while taking in the beautiful scenery.

In addition to the scenic drive, West Cliff Drive is also home to several walking and biking trails. You can rent bikes from one of the many rental shops in Santa Cruz and explore the area on two wheels. Alternatively, you can take a leisurely stroll with your family and explore the various attractions along the way.

In conclusion, taking a scenic drive along West Cliff Drive is one of the many things to do with your family in Santa Cruz. The stunning views, picnic areas, walking and biking trails make it the perfect activity for families looking to spend some quality time together. So pack a picnic basket, hop in the car, and get ready for a day of scenic fun along West Cliff Drive.


Tour the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum

Source: www.tripadvisor.com

Santa Cruz is an ideal destination when it comes to enjoying some quality time with your family. With plenty of fun-filled activities and breathtaking sights, this is the perfect place for parents to bond with their kids. Among the most noteworthy attractions that Santa Cruz has to offer is the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum. This 135-acre place of beauty is a sight to behold and a great place to go with your family.

The arboretum is renowned for its breathtaking scenery. It is home to more than 300 plant species from different regions of the world, making it a great place to appreciate mother nature in all its glory. As you walk through the gardens, you'll see plant collections that include several exotic and rare plant species. Moreover, the aroma from the beautiful flowers and plants will make the visit a delightful feast for your senses.

While touring the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum, you'll enjoy the opportunity to observe over eight miles of landscaped trails and walkways, which will provide you with a unique insight into what makes the place a Special Botanical Site. You can also take a guided tour if you want to learn more about the plants and flowers you will come across.

If you have a penchant for bird watching you may be in luck when you visit! you'll have a chance to see a wide variety of bird species that call the arboretum their home. Among the commonly sighted birds are cedar waxwings, great blue herons, and western bluebirds. With a little luck, you might even catch a glimpse of the Annas Hummingbird, which is known to frequent the place.

You don't have to fret about your kids getting bored; there are a plethora of activities to keep them entertained, including interactive exhibits, educational programs, and fun games. Young kids can engage in scavenger hunts, with unique trail maps carefully crafted to help them learn the names and traits of various plants. Older children can opt to take part in discovery backpack where they can learn about the natural history, ecology, and the significance of botany in the world today.

In conclusion, The University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum is a fabulous spot to have an enjoyable outdoor experience with your family. With so much to see and do, treats for your senses and learning to be had, it's worth planning a visit. So why not grab your family and head to this beautiful attraction for an outing you'll never forget?


Visit the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

Source: www.santacruzmuseum.org
Characteristic Description
NameSanta Cruz Museum of Art & History
TypeMuseum in Santa Cruz, California
WebsiteGo to website
Rating / Review count4.6 / 257
Address705 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone(831) 429-1964
HoursSunday - 12–6 PM
Monday - Closed
Tuesday - Closed
Wednesday - Closed
Thursday - 12–6 PM
Friday - 12–6 PM
Saturday - 12–6 PM

Santa Cruz is a beautiful coastal city located in California, USA, and it has plenty to offer for families looking for some amazing vacation time. If you are planning a trip to Santa Cruz, a visit to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History should be high on your list of things to do with your family. Here's why:

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is located in downtown Santa Cruz and is open from Tuesday to Sunday. It is a museum that reflects the unique cultural and artistic heritage of the Santa Cruz County. The museum boasts of both indoor and outdoor exhibits that cater to the interests of visitors of all ages.

The indoor section of the museum showcases an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. The gallery exhibits change from time to time to keep visitors engaged and interested. You and your family can explore the richness of the Santa Cruz culture and encounter creative works that can captivate your imaginations.

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is not just about art. The museum's primary objective is to share with visitors the rich history of Santa Cruz. Visitors can find detailed exhibits that trace the history of the region from the Native American era, the European colonization, and the growth of the city to present-day.

The outdoor area of the museum is perfect for families who want to spend time relaxing. The museum courtyard is decorated with sculptures, which your family can admire while enjoying a cup of coffee from the museum's café. The kids can explore the museum's community garden and enjoy the open space.

For families with young kids, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History has programs and interactive exhibits to keep the little ones occupied and engaged. The museum also offers walking tours of the historic downtown area, which can be a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

Therefore, if you are planning to visit Santa Cruz, don't miss out on the chance to check out the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the cultural and historical legacy of Santa Cruz while providing a fun-filled day out with your family.


Go kayaking in Elkhorn Slough

Source: www.tripadvisor.com.au

Santa Cruz, California, is the perfect spot for a family vacation. From its sandy beaches to its lush redwood forests, there are plenty of things to see and do that will keep everyone entertained. One of the most exciting activities you can try with your family is kayaking in Elkhorn Slough.

Elkhorn Slough is a salt marsh located in the Monterey Bay area, just a short drive from Santa Cruz. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including sea otters, harbor seals, and hundreds of species of birds. Kayaking in this area will give you an up-close view of these amazing creatures while enjoying the calm waters and peaceful surroundings.

Before you go kayaking, it is essential to prepare. Make sure that every member of your family is equipped with the proper gear, including life jackets, paddles, and waterproof bags to keep your personal belongings dry. Also, be mindful of the weather conditions and check the tide schedule before you go.

Once you're ready, head to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Here, you can rent kayaks from one of the various outfitters available. If you're new to kayaking, consider going on a guided tour. These tours are typically led by experienced guides who will take you to the best spots for wildlife viewing and share their knowledge about the flora and fauna of the area.

As you paddle through the slough, keep your eyes open for sea otters. These adorable creatures are a highlight of the trip and can often be seen floating on their backs, grooming themselves. If you're lucky, you may spot a few harbor seals sunning themselves on the shore, as well as numerous species of birds, including pelicans and cormorants.

Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough is a fun, educational, and peaceful activity that your whole family will love. Whether you choose to go on a guided tour or explore the area on your own, you're sure to make memories that will last a lifetime. So grab your paddle and get ready to experience the beauty of this unique California ecosystem with your loved ones.


See the sea lions at Santa Cruz Wharf

Source: www.sfgate.com

Santa Cruz, located in central California, is a beautiful coastal city with plenty of exciting outdoor activities for you and your family. One of the top things to do in Santa Cruz with your loved ones is to see the sea lions at the Santa Cruz Wharf. The Wharf is a popular destination for locals and tourists who want to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Ocean and its wildlife.

The Santa Cruz Wharf is the longest pier on the West Coast, measuring approximately 2,745 feet long. The Wharf is located at the end of Beach Street and is surrounded by some of the most stunning beaches on the California coast. Every year, the Wharf attracts millions of visitors who come to see the local marine life, including the California sea lions. In fact, the Wharf is one of the best places to see sea lions in Santa Cruz.

The California sea lion, known for its playful behavior and loud barking, makes its home in Santa Cruz. These playful creatures can be seen sunbathing on the Wharf and swimming in the waters below. You and your family can take a leisurely stroll along the pier to get a closer look at these magnificent animals. In addition to sea lions, you may also spot harbor seals, sea otters, and dolphins.

There are several ways to get a better view of the sea lions at the Santa Cruz Wharf. You can walk along the pier, take a boat tour, or rent a kayak and paddle around the Wharf. There are also several restaurants and cafes on the pier where you can enjoy a meal or a snack while watching the sea lions bask in the sun. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the memories of this one-of-a-kind experience.

In conclusion, seeing the sea lions at the Santa Cruz Wharf is an activity that the whole family will enjoy. You will have the chance to get up close and personal with these incredible creatures while enjoying the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. The Wharf also provides a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your loved ones while exploring some of the best Santa Cruz has to offer. So, make sure to add this activity to your Santa Cruz itinerary and create lasting memories.


Attend a concert or event at the Catalyst Nightclub

Source: www.goodvibezpresents.com

Santa Cruz is a fantastic place to visit when you're looking for a fun-filled family holiday. With numerous outdoor activities and indoor attractions, Santa Cruz has something for everyone. One activity that you should add to your itinerary is attending a concert or event at the Catalyst Nightclub.

Catalyst Nightclub is a famous venue that has hosted many of the world's most renowned musicians, bands, and performers. It is an ideal place for families who love music and want to experience a different kind of Santa Cruz nightlife.

The nightclub is situated in the heart of Santa Cruz and features a spacious outdoor patio where you can hang out during intermissions. Children are allowed at most concerts and events, although some shows may have age restrictions, so make sure to check before booking tickets.

Catalyst Nightclub has been designed to deliver a unique experience to everyone who visits. The stage is situated on the main floor, which is surrounded by two bars, giving you easy access to drinks and refreshments. The venue's sound system is top-of-the-line, so you can expect to hear every note and beat from your favorite musicians.

The nightclub features a permanent stage, which is designed to host several shows at once. Concerts and events range from indie bands to world-famous performers, so there's something for everyone.

In addition to live music performances, the Catalyst Nightclub hosts various other events like comedy nights and themed parties, which are great for family outings.

When it comes to food, the Nightclub has an on-site restaurant that serves a variety of dishes, including burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Beverages range from beer and wine to juices and lemonades, so you're sure to find something you'll like.

Overall, Catalyst Nightclub is an excellent place to visit with your family when you're in Santa Cruz. Whether you're a music fan or want to try something new, the nightclub's diverse and entertaining schedule will make for a fun evening out. So why not plan a night out at the Catalyst Nightclub the next time you're in Santa Cruz? You won't be disappointed.


Enjoy a family-friendly dinner at The Crow's Nest seafood restaurant

Source: www.opentable.com
Characteristic Description
NameCrow's Nest Restaurant
WebsiteGo to website
Rating / Review count4.3 / 4,555
Address2218 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Phone(831) 476-4560
HoursSunday - 7:30 AM–9:30 PM
Monday - 7:30 AM–9 PM
Tuesday - 7:30 AM–9 PM
Wednesday - 7:30 AM–9 PM
Thursday - 7:30 AM–9 PM
Friday - 7:30 AM–11 PM
Saturday - 7:30 AM–11 PM

Santa Cruz, California is a popular vacation destination for families looking for a fun and relaxing time. With its beautiful beaches, scenic parks, and numerous activities, there is something for everyone. If you’re looking for a family-friendly dinner spot in Santa Cruz, The Crows Nest seafood restaurant is a great option.

Located in the Santa Cruz harbor, The Crows Nest is a popular seafood restaurant that has been around for over four decades. This restaurant offers a casual and family-friendly atmosphere with stunning ocean views that set the scene for a relaxed and enjoyable dinner experience.

The Crows Nest’s menu is centered around fresh seafood and local ingredients with something for everyone, including non-seafood eaters. The menu includes dishes like clam chowder, fish tacos, grilled salmon, rib-eye steak, and vegetarian options like Portobello mushroom sandwich.

One of the highlights of The Crows Nest restaurant is the large outdoor patio overlooking the ocean, which is great for families looking to dine al fresco. The patio is equipped with heaters for chillier evenings and fire pits for an extra cozy feel.

The Crows Nest also has a kids’ menu featuring popular items such as chicken tenders, pasta, and fish and chips. Additionally, the restaurant offers a fun and interactive experience for the kids with their “Make Your Own Sundae” dessert option.

For those looking to enjoy cocktails or a glass of wine with their meal, The Crows Nest has a full bar with a list of signature drinks and extensive wine list to choose from.

In summary, The Crows Nest seafood restaurant is an excellent choice for families looking for a delicious, family-friendly dining experience in Santa Cruz. Enjoy the beautiful ocean views, fresh seafood, and a relaxed atmosphere that makes it the perfect spot for a fun family dinner.

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Frequently asked questions

Answer: Santa Cruz has a wide variety of outdoor activities for families, including surfing, hiking, biking, and visiting the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Families can also explore the redwood forests at Big Basin State Park, climb the Natural Bridges State Beach rocks, or take a scenic train ride through the mountains with Roaring Camp Railroads.

Answer: There are plenty of affordable and family-friendly dining options in Santa Cruz, including pizza parlors, burger joints, and seafood restaurants. Some popular choices include Pizza My Heart, Betty Burgers, Johnny's Harborside, and The Crow's Nest. For a sweet treat, families can also head to Marianne's Ice Cream, which has been a Santa Cruz institution for over 70 years.

Answer: While Santa Cruz may have sunny weather most days of the year, there are still plenty of indoor activities for families to enjoy on rainy days. The Museum of Art & History offers hands-on exhibits and workshops for children, while the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History has interactive displays and live animals. Families can also catch a movie at the Del Mar Theatre or try their hand at bowling at the Boardwalk Bowl.

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Mariam Kemp

My family and I love visiting Santa Cruz every summer. One of our favorite things to do is go whale watching. There are several companies that offer tours and it's such an amazing experience to see these magnificent creatures up close. We also enjoy going on hikes in the nearby redwood forests, it's a great way to connect with nature and bond as a family. Santa Cruz truly has something for everyone, from beautiful beaches to thrilling outdoor adventures.

Tomasz Mcintyre

I recently took my family to Santa Cruz for a weekend getaway and we had a blast! One of our favorite things to do was visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The kids loved the classic rides and the atmosphere was so lively. We also enjoyed exploring Natural Bridges State Beach, the views were breathtaking and we even saw some dolphins in the distance. Overall, Santa Cruz is a great destination for families with plenty of fun activities to do together.

Lyndon Turner

Santa Cruz is the perfect destination for a fun-filled family vacation. One of our go-to activities is renting bikes and cycling along the scenic coastal bike paths. It's a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the beautiful views of the ocean. Another must-do is visiting the Mystery Spot, it's a quirky and unique attraction that will leave you scratching your head. And of course, no trip to Santa Cruz is complete without indulging in some delicious seafood. We love grabbing fresh fish tacos at one of the local beachside restaurants. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

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