The trend today is to "travel like a local". There is so much local culture to be absorbed wherever you go. Whether it is the surfer culture of Santa Cruz or the cafe life of a Parisian. Touring "like a local" has huge advantages. But let's be honest, we have so much to learn from tourists. The first time I set foot in California, I was 20. That trip, I visited my future husband in the East Bay and my brother in the central valley. We drove out to Yosemite and hiked up to Vernal Falls. Back with my boyfriend, we biked through a cute downtown, we visited San Francisco and Berkeley. I fell in love with California. Fast forward 10 years and we moved to that cute town. However, we were starting our family and didn't have time or energy to enjoy anything. As our kids got older and more portable, their time was filled with schoolwork, sports, and meetings. We hardly went more than 5 miles from our house. Being "local" I lost sight of all that California has to offer. Shelter in place has been keeping all of us closer to home. What if we look at our own homes as a tourist would? Tourists can find the essential bits of a city, the most endearing things of an area. Tourists can make you fall in love with your home all over again. So sure, live like a local. But sometimes, let's embrace our inner tourist. If you are in Boston, get the clam chowder, it is delicious. In Chicago, get the pizza, I am a Giordano's girl, but an argument can be made for Gino's or Lou Malnati's. And now, after living in California for 16 years, I am going back to being a tourist.
Santa Cruz is the classic beach boardwalk. These beach boardwalks are found all over, Maine (Old Orchard Beach), Coney Island, Santa Monica, etc. There is something special about Santa Cruz. Most recently, our older kids had an open water swim in Santa Cruz. We made a weekend out of it. Because the water is cold, most people are in a wetsuit. However, as the day heats up, there are plenty of kids playing in the water in their swim suits. My kids weren't too interested, but there are many ocean activities in the area. Surfing is big in Santa Cruz. Most mornings, you will see the beaches full of surfers bobbing in the ocean. From kayaking to whale watching to fishing. However, most of these activities, you want to book in advance.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. My youngest loves it. He loves the rides and the variety of amusement park foods. Over the last few years, Disney, local county fairs and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk have upped their snack offerings. Whether they are targeting the "Instagram" snacks or just fun flavors, they are upping their game. Currently the rides on the boardwalk are closed, but the snack vendors are open.
First, let's talk the churros. Admittedly, the churros can be hit or miss. However, in addition to traditional churros, there are stuffed churros and different colored churros. These are the Star Wars churros. One was blue and one was red. Each was a different flavor. And for you Dole Whip fans, Santa Cruz does offer a pineapple soft serve.
In addition to the typical frozen treats, you can also find some more unique treats. Here is the mangonada. Later we went to a Mexican ice cream shop and it was much better, but here, it was good. It is mango sorbet with chopped mango on top and the salty and tangy flavor of Tajin. The sweet and salty flavors combine for a refreshing treat on a hot day.
Finally, the funnel cakes. You have to make sure they are making them fresh. One busy summer day, they were serving premade funnel cakes. Funnel cakes are really not healthy. If you are going to splurge, make sure it is freshly made. This one was fresh and the kids seemed to enjoy it.
There is so much to do beyond the boardwalk. The coastline is beautiful in Santa Cruz. Nearby is Natural Bridges State Bridges. It is a cool beach with tide pools to explore.
Also, you are very close to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Roaring Camp Railroad is a fun place to spend a day. Make sure to make reservations ahead of time. They have a scenic train ride through the coastal redwoods. There is also a train down to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The town itself of Roaring Camp is pretty fun as well. There is an old school house and sometimes, you'll see a blacksmith working.
Santa Cruz is a quintessential California town. With our beloved redwoods and dramatic coastlines there are endless outdoor adventures. While the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is similar to other boardwalks, it has a California flair.
With any vacation, it is key to plan in advance. If I plan something even a week in advance, things are already sold out. Even though many of these places are low key, weekend getaways, you still need to plan and book in advance.