Santa Cruz Overview
Visitors who travel to the area should expect to encounter a wide range of conditions based on the season. The region experiences a Mediterranean climate that is characterized by cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Travelers should pack light, but a raincoat and a few sweaters might not go amiss if weather patterns turn sour.
Nature enthusiasts will be happy to find a variety of outdoor sanctuaries scattered throughout the surrounding region of Santa Cruz. Mighty redwood forests, breathtaking canyons, towering rock formations and trickling streams are all a short distance from this coastal city. Hiking, biking and equestrian trails are plentiful, and the opportunities for outdoor excursions are seemingly endless in beautiful central California.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Unless you're a local of the region, you've likely never experienced a forest as majestic as the redwood groves that populate this expansive state park. As the oldest state park in California, Big Basin features unprecedented natural growth that has been in development for more than a century. It contains more than 80 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails that meander through some spectacular natural landscapes and presents visitors with an array of magnificent vistas and unique character. If you're lucky, you may be able to spot some of the park's indigenous inhabitants, including mountain lions, foxes, bobcats, deer, raccoons, coyotes and a wide spectrum of birds.
Castle Rock State Park
Not far from Big Basin lies Castle Rock State Park. This exquisite natural sanctuary rests along the crest of the Santa Cruz mountain range, and is one of the premier destinations for rock climbers in the area. Steep canyons and unique rock formations are scattered throughout the grounds, which are adorned with lush overgrown foliage the present visitors with an explosion of natural beauty. Hiking trails snake their way through varied terrain, and are sure to challenge even the most experienced outdoorsmen (and women). Lose yourself or become one with nature in this truly spectacular state-protected preserve.
Wine Tasting and Vineyards
Spend a day learning about the intricate process involved in the agricultural expertise and bottling of wine, and enjoy an opportunity to sample some of the region's finest and most flavorful creations.
The story begins in 1949 when Amos Beauregard first acquired lands outside of Santa Cruz and planted the first 13 acres of vines, including pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Today, the land has been passed down through the generations and encompasses more than 68 acres of vines, producing some of the region's best vintages. Spend a day touring the facilities to gain a better understanding of the Beauregard family's unique winemaking process, and finish it all off with a tasting of their most flavorful bottles.
Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery
This young vineyard and winery was established in 1997 by Richard and Mary Kay Alfaro, two Santa Cruz restaurateurs and small business owners. The extensive grounds of this facility contains 75 acres of vines that include a selection of 8 acres devoted to certified-organic products. They bottle a variety of flavorful wines, including chardonnay, gruner veltliner, viognier, pinot noir, merlot, zinfandel and syrah, which can all be sampled during their regular tasting events.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
This classic seaside amusement park is packed full of thrilling rides, restaurants, video game arcades and a wealth of colorful personalities. Strap yourself into the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, one of the oldest wooden coasters in America, and get ready for an adrenaline-filled ride that dips, dives, turns and curves all over the park.
Kid-friendly attractions include the Casino Arcade, Neptune's Kingdom, The Vault Laser Maze Challenge and so many more. Brave guests should meander through the boardwalk's Fright Walk, where ghoulish and ghastly special effects are sure to scare your pants off. After a fun day at the park, settle into a meal at one of the park's delicious dining establishments, when you can satisfy your hunger with a variety of seafood and American classics.