Welcome to Santa Cruz, California, a coastal paradise that promises endless fun and excitement for families with kids. Santa Cruz provides endless opportunities for fun family outings! From gorgeous natural spots to unique eateries, participants of all ages can explore the depth of diversity that this historical city has to offer.
Whether you’re seeking thrilling outdoor activities or educational experiences or simply want to relax on the beach, Santa Cruz has something to offer everyone.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore an array of engaging things to do with kids in this charming city, ensuring you create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
The best things to do in Santa Cruz with kids
1. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
A visit to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an absolute must for families. This iconic amusement park boasts a fantastic collection of rides suitable for all ages. From heart-pounding roller coasters like the Giant Dipper to gentle carousels, there’s no shortage of excitement here.
Besides the rides, the boardwalk offers thrilling arcades, carnival games, and mouthwatering treats like cotton candy and corn dogs.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to catch the spectacular sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the boardwalk.
2. Natural Bridges State Beach
If your kids have a passion for wildlife encounters coupled with breathtaking views, Natural Bridges State Beach should be on your itinerary!
Nature enthusiasts will be enthralled by the beauty of Natural Bridges State Beach. This scenic spot features striking rock formations and a stunning natural bridge, making it an excellent place for family photos.
If you visit between October and January, you’ll have the unique opportunity to witness the monarch butterfly migration when thousands of these magnificent creatures make the park their home.
3. Santa Cruz Wharf
A leisurely stroll along the Santa Cruz Wharf promises delightful sights and sounds. Keep your eyes peeled for playful sea lions frolicking in the waters below.
The wharf is also a great place for fishing, and kids can try their hand at casting a line.
Treat the family to some delicious seafood or explore souvenir shops filled with coastal treasures.
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4. Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Engage young minds with a trip to the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. This hands-on marine science museum offers captivating exhibits that teach kids about ocean life, marine research, and the importance of conservation.
The Tide Pool Touch Tank lets children get up close and personal with marine creatures, while the Marine Mammal Exhibit provides a fascinating insight into the lives of these majestic animals.
5. Roaring Camp Railroads
Embark on a historic steam train ride through the breathtaking redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains with Roaring Camp Railroads.
The enchanting journey takes you back in time and offers stunning views of the surrounding nature.
For an extra special experience, consider taking the holiday-themed “Polar Express” train during the winter months.
6. Mystery Spot
Prepare to be puzzled and amazed at the Mystery Spot. This gravitational anomaly will challenge your perceptions and spark curiosity in kids and adults alike.
Take a guided tour to learn about the strange phenomena and optical illusions that occur within this unique site nestled among the redwoods.
7. Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH)
The MAH is a treasure trove of creativity and cultural experiences for families. From engaging workshops to interactive exhibits, this museum encourages kids to express themselves through art and learn about Santa Cruz’s rich history.
Check their schedule for family-oriented events and activities.
8. Lighthouse Field State Beach
Discover the beauty of Lighthouse Field State Beach while enjoying a relaxing day with your family. This serene beach offers fantastic views of the coast and opportunities to spot whales during their migration seasons. It’s an excellent spot for a family picnic or a game of beach volleyball.
9. Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery (MOD)
Let your kids’ imaginations run wild at the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery. This hands-on STEAM-focused museum encourages learning through play, with interactive exhibits on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Watch as your little ones become engrossed in various educational activities.
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10. Wilder Ranch State Park
One of the hidden gems in this picturesque city is Wilder Ranch State Park. Nestled along the coast, this park boasts stunning vistas of rugged cliffs meeting turquoise waters.
Explore the wonders of Wilder Ranch State Park and step back in time to experience the history of a working dairy ranch from the 19th century.
The park offers family-friendly hiking and biking trails with breathtaking coastal views. You can also arrange guided tours to learn about the ranch’s fascinating past.
Whether you’re embarking on a leisurely stroll or seeking more challenging terrain, there’s something for everyone at Wilder Ranch State Park.
11. Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
For water enthusiasts and curious minds, a trip to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is a must.
Located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, this museum celebrates the rich surfing culture and history of Santa Cruz.
Learn about the evolution of surfing and how this coastal town became a mecca for surfers from around the world.
12. Santa Cruz Treetop Adventure Park
If your kids are little adventurers, the Santa Cruz Treetop Adventure Park will be a big hit. This thrilling aerial adventure park offers an array of zip lines, obstacle courses, and suspended bridges set amid the redwood forest canopy. It’s a safe and exciting way to experience the great outdoors.
13. Santa Cruz Harbor Beach
For a more relaxed beach experience away from the crowds, head to Santa Cruz Harbor Beach. This family-friendly spot is perfect for building sandcastles, flying kites, or simply enjoying a lazy day by the water.
The calm waters also make it suitable for paddling or kayaking with the kids.
14. Sky Glider at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
For a unique perspective of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the stunning coastline, take a ride on the Sky Glider.
This aerial tram offers a tranquil journey above the boardwalk and provides unforgettable views of the ocean and surrounding attractions.
15. Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market
Introduce your kids to the delights of fresh produce and artisanal products at the Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market.
Held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the market offers a diverse selection of locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, and handmade crafts.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about healthy eating and support local farmers.
16. Neary Lagoon Park
Nestled between downtown Santa Cruz and the beach, Neary Lagoon Park is a peaceful oasis with beautiful walking paths and opportunities for birdwatching.
The park’s serene atmosphere provides a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
17. Delaveaga Park
For outdoor fun, head to Delaveaga Park, which offers expansive green spaces, playgrounds, and hiking trails.
The park’s disc golf course is a unique activity that the whole family can enjoy.
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18. Santa Cruz Shakespeare
If you visit during the summer, consider attending a performance by Santa Cruz Shakespeare.
The company stages outdoor productions in the beautiful Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen in DeLaveaga Park, creating a memorable theatrical experience for kids and adults alike.
19. Whale Watching Tour
Embark on a whale-watching adventure from the Santa Cruz Harbor. Numerous tour operators offer excursions to spot humpback whales, gray whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife. It’s a thrilling and educational experience that your kids will cherish.
20. Mission State Park and Plaza
Learn about Santa Cruz’s rich history by visiting Mission State Park and Plaza. The park features a beautiful adobe building and gardens that provide insight into the area’s early Spanish and Mexican heritage.
21. Learn to Surf
For older kids and teenagers, consider taking a family surf lesson.
Santa Cruz is famous for its surf culture, and there are several surf schools that cater to beginners. It’s a fantastic way to bond.
22. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
For those looking to immerse themselves fully in nature, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is an absolute must-visit destination.
Known as California’s oldest state park, established in 1902, it spans over 18 square miles and houses magnificent ancient redwood trees that tower above like giants guarding their realm.
The diverse range of family-friendly trails ensures that even young children can explore these majestic forests without feeling overwhelmed.
23. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
To add some excitement into your family adventure day out while still being immersed within nature’s embrace, head towards Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where traversing through towering redwood groves can be done via thrilling steam train rides or by participating in guided interpretive walks hosted by knowledgeable rangers who share fascinating facts about local flora/fauna making way learning fun!
24. Mission La Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is not just a beach destination; it is also rich in history and culture. For families visiting with kids, exploring the city’s historic landmarks can be an educational and immersive experience. From Spanish colonial architecture to iconic cultural sites, there are plenty of opportunities for sightseeing that will captivate young minds.
One such landmark that should not be missed is the Mission La Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz. Founded in 1791 by Franciscan priests, this mission played a significant role in the colonization of California. Its stunning architectural design showcases a blend of Spanish Baroque and Moorish influences, providing visitors with a glimpse into the past.
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Exploring the beach in Santa Cruz
Exploring the Beach in Santa Cruz provides a fantastic opportunity for families to engage in outdoor activities and create lasting memories. With its pristine shores and vibrant atmosphere, Santa Cruz offers a plethora of unique experiences that are sure to captivate both children and adults alike.
As you embark on your beach adventure, be prepared to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the coastline. The golden sand stretches for miles, inviting little ones to build sandcastles or indulge in games of beach volleyball. Encourage creativity by bringing along buckets, shovels, and molds so that your children can unleash their imagination as they sculpt masterpieces out of the sand.
For those seeking a more adventurous experience, explore tide pools teeming with fascinating marine life.
Take this opportunity to educate your kids about various sea creatures that call these pools home – from colorful starfishes to scuttling hermit crabs – fostering an appreciation for nature’s wonders.
Water Sports and Guided Nature Walks
If your family enjoys water sports or simply wants some respite from the summer heat, consider renting paddleboards or kayaks from one of the many nearby rental shops. Glide across gentle waves as you soak up panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean while engaging in friendly competition with each other.
Santa Cruz beaches also offer plenty of opportunities for educational exploration through organized activities such as guided nature walks led by local experts who share their knowledge about coastal ecosystems and wildlife preservation efforts. These walks provide valuable insights into protecting our environment while ensuring an entertaining learning experience for young minds.
Furthermore, keep an eye out for seasonal events like sandcastle competitions hosted on certain days throughout the summer months, which allow families to witness incredible works of art meticulously crafted entirely out of sand! Engaging with local artists during these events can inspire budding creatives within your family unit!
Taking Advantage of Adventurous Outings
Adventure outings in Santa Cruz are designed to offer thrilling experiences while ensuring the safety and well-being of participants. From zip-lining through towering redwood trees to conquering high ropes courses, these activities challenge children both mentally and physically.
Zip-lining is a popular adventure outing in Santa Cruz that allows kids to soar above the treetops like birds. Suspended from sturdy cables, they can experience an adrenaline rush as they glide through picturesque landscapes full of lush greenery. This exhilarating excursion not only builds confidence but also provides breathtaking views that will be etched in their memory forever.
Another exciting option is conquering high ropes courses. These courses feature various challenges suspended at different heights among the trees or over water bodies like pristine lakes or meandering rivers.
Kids are required to navigate obstacles such as swinging platforms or tightrope walks while harnessed securely for their safety. The sense of accomplishment gained from successfully completing these daring tasks fosters self-assurance and resilience in young minds.
Not only do adventure outings offer thrill-seeking fun for kids in Santa Cruz, but they also help develop crucial life skills such as problem-solving techniques and effective communication within teams – whether it’s with family members or newfound friends during group adventures.
In conclusion, Santa Cruz is a fantastic destination for families with kids.
From thrilling amusement parks to serene beaches and educational museums, the city offers a wide array of activities that cater to all interests.
Embrace the coastal charm and embark on an unforgettable journey filled with fun, exploration, and quality family time in Santa Cruz.