About an hour south of San Francisco is Santa Cruz, a quirky beach city known for surfing, its famous boardwalk and its role in American history as a center of the counterculture movement. It’s a major stop for tourists, and once you visit, you’ll see why. Here are some Santa Cruz tourist attractions you can’t miss when you visit.

Walk the Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk may be the city’s most popular attraction. Now in its 110th consecutive year of operation, the boardwalk is California’s oldest amusement park. The family-owned boardwalk is home to roller coasters and other thrill rides, as well as more kid-friendly attractions and the usual carnival games. You’ll also find miniature golf, laser tag and a good variety of arcade games at the park, which covers 24 acres along Monterey Bay.

The rides require tickets, which can be purchased individually. A full-year pass for all rides is just $81.95 — about what you might pay for a single day of entry to some amusement parks.

redwood trees in california

Walk Among the Redwoods

The Pacific coast of Northern California is home to the world’s tallest trees, the coastal redwood. You can find a grove of redwoods (and other huge tree species) just north of Santa Cruz in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Trees and stone from this area played a key role in making San Francisco the towering city it is today before laws were passed to protect these amazing trees.

To really experience the enormity of the redwoods up close and personal, we recommend taking a hike among some of the park’s 15 miles of trails.

Experience the ‘Mystery Spot’

Folks from out of town know the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot thanks to plentiful bumper stickers on cars across California. But when you’re in Santa Cruz, you need to experience it for yourself.

So what exactly is the mystery? Well, the Mystery Spot is a place where the laws of physics seem to bend in baffling ways. Balls appear to roll uphill, and visitors can remain steadily on two feet as they tilt their bodies in ways that would normally make them topple over head-first.

Of course, there’s no actual magic at work here. It’s all a matter of optics and the illusions produced by an oddly tilted environment. The Mystery Spot claims that a strange electromagnetic field is also at play.


Watch the Sunset From the Wharf

While any beach in Santa Cruz will offer beautiful views of the sunset over the ocean, we suggest the wharf because there’s so much else to do while you’re there. At 2,745 feet in length, the wharf is the longest pier on the West Coast of the U.S., and it attracts more than a million visitors each year.

The underside of the wharf is home to lots of sea lions that attract curious onlookers. There are also lots of options for fishing, boating and dining. Just make sure you’re done in time for the sunset.


From the San Francisco Bay area all the way down to the Mexican border, the California coast is an amazing place. That’s why we know you won’t regret your visit to Santa Cruz.

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