Having lived in Santa Cruz for nearly twenty years, I have a not-so-sneaky habit of giving gifts that force…er…entice my friends and family to visit me. I guess I'm just proud to share what I get to enjoy throughout the year, but I also love giving unique gifts and I don't have to look far to find them locally. Here are my Top 10 ideas for memorable gifts that showcase some quintessential Santa Cruz experiences.
National Geographic's Trails Illustrated map of
Big Basin/Santa Cruz Parks and Preserves
Last month, I attended the launch event for this beautifully-detailed map and listened to a fascinating talk by one of the NatGeo cartographers who helped create it. Since then, I've been obsessively studying this waterproof, tear-resistant guide filled with miles of trails I have yet to explore. This would make an awesome stocking stuffer for the nature lovers on your list. Available at ParkStores and online.
2014 Endless Summer Season Passes to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Unlimited rides for the entire year? Yes! Oftentimes, this pass pays for itself in just one visit, especially when it comes with an additional All-Day Unlimited Rides Wristband for a friend, plus a bonus book full of discounts and freebees. You can purchase season passes online, but if you can make it down to the Boardwalk during the month of December, take advantage of Token Madness. Through December 31, buy $20 worth of arcade play on a Boardwalk Rechargeable Card and receive an extra $20 in arcade play. This is a great deal…trust me, I'm a mom of four.
R & R at Well Within Spa
A gift certificate to Well Within Spa
is one of my favorite gifts to give (and receive, hint hint). Who couldn't use some rest and relaxation? This serene escape in the heart of Downtown offers indoor and outdoor spas, saunas, massage, facials and body care. I have yet to have a guest complain about a hot tub soak at Well Within. Ahhhh...
Family Memberships to Museums and More
Museum of Natural History a.k.a. "The Big Whale Museum"
There are many reasons why museum memberships make great gifts for families, but for me it comes down to less toy clutter and more quality time learning and exploring together. Memberships usually come with added benefits like guest passes, early registration to workshops and camps, and behind-the-scenes tours, plus, no more wondering what to do on a rainy day. Some local favorites to check out are the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.
No Santa Cruz gift guide is complete without mention of the outdoor water adventures
our scenic coastal location affords. Know someone who's always wanted to give surfing or stand up paddleboarding a try? Give them a gift certificate for lessons. Or consider a gift certificate toward kayak rentals. Kids as young as five can accompany an adult on a kayak, and paddling through places like Elkhorn Slough makes for lifelong memories. Another idea for ocean lovers is a gift certificate to board a yacht and sail the Monterey Bay. Both the Chardonnay II Sailing Charters and O'neill Yacht Charters offer a variety of excursions perfect for taking in wildlife, sunsets and the all around beauty of our coastline.
An Awesome Place to Stay
If you invite me to a wedding, chances are you will receive a gift certificate to stay at a local bed and breakfast. That's just how I roll! Overnight accommodations are a treat for visiting couples, grandparents and even locals who could use a mini-staycation (raises hand). Check out Hotel Paradox for more than just an overnight stay- ask about the Warriors Package
which includes a gift certificate to Solaire Restaurant + Bar and tickets to a Warriors basketball game. Come to think of it, tickets to a Warriors game would make great stocking stuffers (I still need to attend a game!)
Some of my best and easiest potluck contributions have come from The True Olive Connection
. Case in point: 1 bottle of Walnut Oil, 1 bottle of Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar, 1 loaf of bread…mix the oil and vinegar, cube the bread and serve. Bam! People think it's magic. If you love to cook or eat, or know someone who does (that should cover everybody), The True Olive Connection is the place to go. Nothing you buy from TTOC will collect dust on a pantry shelf simply because it's all delicious…from their olive and specialty oils to their balsamic vinegars, honeys, pasta sauce, mustards and more…you can do no wrong.
Restaurant Gift Certificates
And while we're talking treats for the tastebuds, consider giving a gift certificate to any one of Santa Cruz's fine dining establishments. There is truly a restaurant, cafe or bistro for everyone on your list.
Have fun pairing the right eatery to whoever will be receiving such a thoughtful gift. For example, a place as romantic as the historic Shadowbrook Restaurant in Capitola would be appreciated by many couples, just be sure to throw in some babysitting for bonus points…with me, that is.
Wine lovers have it so good in Santa Cruz County. The perfect gift for me would be a picnic along the Corralitos Wine Trail with my husband- I have sent many satisfied friends on this day trip and have yet to experience it for myself! Another fun idea for the eco-minded hostess with the mostest is a full Hedgehog bottle of wine from Sones Cellars along with a refill certificate. For a truly unique bottle of wine, check out Bargetto Winery's personalized bottle program where you can design your own wine label. And for super serious oenophiles on your list, consider the gift of a wine club membership offered by many of our local wineries
When all else fails, and you get to that point of just giving cash, feel better and try giving Downtown Dollars instead. They work just like cash, can be purchased and spent year round at participating merchants, and help support the Downtown business community. Win win!
For more gift ideas, read our two-part series on where to shop for the perfect gifts in Santa Cruz County
, and add your ideas in the comments below!