Kidding Around in Santa Cruz County: 6 Activities for the Young at Heart

Sometimes, the best kids activities are the ones grown-ups do when no one’s watching. If you still love sneaking in a little Mario Kart, scarfing mac n’ cheese, and rewatching The Incredibles when the kids are asleep, read on. In Santa Cruz County, we take playtime seriously regardless of age, and hold endless diversions to delight your inner child. Below, we’ve rounded up six of our favorite youthful activities for your next recess, or, you know, weekend.

Deep Fried Twinkies & Giant Dippers

With giggle-inducing thrill rides, timeless midway games, and no shortage of cheat-day treats, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a no-brainer. Start with a spin on the Giant Dipper, then toss a ring ‘round a bottle, and get reacquainted with a corn dog or sugar-dusted funnel cake. Plus, grabbing metal rings on the historic Looff Carousel, and walloping your pals on the bumper cars, never gets old. And, when was the last time you played Donkey Kong?

Zip Line

If you ruled the monkey bars as a kid, and marvel at the redwoods as an adult, you’ll love zip lining in Santa Cruz County. Set in a forest near Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Mount Hermon Adventures offers a giddy, high-flying tour of the canopy via six zip lines and two sky bridges that soar up to 150 feet above the forest floor

Boogie Board

Trust us, boogie boarding is just as much fun as an adult as it was when you were a kid. Slip into a wetsuit, strap the leash around your wrist, and let the region’s famous swells propel you to shore. Iconic Cowell Beach is a blast, but lesser-known gems such as Sunny Cove and, for advanced swimmers, Manresa Beach are worth seeking out. Rent or purchase gear at Freeline Surf Shop in Pleasure Point or Capitola Beach Company.

Craft a Terrarium

Those clunky, clay coffee mugs you crafted in grade school may not be the centerpiece of your modern table setting, but a cool contemporary terrarium could be. At Dig Gardens, you can get all Pinterest-y, and fashion an exotic mini garden in a sleek glass container. The stylish nursery features a DIY Terrarium Bar stocked with a lush assortment of air plants, rocks, shells, and moss. Plus, friendly and informative staff are happy to assist. They also have wooden letters and shapes where you can make a piece of living art with a succulent arrangement.

Ride a Cable Car to Dinner

Nope, we haven’t confused our cities. In cute-as-a-button Capitola, Shadowbrook Restaurant offers a unique way to access its dining room. From a hilltop parking lot, diners can board a mini cable car which descends a lush, hillside garden—complete with waterfall and rippling stream—to the restaurant’s entrance. It’s a hit with kids and adults alike, yet, only you can decide whether to pair your meal with a Shirley Temple or dry Martini.

Paint (and Sip Wine)

It’s amazing how much fun wine can add to a classroom. At The Painted Cork, you can channel your inner Matisse with a relaxed, don’t-worry-that-you’re-a-terrible-drawer painting class. Better yet, you’re encouraged to enjoy some wine and cheese and make like a genuine French artist! Check the Painted Cork calendar for in-person events but their site has a variety of at home and virtual options as well. You can even paint a portrait of your pup—or parakeet—on Paint Your Pet night!

Photos by Garrick Ramirez