Santa Cruz County attracts visitors of all ages. From children who eagerly await summer break to grandparents who can recall fond memories of seaside beauty pageants of yesterday, Santa Cruz County is the perfect spot for multi-generational families to spend time reconnecting.
Year-around family-friendly events hosted by the Museum of Art and History, for the artistically-inclined.
The admission-free, legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – California’s oldest seaside amusement park – which has thrilled visitors for 107 years. Check out the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and the Looff Carousel, two national historic landmarks.
The friendly shark who greets visitors in a specially-designed tank at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab.(Guess what? It can also be gently petted!)
Sea fossils embedded in the hillside as you ride Roaring Camp Railroads’ steam train up Bear Mountain. Millions of years ago, these forested trails were underwater. After the train ride, walk next door to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where a wide, stroller and wheelchair-accessible path offer a close-up view of the redwoods.
Technology-driven exhibits at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center near the Santa Cruz Wharf.
DID YOU KNOW?
Ms. Blue, the blue whale skeleton which sits outside the Seymour Marine Discovery Center is one of the largest blue whale skeletons in the world.
Now an indoor miniature golf course, The Plunge at the Cocoanut Grove was once a bathhouse where visitors enjoyed the benefits of “natural medicine” of bathing in salt water.
You can meet “Abraham Lincoln” at the Civil War Battles and Encampment at Roaring Camp Railroads every Memorial Day Weekend. Other wild and wooly characters can be found at the Summer Gathering of Mountain Men and more special events.
One of the best places for tidepool exploration is Natural Bridges State Beach, where little ones will delight at the tiny crabs, sea stars and sea anemones nestling in underwater crevices when the tide goes out. In wintertime, families can explore the park’s eucalyptus grove, thick with clusters of hibernating monarch butterflies.
During summer, a Friday night concert series at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Capitola’s Wednesday Night Twilight Concerts in Esplanade Park are free music events that welcome kids. Wednesday nights at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, free summertime movies are shown on a big screen set on the sand, with family favorites from the 1980s bringing the nostalgia back, while enticing a new generation of fans.
Astronomy programs, Bug Day, campfires and kid-friendly guided walks are hosted by State Parks on a year-around basis throughout the county.
In south county, free family nature walks begin at the Wetlands of Watsonville Nature Center, where binoculars are provided to help spot the amazing bird species that call this habitat home.
On the Fourth of July, Scotts Valley’s Skypark is the place to be for family fun with a barbecue and fireworks to end the night.