Vacationing with Kids in Santa Cruz County 

Going on a successful vacation with kids requires lots of energy, not to mention planning ahead. Santa Cruz County is overflowing with fun places for the entire family. We put together a few highlights to optimize your time and ensure you enjoy your visit. 


Capitola Village is well set up for family vacations: everything is within walking distance including breweries/wineries for the adults. The Esplanade, with outdoor showers and public restrooms, makes for total beach day convenience. There are places for boogie board, surfboard, and paddle board rentals, even for beginners. Delicious eateries with quick counter service include Pizza My Heart and Mijo’s Taqueria. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Capitola Candy Co., Capitola Sweet Shoppe, and several ice cream options. Find souvenirs at stores like Craft Gallery, Art Inspired, Ethos, and Santa Cruz Apparel. 


Watsonville has fantastic family-friendly spots to discover local the local bounty. Gizdich Ranch draws people from all over to pick apples and berries. Have a picnic in the orchard—accompanied by Gizdich pie of course—or buy homemade berry jam from the shop. Next, don’t miss Martinelli’s Company Store, which offers free tasting of their scrumptious juices. You can taste and buy classic apple juice or sparkling ciders plus varieties that are harder to find at traditional grocery stores. Journey to the other side of the county for Davenport’s Swanton Berry Farm, with fruit-picking and a bakery.  


Sea anemones, colorful starfish, and mussels are just some of the amazing sea creatures your family can observe by visiting tide pools during low tides. Great spots include Pleasure Point (enter via stairways on East Cliff Drive) and the shoreline at Natural Bridges State Park. Whether or not it’s low tide season, the county has countless beaches for exploring and treasure hunting. Check out Davenport Beach in the north or New Brighton State Beach and Seacliff State Beach in the south. Your kids may be lucky to spot beautiful shells or sea glass.   


The Boardwalk has attractions for younger and older kids. Lots of rides include ones for those who want to defy gravity, and two historic landmarks—the Giant Dipper rollercoaster and Looff Carousel. It also offers miniature golf, an arcade, and Laser Tag, plus Fright Walk for thrill-seeking older kids. Feast on carnival-style fare like corn dogs and cotton candy or fancier options like boba tea and crepes. Parents can enjoy craft beer with a backdrop of incredible ocean views.  


At Roaring Camp Railroads, have an adventure inside the county’s iconic redwood forest. Choose the year-round Redwood Forest Steam Train, which travels from the main Felton depot through soaring redwood groves. Or select the seasonal Beach Train which chugs through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park before making its way to the Boardwalk. Make sure to allow time for pre-excursion kids’ activities like candle making or panning for gold. 


Walk to the end of the wharf to gaze at barking sea lions frolicking in the ocean. Eat lunch or dinner at one of many seafood restaurants like Stagnaro Bros. and Firefish Grill, featuring adult favorites and kids’ menus. Specialty shops along the picturesque wharf will entice you and your family with uniquely-Santa-Cruz wares: these include Marini’s Candies, Sockshop Santa Cruz, and Made in Santa Cruz.