Santa Cruz County moves to the Yellow Tier.

Travel Blog

Your Santa Cruz County Holiday Stress Relievers

Photo by @lizkroft_sc_realtor

The holidays are supposed to be a time for slowing down and enjoying the company of good friends and family, but it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of Christmas shopping, decorating, gift exchanges, holiday work mixers, baking, party planning, and everything else that comes with making the holidays bright. And then there’s the extra stress at work as you try to get everything done before your vacation. Phew. It’s enough to turn the best of us into a real grinch and just hibernate until January.

To help relieve some of that holiday stress, here are some ideas for how to unwind in Santa Cruz County solo or with good company:

Photo by Maddy Casteel

Although nestled in the middle of downtown Santa Cruz, the Well Within Spa feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of Pacific Avenue. Spend an hour or two soaking in a private hot tub overlooking a zen Japanese garden and add a massage for the ultimate relaxation experience. Make sure you call ahead to book a room as the spa is especially popular during the cold days of winter.

Photo by @infiniteswell

Nothing makes you forget your to-do list like paddling your heart out to catch a wave. Head out to Cowell’s with a surf instructor from Club Ed International Surf School and discover why locals say surfing isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle, brah.

Photo by Molly Lautamo

Imagine yourself in a cozy tasting room with a view of the Santa Cruz Mountains and rolling acres of vineyards. From Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery in Corralitos to Byington Vineyard & Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, your wine tasting tour will take you through brussels sprout fields, redwood forests, and along the coast. And check out this video for more info on the region’s exciting wine offerings.

Photo by Molly Lautamo

With well over ten breweries now in the county, you could spend a full weekend nerding out on the art of brewing beer and of course drinking a few too many pints. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is one of the oldest in the area and a westside community hub, offering organic classic and experimental beers, like their tasty lavender IPA. Seabright Brewery serves up a variety of craft brews and you can expect everything from IPAs, to Ambers, to a silky sweet stout on rotation. And at Corralitos Brewing Co. you’re very likely to see a patron arrive on horseback as you sip your beer on this off-the-beaten-path brewery’s rustic front porch.

Photo by Molly Lautamo

Nothing forces you to slow down like trying to identify the correct species of waterfowl while crouched along the water’s edge at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. With 340 species of resident and migratory birds, you could spend a lifetime exploring the slough with a good pair of binoculars. One early morning visit is enough, however, to loosen the knots in your shoulders and make you appreciate the little things like Wilson’s Warblers, Double-breasted Cormorants, and surf scoters.

Photo by Molly Lautamo

When the days are short, curling up on the couch with a good book and a hot cup of tea or cider is just the ticket to blissful relaxation. If you’re in need of a new story to get lost in, perusing the shelves of Bookshop Santa Cruz is always a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Photo by @gingerlea

Fill your head with something other than sugar plums and learn about the local marine life at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Touch a shark, try not to laugh at the monkey-faced eel, study an octopus, and learn why a sea anemone feels sticky as you lose yourself in the interactive exhibit hall. Don’t miss the 87-foot-long blue whale skeleton – not that you would, as it’s one of the largest whale skeletons on display in the world!

Photo by @lizkroft_sc_realtor

Leave your troubles onshore and take a sunset cruise with Chardonnay Sailing Charters. Enjoy views of the Monterey Bay while imbibing in complimentary wine, beer, soft drinks and Hors d’oeuvres. After dark, take a walk along the Santa Cruz Harbor to see catamarans, fishing boats, yachts, and sloops adorned in twinkling Christmas lights, reflecting in the water like bioluminescent algae.

Santa Cruz offers plenty of distractions when you need to take your mind off all your obligations and just unwind for awhile. Be sure to tag your photos with #visitsantacruz or #santacruznow if you take our advice and use one of our relaxation tips this holiday season and into the new year!

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