Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

With its famous boardwalk and circa 1923 wooden rollercoaster, Santa Cruz has been called the Coney Island of the West. The coastal city is situated at the northern most part of Monterey Bay. The town’s name in Spanish means “holy cross,“ christened by Gaspar de Portola, the explorer who discovered the area in 1769. There was one of Father Junipero Serra’s missions here but it was destroyed in a 1857 earthquake. There is a replica of that original mission at Holy Cross Church.

The town’s main attractions are the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (with its arcade games, Giant Dipper rollercoaster and the 1911 Looff carousel) the long pier and the surfing. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park, built in 1907. Along with Santa Monica Pier, it’s one of only two seaside amusement parks on the West coast. Admission is free but tickets are necessary for the thrill rides. A bowling alley, mini-golf and video arcades are part of the boardwalk scene. 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 831/423-5590

This is a laid-back beach town. Students from the University of California at Santa Cruz add to the approximately 55,000 residents here. The downtown area has been renovated extensively and many boutique shops were added in the last few years. But thankfully, the funkier end of Santa Cruz still exists with its vinyl record stores, vintage clothing and head shops, handmade jewelry, Indian imports, and used book sellers. Head downtown to Pacific Avenue, to find the funky or fabulous. Borders has an outpost there and there are coffee shops and cafes up and down the street.

Note: There’s a great little restaurant on Mission Street/Highway 1, if you’re in town for breakfast or lunch. Café Brasil serves authentic Brazilian food. The menu is packed with egg dishes, pressed sandwiches and there’s even a juice bar. The specialty of the house is the national dish of Brazil: feijoada. This is a fantastic black bean stew, made with beef, pork and sausage, served with rice, orange slices, sautéed greens, and farofa, toasted manioc flour. Experience it with the fried plantains and watermelon juice. Delicioso! Café Brasil, 1410 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 831/429-1855