Springtime offers a lot of options for activities in Santa Cruz and many of them happen outdoors to take advantage of the return of ideal weather and longer days. It’s no secret that Santa Cruz is an outdoor loving community and you’ll notice a lot more people out and about when the weather starts to cooperate on a daily basis. Just as the seasonal turn to spring brings about a time of renewal for nature, it enlivens residents and visitors with a feeling of renewed optimism as they take to the outdoors to enjoy it themselves. Here are some of the best outdoor activities that Santa Cruz has to offer in the spring.
Hummingbird Day At The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden
The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a great place to explore in any season, but in spring when everything blooms, it’s the best. Spread over more than 100 acres, the UCSC Arboretum features plants native to California, as well as several other Mediterranean climates such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Hummingbird Day is one of the main events put on by the Arboretum and highlights the return migration of the coastal hummingbirds each spring. Featuring tours, workshops, and classes, Hummingbird Day is a great opportunity to watch hummingbirds flitter around the gardens and learn about the many types of plants and habitats represented there. If you feel inclined to add some of the plants to your own garden, the Arboretum hosts a popular Spring Plant Sale each year that helps raise money to fund the maintenance of the gardens.
Earth Day At San Lorenzo Park
Santa Cruz Earth Day at San Lorenzo Park is more than just an event to raise awareness about conservation efforts and environmental awareness; it’s a celebration that draws guests from all over the county. The annual event takes place downtown in San Lorenzo Park, which gets packed with people, informational and retail booths, food, activities for kids, entertainment, and events for one day each April.
Earth Day at the park is definitely a family-friendly activity and it’s close to the shops and restaurants of downtown and the Santa Cruz Wharf. It’s a great event to pop in and check out, either to make an afternoon of it or just to see what it’s about while you’re out having lunch or on the way to a movie.
Lunch & Walk To The Beach
One of the benefits of being in a county with a number of coastal towns and neighborhoods is that you can find a good place to eat within walking distance of the beach in just about all of them. Here are some great picks in different Santa Cruz neighborhoods that detail where to stop off and grab some grub before visiting the beach.
Most of the eateries on the Westside are slightly inland from the coast and West Cliff Dr., but they’re still just a short walk from the beach. Bantam is a well-regarded pizzeria that serves Mediterranean dishes and organic wood-fired pizzas. If you’re more inclined to visit the beach after eating breakfast in an outdoor patio, Kelly’s French Bakery in the Swift Street Courtyard is the place to go. If you feel like a glass of wine or a craft beer, you can circle back to the courtyard afterward and have plenty of options.
Downtown offers the most options for food that are within walking distance of the beach, most of them on Pacific Avenue and a couple of others on the adjoining streets. You can find just about any type of food you’re looking for and then take a short walk to Main Beach, the Beach Boardwalk, or the Santa Cruz Wharf. Of course, there are several restaurants on the wharf itself, as well as a few on nearby Beach St. Kianti’s Pizza & Pasta Bar is a great option on Pacific Avenue close to the wharf and Olitas Cantina and Grille, which is a Mexican restaurant on the wharf, offers good food and great views while you dine.
Midtown Santa Cruz is one of the best places to enjoy a walk to the beach after grab a morning coffee or sitting down for a good breakfast. Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe has a deserving reputation as one of the best breakfast places in Santa Cruz and nearby Java Junction and Verve Coffee Roasters are both good options to grab a coffee on the go. If you’re more in the mood or lunch or dinner before the beach, the Seabright Brewery and Betty Burgers are both within a short walk of Seabright Beach.
On the other side of the Yacht Harbor are two great places to eat that are close enough to the water to provide a pleasant view while you dine. The Crow’s Nest and Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant & Bar are both good options here.
If you find yourself near Pleasure Point at the end of 41st Avenue in Capitola, there are a handful of places to eat before near the beach. Pleasure Pizza is closest and quickest, while just across the street is the Pleasure Pizza Eastside Eatery if you prefer more of a formal sit down meal. If you’re in Capitola Village, there are several dining options even closer to the water, some of them even right on the beach. If you don’t feel like a sit-down eating experience, you can easily grab a slice at Pizza My Heart and eat on the go.
Roaring Camp Railroads
Another great springtime activity in Santa Cruz is riding aboard a steam train that winds through the redwoods at Roaring Camp Railroads. Located in Felton, Roaring Camp has multiple rides to choose from throughout the year, but the Redwood Forest Steam Train is the top pick for spring. Riding aboard a classic steam engine as you wind your way through the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, you’ll learn about the history of the area, how steam-powered trains were a big part of it, and the importance of preserving the natural setting which you’ll travel through.
If you’re looking for a fun spring activity for people of all ages, Roaring Camp is a great option. Among other events hosted at Roaring Camp during the spring include Rainforest Weekends, an Easter Egg Hunt, and Mother’s Day Brunch.
Kayaking Or Paddle Boarding
It would be difficult to talk about spring activities in Santa Cruz without offering any that involve the ocean. Surfing is the obvious one, but there are several options to get out in the water and soak up some rays without being a capable surfer. Two popular local activities that fit the bill are kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, both of which can be done at several locations around town.
The Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and the Santa Cruz Wharf are two of the main spots to try your hand at paddle boarding or kayaking. All the necessary equipment can be rented and, if needed, you can even get a lesson. For those that are more comfortable in the water and have their own gear, there are several calm spots along the coast that offer plenty of opportunity for kayakers and SUPers.