DOWNTOWN Santa Cruz

There’s always something fun going on in Downtown Santa Cruz. From street performances and open-air concerts to whale watching and surfing, Downtown has a vibrant community filled with people who know how to enjoy themselves. Right at the heart of Downtown is Pacific Avenue, a walkable street lined with shops and restaurants that brings in shoppers from all over the county. If you follow the street long enough, you’ll find yourself at the sunny Cowell Beach right next to the iconic Santa Cruz Wharf.

 Attractions

 

 
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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Stretching just over a mile long, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic California experience. You can spend some time at the beach, go surfing, grab some food at one of the many restaurants, hang around the arcade, or even go bowling. This classic seaside amusement park is also home to the “Giant Dipper,” a wooden roller coaster built in 1924. It has since been named a National Historic Landmark and is just one of many thrill rides available.


Pacific Garden Mall

Also known as Pacific Avenue, Pacific Garden Mall is a great place to spend the afternoon. This highly walkable “Mall” is packed with street-side vendors, local eateries, clothing stores, movie theaters, and plenty more! If you’re in the mood for shopping, you’ll enjoy browsing some of the unique shops that line the Avenue, and when you’re ready to grab some food, there’s no shortage of restaurants and cafes at your disposal.  Pacific Garden Mall also has a great nightlife scene, so make sure you check out the bars or try catching a midnight movie showing at Del Mar Theatre for an unforgettable, old-fashioned theater experience.

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Santa Cruz Wharf

Not too far from the Boardwalk is the iconic Santa Cruz Wharf. This massive structure juts half a mile into the Monterey Bay, making it one of the largest wharfs on the West coast. It holds over nine eateries, each with a distinct style to accommodate every palate and price point, and gives visitors an excellent view of the ocean. You can even rent a kayak to explore the coastline from Cowell Cove or just enjoy some cod and salmon fishing on a Stagnaro boat. You can also see some of the Pacific Ocean’s most impressive marine life during a whale watching tour, or just hang out on the far end of the Wharf where birds, dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, and, if you’re lucky, whales can be seen.


 beaches

 

 
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Main Beach

Located directly in front of the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Main Beach is a popular choice among tourists and locals alike. With the Boardwalk shops, restaurants and bathrooms close by it’s easy to understand why. The beach stretches from the mouth of the San Lorenzo River to the Santa Cruz Wharf, once you’re on the other side of the Wharf you’ve entered Cowell’s Beach. Main Beach also has volleyball courts and is the beach that hosts the Boardwalk summer concert series and movie nights.


Cowell Beach

On the other side of the Wharf from Main Beach, you’ll find Cowell beach, often called Cowell’s. Cowell’s is a popular spot for beginner surfers and even though it may be smaller than its counterpart it’s popular among everyone. Behind Cowell’s is the iconic Dream Inn, who often hosts weddings on the sandy shores below.

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 Events

 

 
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Santa Cruz Film Festival

The Santa Cruz Film Festival is perfect for film buffs or residents who appreciate local art. Many of the featured films are made by high school or college students, but some are made by established directors as well. Regardless, there’s always something interesting playing, and you can catch the screenings at most local Downtown theaters like Del Mar and Nickelodeon.



First Friday

During the first Friday of each month, the community comes together to throw a big festival showcasing local art. During First Friday, shops from all across Downtown open up their doors to artists, often offering snacks and drinks like cheeses, meats, wine, and cocktails. Most of the activity clusters around the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and the stores around it.

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Farmers Market

Every Wednesday you can stop by the Downtown farmer’s market between Cedar St. and Pacific Ave. This is a great way to support local farmers and family businesses while marking some items off of your grocery list. Whether you’re looking for artisanal products, fresh fruits and veggies, local meats, or seafood, you can find it here. Some weeks you can even find crafts by local artists or hear live music from nearby bands. There’s also an oyster bar and ice cream stand you can enjoy!


Holiday Lights Train

Throughout December, the “Holiday Lights Train” brings the Christmas spirit to Downtown Santa Cruz. Rolling past residential areas and bustling city streets, this beautiful vintage train is adorned with thousands of lights. The passengers on board sip hot cider as they sing popular Christmas songs to the spectators gathering by the tracks. It’s a great holiday tradition!


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 Downtown Map