How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Santa Cruz

Anyone who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1990s will almost certainly have the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk commercials stamped on their subconscious, alongside their best friend’s landline. But Santa Cruz is much more than a West Coast Coney Island. (The Boardwalk, incidentally, is California’s oldest amusement park and is a fine place to ride a historic roller coaster with an ocean view.) Santa Cruz, a city of some 60,000, defies easy categorization. A college town (go Banana Slugs!) and a world class surfing destination, it’s within commuting distance of Silicon Valley. And yet somehow it still manages to feel hidden away. Hugging the northern lip of the scallop shell-shaped Monterey Bay, travelers can reach Santa Cruz via a dreamy coastal drive on California’s Highway 1, or rounding vertiginous curves through the Redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Technically the beginning of the Central Coast, Santa Cruz has been influenced by Silicon Valley without actually becoming a part of it; it is its own county and decidedly has its own vibe. This is a place where, daily and unironically, you’ll see a vintage Volkswagen Vanagon parked next to a Tesla, with surfboards extending from both.