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NorCal Road Trips: Santa Cruz

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Lest you think this blog is all about luxury cruises and business class tickets to Europe, I’ve decided it’s time to get back to reality and the way my family usually travels 99% of the time.  Here’s another post in my ongoing series “NorCal Road Trips,” highlighting destinations perfect for a day trip or weekend jaunt by car in the SF Bay Area.

About a month ago, our family found ourselves without a weekend activity, so we decided it was time for a little road trip.  We set a course for Santa Cruz, just about an hour and a half from our home in the East Bay.  Santa Cruz has a famous historic boardwalk with rides, food, and a gorgeous beach, so we knew it would be a hit with our little one.  Best of all, it is close enough to the San Francisco Bay Area that families can easily do it in a day without a hotel overnight.

So, what is there to do in Santa Cruz?  The bulk of the activities are centered around amusement park rides, eating fair food, and hitting the beach.  And we did plenty of all three!  A number of the rides are not age-appropriate for little ones, but unlike a lot of amusement parks, there are a lot of kiddie rides in addition to the crazy rollercoasters and barf-o-matics.  We kept my daughter busy for a full morning and afternoon and I don’t think we rode the same ride twice.

After many hours of rides, we also hit the beach.  The Santa Cruz beach is right where the San Lorenzo River hits the ocean, and the river pools up just perfectly for little ones to wade in several shallow spots and get to explore on their own in the calm water.

The only major frustration we experienced during our visit was parking.  The roads in Santa Cruz are small and aren’t meant to handle the influx of folks on the weekends, so you will find yourself waiting on surface streets for awhile as you attempt to get to a parking lot.  If you arrive earlier in the morning before the rides open, you can avoid some of this crunch (we arrived about 45 minutes after the rides opened).  We did ultimately find a great parking space, but we waited about 20 minutes or so to get to it.

If you are planning a visit, be sure to check hours carefully.  The Boardwalk has more limited hours as we get later into fall, and is closed entirely much of the winter (except the arcades and bowling).  But for a spring, summer, or early fall visit, Santa Cruz can’t be beat!

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