School’s out and so is the sun in this beautiful Santa Cruz summer. It’s the perfect time to head outdoors and enjoy the top summer family-friendly activities in Santa Cruz. With our picks for things to do in Santa Cruz, parents can reconnect with their children and families can have a season packed with unforgettable memories.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Summer in Santa Cruz means more days and longer nights at the world-famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Through the season, the boardwalk is bustling with tourists and locals who come for the exciting rides like the historic Giant Dipper rollercoaster, the classic carnival treats and the picturesque view of the ocean. To escape the sun, you and your kids can play pirate-themed mini golf, laser tag or arcade games. Image: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com
Hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Santa Cruz Mountains
The warmer weather and infrequency of rain during a Santa Cruz summer make it the perfect time to go hiking with the family at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Henry Cowell is a favorite hiking spot among locals and visitors for good reason—the park’s trails meander through the beautiful towering redwood forests for which the county is best known.
Berry Picking at Swanton Berry Farm
While U-Pick fruits and veggies are a fun thing to do in Santa Cruz all year-round, the best season is the summer when berries are at their peak. Kids will enjoy witnessing first-hand how fruits are grown, picking their own fruits and eating their harvest. Swanton Berry Farm also has a variety of vintage table games for kids and their parents to play in addition to a selection of delicious berry pies and jams. Image: cdrin / Shutterstock.com
Roaring Camp Railroad Beach Train
Santa Cruz Mountains
If they’ve been playing with their train set since the holidays, it may be time to bring the experience to life with the Roaring Camp Railroad Beach Train, departing daily through the summer. Kids and their parents will love riding in the historic open-air cars while chugging around the trees of Felton to the shining seas of the Santa Cruz coastline. Image: Mike Brake / Shutterstock.com
Natural Bridges State Park Tide Pools
The only thing better than learning about the ocean’s critters in a textbook is seeing them in their natural habitat. At Natural Bridges State Park, the plentiful tide pools house local sea life, including crabs, sea anemone, starfish and mussels. Exploring the tide pools and soaking in some rays at the beach make for a summer day spent well.
Marini’s Candies Ice Cream Sundae
Downtown Santa Cruz
For children and kids at heart (who also go by the names mom and dad), nothing conjures summertime nostalgia like a big ice cream sundae enjoyed on a hot day. Marini’s Candies may be famous for its salt water taffy and chocolate-covered bacon, but what really hits the spot are their ice cream sundaes topped with nuts, whipped cream and caramel.
Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery
Education shouldn’t stop just because the kids are on summer break. Off-duty learning is more enticing with the unique exhibits and daily classes and workshops at the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery. In addition to learning about honey bees and how to play an instrument, kids can exercise their green thumbs at the Children’s Garden in which they can grow their own plants.
Throwback Flicks at the Del Mar Theatre
Downtown Santa Cruz
Kids these days have a lot of movie-watching to do if they’re going to catch up on the films produced over the decades. Fortunately, the Del Mar Theatre periodically shows older films like The Sandlot that parents can experience again with their young ones. This local, independent movie theater features indie, foreign and big-budget films in addition to their award-winning organic and non-GMO popcorn.
Camping at Sunset State Beach
No one wants beach days to end and they don’t have to when you camp overnight at Sunset State Beach in Watsonville. An afternoon of sun bathing and swimming can turn into a night of bonfires and s’mores that will be sure to create unforgettable summer memories for the entire family.