Santa Cruz is the quintessential beach town. It’s vibe is laid-back, quirky and diverse. Whether you’re there exploring with your family, on a romantic get-away, or on business for an event, Santa Cruz has a bit of something for everyone. It’s kid-friendly, romantic, fun, and relaxing all at the same time.
Located on California’s central coast, Santa Cruz County has a mild climate, 29 miles of beautiful coastline, and beautiful redwood forest. It’s a popular destination spot, and the options are endless.
I love combining a bit of work and play (isn’t it all really the same thing?!) so I recently spent a long weekend hanging out in Santa Cruz with my youngest daughter.
The beachfront hotel Dream Inn is a favorite for many people visiting Santa Cruz. Every single room has a patio and a view of the ocean and Cowell Beach. It’s a short drive to the eclectic downtown area full of restaurants and shops.
There are 3 large firepits next to the pool, overlooking the beach, right next to the bar. The bar serves snacks and some pretty yummy cocktails. Santa Cruz weather is often a bit chilly, so don’t forget your jackets!
Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge is their onsite restaurant, also (of course) with great views of the beach. I only had breakfast there (twice), so I can’t speak to the rest of their food, but their breakfast was quite delicious. My daughter had one of their huge cinnamon rolls the first day and was very disappointed that they were out on the second day! The restaurant is right next to the meeting space lobby, so very convenient for attendees (and hungry event staff!).
Right outside of Santa Cruz, is Felton, the home of the Roaring Camp Railroad. I enjoyed this experience a lot more than I thought that I would.
There are 2 options for train rides on the beautifully preserved steam engines from 1980:
They have a Santa Cruz Beach Train, where you can hitch a ride to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, get dropped off, and catch the train back at the end of day. It’s such a great option for eliminating the need to deal with traffic and parking and enjoying a scenic ride while you’re at it.
The ride that Alexa and I took is the Redwood Forest Steam Train, which is a 75-minute narrated ride through the redwood groves. The weather was perfect, the forest was gorgeous, and the history was fun to learn about.
Fun fact. You can rent the train for a wedding and get married in the middle of tall redwood trees, and then take the train back to have your event at the Bret Harte Hall (or their large outdoor area).
BRET HARTE HALL + OTHER MEETING SPACE
If you’re looking for a rustic barn to host your next event, Bret Harte Hall (6,000 sq ft) is pretty darn cool.
The space opens up to an outdoor covered reception area, as well as a large lawn. This space would be idea for a themed party, fundraiser, teambuilding, or a private reception.
I asked around to various friends to get suggestions on where my daughter and I could go for dinner, and an overwhelming number of responses said that I had to go to Shadowbrook. I’d never heard of it but decided that I needed to check it out.
Located 6 miles away in Capitola, Shadowbrook is a wonderful sensory experience for attendees or for a personal special dinner for your family.
Reservations can be hard to get, so book well in advance.
The walk down to the restaurant was filled with foliage, flowers, a koi pond, waterfalls, and a cute trolley! You can choose to either take the trolley up/down, or walk.
When we got to the top, my daughter looked down and said “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!”
Kindof amazing, huh?
Once inside, you can get lost in this place. It’s filled with a lot of separate dining room areas. We went downstairs to go to the bathroom and didn’t think we’d make it back out, and based on the confused look of a fellow diner roaming the halls, we weren’t the only ones. 🙂
For those of you who didn’t grow up going to the Boardwalk like I did, it’s a great fun place to bring kids. There aren’t as many rides as a lot of other theme parks, but the big draw to the Boardwalk is it’s location on the beach and it’s history. You are also allowed access to the. Boardwalk without purchasing tickets to go on the rides, which makes it a good option for those family members who want to join in but don’t want to ride.
When all was said and done, this little guy was VERY excited to see his best friend: