Northern California’s classic beach destination pairs a carefree ocean-side scene with a bustling downtown brimming with tasteful restaurants and shops.
Riders squeal as their cars spin 360s and take drops at 40 miles per hour on Undertow coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There’s also an arcade and a pirate-packed, two-story miniature golf course, and live bands perform on the boardwalk Friday evenings starting in June.
At neighboring Main and Cowell Beaches, sea lions bark under the wharf and surfers slice the waves. Swing by a game of beach volleyball, but stick around for sunset photo ops—and great views of the pier, as well.
Peace fills the vine-covered patio at Laili Restaurant, serving Afghan and Mediterranean food. Try the apricot-chicken flatbread, topped with Parmesan, dates, and pomegranate seeds.