Welcome to Snooth's guide to visiting Santa Cruz, or: "Going to San Francisco and taking a wrong turn on the way to Napa." This, of course, could also lead you to Sonoma, or the Sierra Foothills, or Santa Clara -- but none would deliver the same experience as a trip down coastal highway 1 to Santa Cruz.
Wine country can be a weird place. Certainly Napa is about as removed from reality as you can get and still be awake (and in the US). Santa Cruz is, and always has been, a refreshingly down-to-earth stop on my wine country tours. Where else can you taste great mountain Cabernets, ride a roller coaster, go bowling and get two scoops or a taco and call it a day?
The appeal of Santa Cruz is a bit, shall we say, bohemian in all its splendor. What’s not to like here? There is literally something for everyone: From the boardwalk to the farmer’s markets, the beach to the mountains, Santa Cruz is simply a great holiday destination.
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Any visit to Santa Cruz has to start on the boardwalk. For many people, it's what Santa Cruz is all about (besides the University), possibly because of the many movies that have been shot here. I mean, who can forget those scenes from Lost Boys filmed on the boardwalk? Check out the rides, mini golf, and arcade here for hours of adolescent fun.
After a visit to the boardwalk and an obligatory corn dog or (and) cotton candy you might want to indulge your adult side with a load of farm fresh fruits, veggies, and prepared food. The Santa Cruz Community Farmer's Market, at least the one located in downtown Santa Cruz, is open rain or shine every Wednesday afternoon from 2:30pm to 6:30pm.
If you need to find something a bit more “indoorsy” to do, check out the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. This aquarium is actually part of the University of California and is dedicated to preserving the unique biodiversity of the California Coastline.
Of course the real reason I’m visiting Santa Cruz is to try the fabulous wines. There are too many wineries in the region to visit in one day, but my short list of favorites would have to include the following: