May 30

Santa Cruz

We decided to go with some friends on a last minute trip to Santa Cruz over Memorial Day weekend it was so fun and wasn’t too expensive, which made for a great little getaway. We all have small kids so we rented a big house near the beach on Airbnb (with a jacuzzi!) for two nights. It was a great vacation for kids so I thought it might be useful to share our itinerary here. Day 1: We went to the Roaring Camp Railroads Steam Train. It’s an hour long ride through the redwoods on a steam train. The kids looooved it. After naps at the house we took a walk to the beach and played in the waves. That night my friend found a babysitter so the adults could go out for Sushi. Day 2: We headed over to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and went on a bunch of rides. The kids loved the rides and junk food. After they got tired we could head back to the house which was 5 minutes away. During down times we sat around and talked or hung out in the jacuzzi and took naps. For dinner we had a¬†barbecue¬†that night on the patio. Day 3: Was the sunniest day so after a breakfast at Gayle’s bakery we went to the beach and stayed until we were sun kissed and tired. We jumped in the car and and hour and a half later we were back home in the city. I love when things come together so easy and last minute like that. My Santa Cruz food suggestions are below. I’d love to hear yours in the comments.

Gayle’s Bakery for pastries and for sandwiches.
The Penny Ice Creamery for awesome ice cream.
Lillian’s for Italian Food
Taqueria Vallarta no frills delicious Mexican Food.
Mobo Sushi for really great sushi.


  • Toni says:

    you can’t pass up cafe brazil for your next trip.

    I promise it will not disappoint.

  • karen says:

    Looks like a blast! So jealous of people who can take weekend trips to the ocean. I want to see this beach house.

  • love this idea – we drove by the santa cruz boardwalk (I remember those chairs!) once on a trip further south but unfortunately, the weather was terrible that day so we didn’t get to get out and enjoy the boardwalk. But definitely putting this on our list for the next CA trip – and the train is a great idea. I didn’t know about that one but it would be a hit with my diplo-tot and adult husband alike. Glad to hear you had a great weekend!

  • Leila says:

    So cute! My partner’s old college roommate lives in Santa Cruz (we’re in Oakland) and this post definitely serves as a good advertisement to go and pay him a visit! :)

  • Meg says:

    This looks so great!!! I love the photos. Bisous from Paris.

  • Sounds like a great weekend!

    My family ended up going to the beach in a picturesque village in Ayrshire, Scotland. The temp was 77*F and gorgeous! We passed cottages and castle ruins. Enjoyed ice cream on the boardwalk and even dipped our toes in the freezing water.

    Then Sunday we went to a local estate and saw a gorgeous old Victorian home. I got my Jane Austen on! We walked around the country park and enjoyed the garden’s. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Scottish weekend!

  • raya says:

    Santa Cruz is my hometown and the longer I’m gone the more I miss it. I always crave Pizza My Heart, El Palomar (fancy, yummy Mexican food. Order the burrito de camarones), Verve coffee, Carpos for their salad bar. And cotton candy at the boardwalk….

  • Casey says:

    Verve Coffee Roasters on Pacific Ave. downtown. The interior is stunning and their baristas have won awards for their espresso pulls!
    Don’t forget Marini’s for saltwater taffy, ice cream, and candies. There’s one on the boardwalk and bigger one on Pacific. Try the peanutbutter rice krispy treats!

  • Janelle says:

    Santa Cruz is a great (and not too far) getaway!!

    My favorite eats:
    Pleasure Pizza – dive restaurant, pizza by the slice (better than pizza my heart!)
    Gayles for Breakfast and lunch
    Cafe Brazil- bustling cafe, Acai bowls are amazing!
    Crow’s Nest- fresh menu, excellent sunsets, and yummy cocktails!
    Cafe Cruz- perfect for date night
    Kianti- family friendly pizzeria and pasta bar

    Glad you enjoyed Santa Cruz!

  • I love marriane’s for ice cream. It’s a must stop every time I head over to Scott’s Creek beach on hwy 1. That beach is awesome btw… has piles and piles of gorgeous whole shells and its rarely got people on it…. just a few miles north of SC too. :) I love norcal. Welcome back!

  • oh yeah I forgot about Crow’s nest too! Def. my favorite dinner spot

  • Rachel says:

    I highly recommend “The Crepe Place” in Downtown Santa Cruz.

  • Amanda says:

    This looks like so much fun!

  • Alexis says:

    I love Santa Cruz! Next time take your kids to The Mystery Spot (; they’ll love it!

  • Alice says:

    These photos looks so amazing!
    I’m italian (therefore I apologize for my english) and it’s strange and wonderful to see a different world: place, life, colours totally different from the most italians ones.
    I love your site even for this reason!

    Baci da Torino!

  • Rachel says:

    Cafe Delmarette is a super tiny–but super delicious–little cafe on Pacific. They have the best sandwiches and the tastiest scones I’ve had outside of Europe.

    Cafe Campesino is a delicious all-natural (and not super greasy!) stand on the sidewalks on Pacific, right outside New Leaf Market. The food takes me straight back to the time I spent studying abroad in rural Mexico. HUGE portions, so there is definitely enough to share!

    Glad you had a fun trip! There’s nothing like a sunny, warm Santa Cruz beach day.

  • Julie says:

    Sounds like fun! How did you find your rental?

  • I’ve never been to Sana Cru, but your trip look great and really I just wanted to throw my weight behind a weekend break where ease and frequency of napping for kids *and* adults is a consideration. Ah, sweet afternoon nap…

    We are back in Sicily, cleaning up a storm, eating all the gelato and awaiting my parents’ arrival this weekend.

  • *erm, Santa Cruz *ipad typing fail :(

  • Marae says:

    I was keeping the nostalgia under control until you mentioned Gayle’s. Oh I love Santa Cruz! And I second the Marianne’s ice cream recommendation.

  • Maureen says:

    I used to spend my summers in a little town just south of Santa Cruz called Aptos and we would love to go to the Boardwalk and just walk around town.

  • JackieKC says:

    We went just last month! We ate at Lillian’s and it was so good. Also, like another said, go to Marianne’s for Ice Cream you won’t be disappointed! They have sooo many flavors to choose from and surprisingly my personal favorite was the green tea. We also tried banana, oreo, and oatmeal cookie dough! And if you’re ever in Monterey, my favorite place was the Wild Plum Cafe! Their savory pancakes were delicious!

  • elizabeth says:

    What a fun weekend! LOVE your photos… they are beautiful! :)

  • Lindsay says:

    I adore santa cruz! My favorite place to go is Zoccoli’s, an Italian deli downtown. They have the yummiest sandwiches! Also, Hart’s Fabric is a great place to check out in Santa Cruz, they have the most adorable and quirky fabric selection– so lovely!

  • shannon says:

    looks like so much fun! Where oh where did you find Moses’s swimsuit?

  • Haley says:

    Paulas is a tiny little surf shack breakfast joint off of 41st. You can play cards or sit in the VW bus while you wait. They cook your food on hot plates instead of a real stove but it has so much character. Pleasure pizza, also on 41st is the original. Best food after surfing and I guarantee that every professional surfer has walked through that door. For amazing good, wholesome food try Dharmas. They use fresh ingredients and have a great soup, salad and brown rice special. Try their desserts too. I could write for days but enjoy those next time!

  • I love these photos so much. They bring back some wonderful memories of my time in California. Just found your lovely blog, so many great posts.

  • Abby says:

    My husband and I met and fell in love in Santa Cruz (both of us went to UCSC, go slugs!) so I love seeing the town from an outsiders perspective, especially now that we live far away in Chicago.

    Bonny Doon recently moved to a fabulous location on the west side off of Swift St. and has a restaurant formerly called Cellar Door now called Le Cigare Volant that is a must. In the same area is a bakery called Kelly’s which makes great bread and cafe fare (but as a former Paris resident myself, pass on the croissants!). New Leaf Market is also around the corner and is the perfect place to grab picnic supplies to take down to Natural Bridges beach.

    Glad to see you giving a shout out to the Penny Ice Creamery! Lovely flavors there made with care!

  • Lisa says:

    I live in San Francisco but lived in Santa Cruz for several years. I second the recommendations for Cafe Brasil and Kelly’s French Bakery.
    Some other faves –

    Breakfast: Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe (Seabright Ave)- on weekends you’ll see a line forming before 8 am!
    Mexican: Taco’s Morenos (Water St)
    Local Supermarket: Shopper’s Corner (Soquel Ave)
    If you need a cake: The Buttery (Soquel Ave)

    I miss sunny Santa Cruz!
    Sounds like I will have to try Penny Ice Creamery!

  • carrie says:

    The Buttery in Santa Cruz is a great bakery as well as The Farm in Aptos. Soif is a beautiful wine bar on Walnut just off the mall – really good food, but probably not a real happy place for kids! We love Gayles too!

  • Megan says:

    It was on that ride at the boardwalk that I discovered I have developed a case on adult onset fear of heights. I thought it would be so fun and cute, but I ended up terrified my shoes would fall off while clutching my boyfriend and begging him to stay perfectly still so the seat didn’t rock. We had a good laugh about it once we were safely back on the ground.

  • Julia says:

    love Verve Coffee on Pacific and on 41st, or head to their roastery in the Seabright neighborhood
    Engfers pizza on Seabright
    The Picnic Basket is right across from the boardwalk, and have delicious sandwiches, and ice cream (they are owned by the Penny) and homemade jelly donuts!

    love santa cruz, such an easy trip from the bay

  • hermosas imagenes un lugar esplendido sin duda

  • Karen says:

    I’d love to know where you stayed? We are always looking for a good rental there.

  • Jen says:

    Oooh! Love your photos. The last time we were in Santa Cruz the weather was less than great. Some really fun indoor options for the little ones are pirate-themed mini golf @ Neptune’s Kingdom (at the boardwalk) and roller skating at the Roller Palladium (yes!).

  • Maritxu says:

    Yeah for Santa Cruz! Gayles and Taqueria Vallarta are my 2 staples!

  • Kacie says:

    Have a wonderful trip! What is the font of “Santa Cruz” in your photo above? I LOVE IT!


  • Grace says:

    Oh, this is fabulous! We had a cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains growing up (about a mile from Roaring Camp Railroad) and we would spend our summers there. So wonderful and so fun. Your photos and the comments from others have been a fun trip down memory lane for us.

  • Theresa Meunioit says:

    Split living in Santa Cruz and SF for three years. And after recent birth of baby two, had to simplify and move back to SF.

    Only “really good” food in SC, i.e. you could take an SF foodie without embarrassment:
    – La Posta
    – Oswald

    Good coffee:
    – Verve in Pleasure Point
    – Cafe Lulu

    Margaritas and fresh tortillas:
    – Palomar

    – Cliff Cafe in Pleasure Point (tofu scramble)

    Simple Burger:
    – Betty’s Burgers

    – Gayle’s
    – Buttery

    Farmer’s markets:
    – Live Oak on Sundays
    – Aptos/Cabrillo on Saturdays (amazingly inexpensive orchids)

    There you have it, all my SC foodie secrets.

  • Looks beyond amazing trip!

  • ajira says:

    Haven’t been to Santa Cruz… yet! Making a mental note to come back and check this post out when I do head out that way, so I know what spots to hit! :D I loved that last shot of your ‘instant’ print and was wondering what you shot it with. Looks like you had a wonderful time on a rather idyllic trip. Hope to have the same soon!

  • That looks like the perfect getaway! The sun, the sea, the friends, the yummy food…

  • Alisha Thompson says:

    We have a beach house in Aptos and these are our favorites:

    Obviously Gayle’s, did you try the gorgonzola spinach pasta or the salted caramel cake?
    Village Host Pizza-our favorite pizza on earth- love the hawaiian or the veggie-but it’s all good.
    Aptos Street BBQ- get there early on busy weekends because they sell out!
    Palapas-Mexican food featuring amazing fresh seafood
    Deluxe foods-the cutest local grocery store, we get our Marianne’s ice cream there-especially the Cinnamon caramel or the cantaloupe. We’ve also had them cater our Thanksgiving!
    and even though Erik’s Deli is all over the bay area we only seem to eat it when we are at the coast.

    You have to go to the Mystery Spot! Renting in Aptos is a great option…our family has been doing it for 4 generations-it all started when my great grandpa met my great grandma here!

  • tiffany says:

    these pictures are all so beautiful! i love it that summer is here!

  • Camille says:

    Thanks for visiting our hometown! We’ve recently transplanted to Los Angeles but we love sharing the Cruz’n lifestyle with others. Here are our suggestions…

    (for their 7 different types of hot chocolate!)

    Pacific Cookie Company
    (delicious homemade cookies, I adore their mint condition cookies)

    Marianne’s Ice Cream
    (not as voyeuristic as the Penny Ice Creamery, but a Santa Cruz essential nonetheless)

    The Red Apple
    (technically, this is in Santa Cruz, but the staff at The Red Apple know how to give HUGE portions. It’s the perfect example of farm town living and farm town hospitality)

    Los Pericos
    (they have the best breakfast burritos. Extra bacon and all)

  • Chloe says:

    I work at the Penny Ice Creamery!!! So awesome to see it listed on here. I always feel like our lives are running sort of parallel, Jordan- I lived in France at the same time you did, I’m from San Francisco and just came back (now I’m in school at UCSC). What a strange world!
    Next time you’re down here, you should try The Picnic Basket. It’s The Penny’s sister cafe that served breakfast, lunch and dinner in a really relaxed atmosphere across from the boardwalk. I can’t recommend anything specific because, like The Penny, our menu changes with the season and features locally grown, organic ingredients. I know you’ll love it!

  • Jill says:

    I agree….The Mystery Spot! You will all enjoy it :) Pleasure Point Pizza is awesome. Betty’s Burgers is great too! Really good malts. On the boardwalk we love to have corn dogs and fried Twinkies! On rainy days or chilly evenings the pee wee golf in Neptune’s is fun. Love the photos, Jordan :)

  • Lindsay says:

    Being from northern cal, I have so many fond memories if summer days there…..the log ride, candy apples, boogie boarding and building sand castles…… Santa Cruz is sooooo nostalgic for me!

  • Lovely, lovely!!! I adore these photos–you have just inspired me to take my hubby for a weekend to Santa Cruz! :)

  • shelby says:

    riva on the wharf-great garlic bread. pizza my heart, can’t beat $5 for a slice and shirt! erik’s-yummy sandwiches.

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