Tell Me About Santa Cruz, CA

I’m going to be spending a day in Santa Cruz, California later this fall (visiting family in Modesto, taking a day trip to Santa Cruz).

We’ll be there sometime between October 18 - October 22. Will the weather be warm? How about the water? Also, how is the surf that time of year? Are the waves pretty consistent year-round?

Anything else of interest in Santa Cruz? Perhaps a good place to eat?

Do tell!

The weather might be warm, or it might not. Late October is a hard time to predict the weather in California. It’s going to be cooler than it will be in Modesto or San Jose. It’s possible that it will still be warm and sunny, but it’s also possible that it will be cold, foggy, and rainy.

The water, AFAIK, never gets warmer than about 60 degrees there. Don’t know about the surfing- never tried it.

Restaurants I or my friends have eaten at and liked:

El Palomar Mexican, kind of expensive (but bear in mind I was a grad student at the time I lived there), 2222 E Cliff Dr
Saturn Cafe vegetarian, 145 Laurel Street
Sabieng Thai Cuisine Thai, inexpensive and a personal favorite, 1226 Mission Street
Vasili’s Greek Food & BBQ, 150 Mission Street
Carniglia’s Restaurant, seafood, on the wharf
Miramar Restaurant, seafood, on the wharf

Fun things to do:

Driving out on the wharf. You can drive onto the wharf for a small hourly fee and park out there. This is the best place to park if you are going to a restaurant on the wharf or to the beach or boardwalk. There are restaurants and souvenir shops on the wharf, and at the end of the wharf, there are holes that you can look down into and see sea lions basking on the supports of the wharf.

The boardwalk and beach. I’m not sure if the rides will be open when you go- they might be, if you go on a weekend. If it’s warm, it can be nice to lie out on the beach.

UC Santa Cruz tour. UC Santa Cruz is a very… ah, different campus. It’s made up of buildings interspersed among redwood trees. I don’t know if there is an official tour, but there is a road that makes a loop around the campus, so you can drive around the campus and get an idea what it’s like. At several points you get a really nice view of Monterey Bay. You can also go to the bookstore and get banana slug merchandise of all kinds- GO SLUGS! Note that you might have trouble finding parking on the campus from about 10am to 3pm on a weekday, and you probably will have to pay something like $5 for a day parking pass.

Last year, it was still hot and dry in late October. That may have been exceptional.

Don’t miss the Saturn Cafe (described by Anne Neville above.) I took my father there the last time he visited and he said as we were walking out, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

The UC campus is gorgeous. There is a herd of deer living on campus, who split their time between the meadows and the forests. They are pretty friendly. I’ve walked right through a herd of them without them becoming alarmed.

If you’re looking for a nice walk, try parking near the Lighthouse and walking up to the Wharf. You can even walk to “downtown” (Pacific Avenue) from the Wharf, if you like.

Oh, one more thing–if you have the time, you might want to visit Bookshop Santa Cruz, on 1520 Pacific Ave. You can walk there from Saturn Cafe, which is on the intersection of Laurel and Pacific.

I went there yesterday and got the unabridged version of Les Miserables for 8 dollars. (New.) The store also sells used books. You can get Slug merchandise there too, I think, if that’s your thing.

Anyway, it’s a cute bookstore, and definitely part of the Pacific Avenue experience.

Don’t forget to visit the eerie Mystery Spot! There are those who say the bizarre phenomena that go on there are caused by visitors from another planet, or from powerful magnetic forces deep within the earth! No one knows for sure, it’s a mystery!

Of course, there are others who say it’s because somebody built a house ON A HILL. It’s still a mystery!

The Saturn Cafe has a website at , with menus online.

It’ll probably be fairly warm in late October. Bring a sweatshirt, it can get windy.

Check the Saturn Cafe, absolutely. Bookshop Santa Cruz is a great shop, as mentioned above.

Never went to the Mystery Spot myself, but I understand it’s a waste of time.

Want to see a great beach? Skip Cowell Beach (where the Boardwalk is) and head for Natural Bridges.

UCSC alum

I’ll also recommend the Saturn Cafe. It’s all vegetarian (except for maybe a tuna melt or something like that), but it’s all pretty good and “quirky” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I had fun at the Mystery Spot, with quite the suspension of disbelief. The tour guide I had really hammed it up, making it fun. They didn’t take the “science” too seriously. We’ve had some threads about the Mystery Spot and similar places here before.

The Boardwalk is an amusement park on a beach. The rides are OK, nothing too special, IMO, though I’m not a huge fan of amusement parks. Though the log ride and ferris wheel can offer some nice views of the western half of town. Natural Bridges is a much more beautiful beach, and I’ve had some fun times at Seabright.

There’s a whole lot of stuff on Pacific Ave, and the surrounding sidestreets, which is the main drag/downtown of Santa Cruz. Shops, restaurants, bars, boutiques.

Will you be going to the bars at any point?

About 20 minutes after I posted here, I was walking along a trail on the east side of UCSC and a stag with huge antlers bounded out of the bushes and landed right in front of me. It led me down the path for a while and then disappeared again. I often see deer when I walk down that way, but usually they are small deer; mostly does and fawns.

Sorry for the slight hijack.

I saw bucks a couple times in the three years I was at UCSC. Check back in when you see a mountain lion. (No, I never saw one and neither did anyone else I ever heard of. WTF is the point of all those signs?)

What college are you at? I was at Oakes, class of 2000.

I’m a graduate student, in the physics program.

I’ve never seen a mountain lion either (and never want to), but I heard that a mountain lion killed a deer in the graduate housing courtyard a few years ago. Someone saw the carcass, contacted the campus police, and when he came back the carcass had been dragged away. He never saw the actual mountain lion.

Cause they don’t exist! It’s some weird and pointless plot!

I bet it was actually my old HisCon professor, who entranced/horrified my Myth & Religion class with a story of how he and an former class had sacrified a goat in Crown Meadow to experience the power of animal sacrifice. Ugh.

It should be fairly warm here in October. The water is freezing and surfers wear wet suits. The mornings will be a little chilly but the days should be quite comfortable. Bring layers of clothing because you can add or subtract as the day progresses. If I was visiting for just a day I would check out the main Wharf, West Cliff Drive and walk down to Natural Bridges Beach and Pacific Avenue. The waves could be getting better (higher) depending on the storms that take place out in the ocean.
There are some good places to eat,a couple of brew pubs,coffee houses, fine shops and local street performers. Yesterday, there was a young couple from PETA lying semi-naked on the sidewalk to garner attention to their cause. You just never know who will turn up and it is quite enjoyable. The El Palomar is my favorite Mexican restaurant and they are now back on Pacific Avenue. There is also Costa Brava and Clouds on the mall as well. Good places. Have fun.

I never saw a mountain lion but I did catch sight a bobcat with his rabbit dinner a couple a weeks ago when I was walking the dog.

According to a friend of mine, his friend saw a mountain lion once shortly after dusk down in the lower quarry. In my two years I haven’t seen anything, but in my remaining three years I’m going to make it my goal to see one. I even live down in mountain lion territory (Village housing).

The Village is still there? I thought that was temporary housing that would go away when Nine and Ten were built. (They were under construction when I graduated.)

Do you like the trees? The big trees? Then visit Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. But if you do, don’t spend the whole day there. If you’re going to Santa Cruz, you must visit the water.

Along with some other folks here, I also recommend eating on the wharf, probably at Miramar’s…though, really I don’t remember having a bad meal anywhere on the wharf. Or… drive around the corner, and down the road a bit to Capitola and dine at Shadowbrook. It’s absolutely beautiful, a little pricey, home of some tasty food, and where I had the best Lemondrop martini ever. I’ve been there a few times, once with Ruffian. She really liked it. (And in my experience, if the girl likes it, it might be alright.) Check out the website and click on the photo tour to see if it’s the type of thing you like.

or… contact the Chamber of Commerce. They’ll tell you what’s up, if you want a chamber-y type of view of the place.

Personally, for a good Santa Cruz vibe I enjoy cruising Pacific Ave., then going over to the Boardwalk (right next to the wharf). No, the Boardwalk isn’t big and the rides aren’t anything special, but it’s all we had for an amusement park growing up, so I’ve got a warm place in my heart for it.

I also agree with the Natural Bridges beach recommendation, especially if you’ll be there in mid-October. That’s when the Monarch butterflies start showing up…by the thousands. Kinda cool, if you ask me.

A day trip, eh? Sure you couldn’t spend a little more time? It’s really a fascinating place.

I did see a mountain lion in Santa Cruz, and down in the city, too, not on the campus. This was about 2 or 3 years ago. I was driving–well, stuck in traffic–on the road that leads down from the cliffs across the river from the Boardwalk (I was never good with street names).

I was a tawny creature in the field off to the right there. It was about the size of a German Shepard. Then it stood up, and was clearly a cat that stood 3’ high. It wandered back up the draw.

I have no doubt that a few poodles vanished that night.

I was in the Graduate School, class of '88, and I saw plenty of deer on campus, as well as banana slugs. It was a great place to be.