Then you are in Luck. Take Highway 9 North for about 15 minutes to the town of Felton. Here, every Tuesday from 2:30 to 6:30pm, is an awesome Farmer's Market complete with fresh fruit and vegtables. Added to the mix is some talented local musicians performing as well as local restaurants operating booths, plenty of cold beverages and ice cream available as well. True to the general atmoshpere of Santa Cruz, the farmer's market has a true bohemian's vibe, which is a good thing. The market is located in Fenton at 120 Russell Ave. & Hwy 9 in the parking lot of the St. Johns Catholic Church. Parking is available all around the market.
Bonny Doon is tucked in redwood forests somewhat near the coast. Typical of the rest of Santa Cruz, the winery has a quirky, irreverent character. The owner refuses to follow any of the standard protocol of the proper and staid in the winemaking industry.
Our pourer was a friendly woman who poured more wines than we were willing to taste (I think she would have kept going if we hadn't said "No more!"). Her obsession was spots on the wine glasses. She kept holding them up for inspection, and if a glass had the tiniest spot, it was relegated to the reject shelf. (We couldn't see these spots.) She was entertaining and sold us on a few bottles of wine.
I remember Randall Graham when he sold his first cases of wine to a store I worked at in Yountville. Long curly hair in a mess and wearing an old T-shirt, it was hard to imagine that his wine could be good. But, we tasted and found the Clos de Gilroy quite good indeed, and since then Randall has made many other types of wines and liquors. Now, many years later, Randall is a celebrity in the wine business, but his tasting room and home remain in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Bonny Doon. Actually, Randall spends a lot of time in Italy, so it's rather rare when a visitor to the tasting room will be able to meet with him. I've taken several groups of students from my California Wine Appreciation class to visit the winery, and Randall continues to be an engaging man who remembers past acquaintances very well. Nowadays, the wines are better packaged than they are produced, in my humble opinion, as Randall has found the secret of marketing drinkable now style wines to restaurants and novice wine consumers. Even so, the winery is worth a visit, and if one has not tried several bottles of his reasonably priced wines, then one cannot consider themself a well versed wine consumer. Besides wine, the winery tasting room sells lots of other stuff that tourists will like more than the junk sold at the Santa Cruz Pier. The tasting room is open daily, except major holidays, from 11:00am – 5:00pm
If you want a nice two hour site seeing getaway, full of small town charm, try Moss Landing, CA. This town is a unique fishing village with a loaded boat dock and a cute downtown with quaint antique stores and cool artistic signs. Nice way to take a morning stroll or grab lunch in one of the local eateries. Why not rent a fishing boat and lie about the one that got away.
Heading south on Highway 1 from Santa Cruz, the town is about 15 miles outside the city. Just follow the exit signs.
About 10 minutes north of Santa Cruz is the cute little town of Davenport. This is a good stop on the coast route, or a destination in itself from Santa Cruz. There are wonderful coast views from the ocean side of hwy 1. Walk through the stands of trees, but be careful of the high cliffs to the rocky waters below.
There isn't a lot to do in the town itself. There are a two or three places to get food, including the Davenport Cash Store Roadhouse, where you can have a good meal and look at the eclectic gift items for sale.
There is a tiny jail in the town; it's closed, but a minor point of historic interest. Davenport has a cement plant, which was the economic mainstay of the town for years, but no longer functions. Now it is about tourism.
This is one of 10 campuses of the University of California system, which collectively are easily the most productive research universities in the world. UC Santa Cruz is one of the new campuses, being created in 1965 when the prevailing philosophy of avante education was oriented toward minimizing the standard method of grading in an effort to maximize creative learning output. Since then, the campus has had to confront the reality of students leaving and facing frustrations with transcripts elsewhere in the world of academia, and so now grades are awarded. The university is clear productive world leader in physics, genetics, and molecular biology, but is also owner of the Grateful Dead archives, a collection of papers and music that both scholars and stoners can study for years to come. The campus mascot is the yellow banana slug, a slimy creature found in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2,000 acre campus location was a contribution from a rancher in the area, but much of it is being restored to a natural landscape that surrounds the relatively small system of colleges. There are many activites and exhibits on this campus, but see the public website for more details.
Taking Hwy 9 north into the Santa Cruz Mountains, the landscape changes dramatically from sand and surf to redwood forest and mountain. Tucked away within the Santa Cruz mountains are the reclusive Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Mount Hermon, and other communities. These environmentally conscious neighborhoods strung out along Hwy 9 are pleasant stops, particularly enroute by sports car or motorcycle to or from Big Basin Redwood State Park. There are good restaurants, antique and redwood burl dealers, and a host of unique redwood mountain architecture. There are also some great small town festivals during summer up here. Cycling Hwy 9 is very popular for those fit enough to do so.
Shortly after the mission was completed the Spanish created a "villa" called Branciforte just across the river. This villa was the only such secular, hybrid community of solders & settlers created by the Spanish in California. This facility was filled with many former soldiers as well as criminals who helped lead to the eventual downfall of the Santa Cruz Mission by abusing the residents and relying on their farms and livestock for food.
When the Mexican government decided to secularize the missions in 1834, Branciforte and Mission Santa Cruz were combined under the name Pueblo de Figueroa. Many of the foreigners at Branciforte were banished to Mexico in 1840, but the city ultimately continued to grow into modern Santa Cruz, which maintains many of Branciforte's secular and slightly rebellious traditions.
The only remains from Branciforte are some long-buried building foundations around the intersection of North Branciforte Avenue and Water Street.
The University of California at Santa Cruz is known for many things: it has a beautiful 2,001 acre school filled with redwoods and a stellar view over the Monterey Bay, it has a diverse student population of some 15,000 people from all walks of life, its degrees in 61 majors and 32 graduate programs, and a nationally ranked educational program.
Unfortunately its political activism often overshadows any academic accomplishment. UCSC is currently making the news (Fall 2007-Summer 2008) because of its "trespassing tree sitters" who have been living in a grove of redwoods near the physical sciences building since fall of 2007. This group is protesting the planned cutting of a small stand of trees necessary to expand the university. Think these trees might be the largest group of trees on campus, or some outstanding specimen of redwood in California? Nah, this campus has thousands of redwoods all over the upper reaches of campus. In fact the school has preserved so many of these trees since it opened in 1961 that roads are too narrow and congested for all the cars and students.
The same people who are protesting the expansion of the university will probably protest the lack of affordable educational opportunities for Americans in the near future. Soon after that these protesters will certainly be complaining about the lack of health care for these poor uneducated, unemployed souls who are being discriminated against because they can't afford medical care. Its a never ending cycle...
If you want to see the "trespassing tree sitters" first hand, enter the university campus at its main entrance off Bay Street. Take Coolidge Drive or Hagar Drive up the hill towards the main campus. Take a left on McLaughlin and watch for the sign for the physical sciences building. The protesters are in a tree in the small parking lot next to this building. The area is surrounded by signs warning people to watch for falling objects and to obey the court order and stop providing help to these protesters. Once here, look far up in the trees and see the ghetto boards and tarp suspended way up in the tress.
Historic areas in Santa Cruz include Mission Hill, Ocean View Avenue, Beach Hill and Walnut Street. Mission Hill was not only the site of prehistoric Indian settlements in Santa Cruz, but it was also the first area settled by the Spanish Missionaries. Ocean View Avenue was opened in 1871 and included many many summer homes for those wealthy individual residing in San Jose and the Central Valley. Beach Hill overlooks the wharf and contains a variety of sea captains' cottages, bungalows and mansions.
The Walnut Street area is my favorite historic neighborhood. It features some 19 Victorian mansion along a short, two block stretch within easy walking distance of downtown. This stretch of residential street is narrow and completely overshadowed with huge trees that turn the street into a beautiful green cave. The historic houses along this street were built from 1870 to 1938.
This is a favorite gathering spot for elephant seals. With no fear of humans, they allow you to approach. But you should still maintain a respectful distance (stay behind the barriers). Nearby is the Dickerman-Steele House, once the home of an early pioneer family.
Between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay lies a scenic stretch of coastline with some incredibly beautiful beaches and a the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse. One can easily spend all day strolling along these beaches; the photo opportunities are nearly endless. Too bad I can only share five pictures here.
Just follow the Coastal Highway (Hwy 1) north from Santa Cruz. Or proceed south from Half Moon Bay.
The University of California's Seymoure Marine Discovery Center at Santa Cruz has a small but interesting collection of marine life. If you have an interest in marine biology, check it out. Guided tours are available.
Sunset Beach is another nice one, with a lot of sand and not rocky coast. It also has a curiousity that I've never seen anywhere else.
During World War I, the US Navy built some auxiliary vessels (like freighters) using concrete. This was necessary due to the acute shortage of iron ore. Believe it or not, a concrete vessel can float, if shaped the right way. But these ships were not very durable, and none lasted very long. One of them, the Palo Alto, was wrecked on this beach, and the wreck remains there to this day.
When I visited, the surf was too heavy to go out on the pier. So I couldn't get a closer look.
Traveling up Interstate 9 North, from the city of Santa Cruz is Henry Cowell State Park. This is a spread out park area of about 15 miles for the avid hiker. This is all about the Redwoods. Every hiking path takes you into a forest path surrounding yourselves with those wonderful Redwood trees which reach miles into the skys. I found I could only handle about an hour of hiking because there isn't much variety in the scenery, just a bunch of extremely tall trees. But worth your while if you dig the pine.