While some know Santa Cruz only as the sandy-haired, sun-kissed, free-spirited cousin of San Francisco, there is so much more to this little town! With an eclectic vibe and arguably the best waves around, the physical beauty of this seaside gem is matched only by the beauty of its community, rich with local businesses, great restaurants, outdoor experiences, wonderful people and so many adorable pups!
One of my favorite areas of Santa Cruz is the Westside neighborhood. Once a primarily industrial area with warehouses and agriculture plants, over the years the Westside has been transformed into a hub for top-notch restaurants, trendy shops, and small businesses, mixed with charming residential streets and gorgeous views of the ocean. With the sun shining, the temperature a perfect 68 degrees, and a salty sea breeze in the air, I can hardly think of a better way to spend the day than strolling through this friendly neighborhood.
Start your day with a steaming cup of joe and a delicious homemade scone from Cafe Iveta. This charming European-style cafe has a warm, bright, and homey feel, not to mention some of the most mouth-watering baked goods in Santa Cruz and a tasty cafe menu. Sitting here on weekend mornings, sipping my coffee, snacking on a treat (or two), and reading the local Santa Cruz newspaper, "Good Times," is my happy place. Iveta is known for its variety of homemade scones - my personal favorite is the lavender white chocolate, though the chocolate chip is a very close second.
Next, we're heading down the street to Swift Street Courtyard, a collection of shops and restaurants housed in a former brussel sprout packing plant. Our first stop is Sawyer Land & Sea Supply. This quintessential Santa Cruz favorite is a surf, outdoor gear, home goods and clothing shop perfect for the adventurous (and stylish!) explorer.
Now it's on to Cameron Marks, a beautifully curated boutique with a unique and fashionable assortment of home goods, jewelry, apparel, accessories, and more. I can always find the perfect gift for others (or myself!) here.
As you continue your stroll, if you're lucky, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue (POMDR) might be having an adoption event outside New Leaf Community Market. POMDR is an awesome organization that supports senior dogs and senior people by finding homes for dogs whose guardians can no longer take care of them and providing assistance so that the elderly can keep their dogs at home for longer. Play with some pups, and maybe even take one home!
Walk along the breathtaking West Cliff Drive and take in the beauty of the Monterey Bay. Pass bikers, bladers, and lots and lots of surfers. End up at Natural Bridges State Park to walk the trails when they are open or catch the sunset.
Feeling thirsty? While there are tons of awesome micro-breweries in Santa Cruz, this standout definitely tops the list with amazing beer and equally high-quality vibes. You can't help but feel happy when sipping beers on their glorious, nautically-themed outdoor patio.
When hunger strikes, the Westside has you covered, though Bantam is hands down my favorite restaurant in all of Santa Cruz! You'll enjoy a daily-changing, locally-sourced organic menu that includes insanely delicious wood-fired pizza and the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life! Yes, my life! The atmosphere is relaxed yet polished with a rustic industrial aesthetic.
If you have more than one day in Santa Cruz, here are a few other Westside faves I simply can't go without mentioning...
Steamer Lane Supply: The cutest shack with the greatest food - enjoy their fresh poke bowls or a variety of quesadillas while watching the surfers at Steamer Lane.
West End Tap & Kitchen: Their burger and fries with one of their 20-ish beers on tap = perfection.
Kelly's French Bakery: One of the OG Swift Street Courtyard businesses - this French bakery boasts everything from avocado toast with poached eggs to airy macarons and so much in between.
Taqueria La Cabaña: Home to the best California burrito in Santa Cruz. There, I said it!
Stockwell Cellars: Great wine in an industrial chic warehouse with regular live music.
MJA Vineyards: Enjoy a tasting next to the firepits on their outdoor patio while taking in that seaside air.
Venus Spirits: A locally-sourced organic distillery with tastings and cocktails.
Verve Coffee: Bliss in a cup.
Companion Bakeshop: Perfect for some coffee and homemade toasts.
Pepper Place Design: A tiny but wonderfully curated boutique that reminds you of raiding your most stylish friend's closet.
With countrywide efforts to flatten the curve keeping us inside, here are some tips for how you can take this same "stroll" from home. So start daydreaming, and support these small businesses while you're at it!
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