You know Santa Cruz because of the Beach Boardwalk. But we know that you’re not just any old tourist, so we’re giving you a list of fun stuff to do that’s not found on the boardwalk. Because you and your ‘gram feed deserve to be above average.

Garden Of Eden

Tucked into the mountains of Santa Cruz is the picturesque swimming hole, aptly named the Garden Of Eden. Difficult to find, the modern day paradise is worth the journey.

Directions From Santa Cruz: Drive three miles up Highway 9 (past the South Entrance to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park) until you see the sign for the North Entrance to the park and a large dirt lot to your right with two green metal gates. A sign will say Ox Trail. (If you reach Toll House Resort, you’ve gone too far.) Enter through the southernmost gate and follow a wide trail down the hill. At the fork, follow the path to the right and continue another quarter mile or so until you reach the railroad tracks. Turn right at the tracks and follow them until you see a “No Campfire” and “No Alcoholic Beverages” sign on your left, another half mile. Follow the steep trail and sounds of laughter and splashing down to the river. Enjoy sunshine, sandy shores, and water much warmer than the beach has to offer. Pics for the ‘gram are advised but not mandatory.

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 Scream for Ice Cream

I have had a lot of ice cream in my lifetime, so it should speak volumes when I tell you that Marianne’s has firmly held the number two spot as my favorite ice cream place more than five  years. From the quaint cow wallpaper to the variety of original flavors like lavender and standbys like chocolate and vanilla, Marianne’s feels like taking a step into childhood, to simpler times. Grab a scoop, and/or a pint (they’ll put it in a Chinese takeout box because why not?)  on your way back from the beach. Alternatively, the Penny Ice Creamery will appeal to the all organic community of SF for a variety of reasons. First of all, they’re the only ice cream shop in North America that makes all their ice cream completely from scratch; with their own equipment no pre made bases are necessary. The staff are focused on supporting the local economy, sourcing all ingredients from North America and Santa Cruz. They have rotating flavors in classic and original varieties like Burnt Cinnamon, Strawberry Pink Peppercorn, Walnut Jam, Cookies n’ Cream, Butterscotch, Fresh Mint Chip, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Ripple to name a few. With patient customer service you can try as many flavors as you like. Stop by for the store’s birthday on August 24 for a free scoop.

Become intrigued by Mystery

The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz is one place you can’t miss. For some unknown reason, the geographical epicenter of this place literally defies gravity. You’ll see balls roll uphill, walk on ceilings, and see your friends become taller and smaller right before your own eyes. The reason why however, is still a mystery….

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Get Brewed and baked

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is an award winning, local, certified organic brewery. With seven flagship ales brewed on premise along with a handful of wildly innovative seasonal beers, hard ciders, draught root beer, and Kombucha, there is something brewing to please everyone.

You can visit the Taproom and Beer Garden Monday through Friday 11:30am to 10pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 10pm. They also serve food, have free Wi-Fi,  and most importantly, are kid- and dog-friendly. Find them at the Swift Street Courtyard, 402 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, California

If sweet treats are more your jam, then head over to The Buttery. Go early though, before all the good stuff sells out, because I can guarantee it will. Made in small batches, with fresh and local ingredients, there’s a reason this is the best bakery in Santa Cruz. Whether you’re a health nut or comfort food fan, the buttery has you covered with breakfast sandwiches, salads, burgers and more. Their bakery also offers a wide variety of breads, croissants, muffins and scones, all fresh outta the oven, every mornin’. To be honest, they had me at butter.


Get artsy at The Tannery

A performing arts center, The Tannery is home to artists, performers, and includes a beer garden and access to a scenic walk around the river. If galleries, nature, and beer are your jam, here is where you need to be.

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Visit Venus

Distillery that is. Specializing in infused spirits, founder Sean Venus values locally sourced and organic ingredients. Venus Spirits is currently producing organic small-batch whiskey, gin, aquavit and blue agave spirits. They also have tastings on weekends, recipes for cocktails utilizing their products, and their bottle shop is open Monday through Thursday from 1 to 4. A labor of love, opened in 2014 the Venus distillery is a one of a kind, can’t miss stop in Santa Cruz.

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And once you’ve done all this, you’re welcome to take the old trolley for a quarter from downtown to the boardwalk; because now you can say you’ve seen more of Santa Cruz than just the beach.

[Featured photo by Kayla Wilder on instagram ]

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