Kim's Fab Travels - Santa Cruz, CA

Wondering where I ran off to this time!? I've been soakin' up the Cali sun in Santa Cruz on our annual family vacation! 

Every year since I can remember, my parents have taken us kids to Santa Cruz for our annual family vacation to enjoy the beach, the boardwalk and all the adventures this town has to offer! I thought while I'm here this time, why not put together a fab little list of my favorite stops, shops, and places to eat!


The Dream Inn - We've been staying at The Dream Inn for....I can't even tell you how many years! I've seen this place go through SO many renovations over the years and it's newest renovation is it's BEST yet!! It's beachy chic and super trendy, family friendly and a hop, skip and a jump away from the infamous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk AND the Municipal Wharf! With an ocean view room and a fabulous pool with beach access, where else would you wanna stay!?


Shadowbrook Restaurant - Ok ok, it's not TECHNICALLY in Santa Cruz, but it's a short drive to Capitola and SOOOO incredibly worth it!! Not only is the food hands down fantastic, but it's absolutely stunning, the perfect photo op for any occasion and literally an adventure within itself! You can either get down to the restaurant one of two ways...take the stairs through a beautiful oasis, OR take their famous cable car ride all the way down! You simply can't go wrong! 

Gilda's - Our favorite spot for breakfast and the ONLY place I order "hot cakes" while on vacay! Whether you choose to drive or walk down the wharf, you can find yourself nestled in a cozy green booth at the famous Gilda's! This place has been around FOREVER and it hasn't changed one bit. I'm partial to their "Fisherman's Wharf Special" and a coffee, perfect to get your day going!

Lillian's Italian Kitchen - Probably some of the best Italian food I've EVER had! Recently remodeled and made much MUCH larger, you might have a better chance of getting in! Honestly, if you're coming to Santa Cruz, make your reservations NOW! They book up fast and this is a MUST MUST MUST!!!

Truffle Stuffed Gnocchi with Chicken

Zachary's - We're big on breakfast when we go on vacation, so we make sure to find a couple good places to keep things interesting! We discovered Zachary's a downtown a couple years back and loved it so much that we've kept going back over and over! The portions are large and the food is super tasty! The "Mike's Mess" is always a winner!

Zoccoli's - The Italian Delicatessen - Oh my, oh my! If you're looking for a quick, authentic and DELICIOUS lunch, then you must pop into Zoccoli's! Their sandwiches are to DIE for! Each sandwich is freshly made to order and is made to perfection. Omg their pastrami, I die. Literally, dead. Ugh, I could spend all day in this place! 

-out & about-

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk - Well this one's an obvious choice! We like to try and go at least a couple times during the day and at LEAST once during the night! It sure is something to see the Boardwalk at night!

My must-go-to rides are:

  •  Pirate Ship
  • Shockwave (BRAND NEW)
  • Undertow
  • Giant Dipper Roller Coaster
  • Logger's Revenge
  • Looff Carousel

We always play the clown ballon water race game no matter what and I always get a chocolate dipped cone, which always ends up being such a mess to eat, but you just gotta love those traditions!

Downtown Santa Cruz - When you want to take a break from the beach and the the Boardwalk chaos, head downtown and do a little retail therapy, catch a movie or grab a bite to eat! There are so many fun shops to pop into, great little cafes and coffee shops to relax at and why not catch a movie while you're at it! Hey, who says you can't?! You're on vacation!

My favorites shops:

Ritz-Carlton - Half Moon Bay - Half Moon Bay is about an hour drive North of Santa Cruz right along the water and if you're looking for both a quick little escape and a fabulous meal, you MUST make this a destination! We usually try to come here and have brunch, walk around the BEAUTIFUL, peaceful oceanfront grounds, pop into the hotel boutique and then head back! This ends up being one of our favorite meals, the best views of the trip and somehow we ALWAYS manage to get a great family photo!

One of my favorite pictures of Bella from our time at Half Moon Bay

Walk to the "Lighthouse" - Technically it's a surfing museum, but all my life we've called it the lighthouse! So this particular spot is just a little over a half mile walk from The Dream Inn, and every morning I wake up, put on a cozy sweater and enjoy a nice leisurely walk along the water to the lighthouse. It's never crowded, but there are the occasional runners and walkers that will join you as well. I love looking out and watching the surfers catching waves. It's one of my favorite things to do because it's so incredibly peaceful and relaxing. If you go beyond the lighthouse, you'll be able to look down at the dog beach which is probably one of MY favorite spots! Watching all the pups run into the ocean catching their balls and sticks is so much fun to watch!

Chardonnay Sailing Charters - Take a cruise around the beautiful ocean on one of the many themed Chardonnay sailing charter rides! They have everything from an afternoon pizza charter to sushi all the way to whale watching! The options are endless and super fun! It's a fabulous family adventure and even something fun for just the two of you! 

I hope this gives you some fun ideas and tips for your next trip to Santa Cruz! We love coming here and hopefully you will to!


My little Bella Booshka!