Top Picks for Family-friendly Activities in Santa Cruz — From exploring local beaches to strolling along West Cliff Drive to building sandcastles on the local beaches, Santa Cruz has many family-friendly activities that can cater to just about any age.
Picnicking, swimming, building sandcastles, and kite flying are just a few of the activities that you will find at Santa Cruz State Beach. Click here to learn more Half Moon Bay’s outdoor recreational areas.
100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, CA (831-459-3800
Although the facility is only a fraction of the size of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it is just big enough to keep families with smaller children engaged through exhibits, aquariums, and especially the touch tanks. The very low key environment allows children to explore and learn without becoming overwhelmed. Other activities include touring the marine mammal research overlook, and taking in the beautiful views of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Also, between 1 to 3:00 the Center offers craft projects for children. Adults and older children (10 years+) may enjoy the Marine Mammal Research “behind-the-scenes” tour. The 75-minute tour starts at 2:15 on selected Thursdays and Sundays of each month. Be sure to call for information and to reserve your spot on the tour!
The wide paved path that parallels West Cliff Dr. is ideal for walking, strolling, biking and skating. You can also just sit, relax and and take in the sweeping Monterey Bay views from the bluff top benches or watch the surfers at Steamer Lane next to the historic lighthouse.
3050 Hecker Pass Rd Gilroy, CA 95020 (408) 840-7100
Excellent family oriented theme park — especially for families with younger children. The rides are pretty tame and there are lots of activities geared toward the little ones.
Although the food at the park seems to be better than most theme parks, most families opt to bring their own snacks and drinks. It’s healthier and a lot more cost effective.
Gilroy can be extremely hot in the summer, so make sure to take plenty of water and sun screen! bring their own snacks and drinks. It’s healthier and a lot more cost effective.
Yes it is a big tourist attraction with a lot of big scary rides. But they’ve also done a pretty good job of developing a number of activities for younger children too. And the best part of the boardwalk is its proximity to the beach, waves and the municipal wharf. When the park crowds become too much, you can always break away and enjoy the beach life.
The Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway Company operates the train between the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp. Although, the beach train ride is enjoyable, our favorite train is the narrow-gauge steam locomotive that operates from Roaring Camp and travels into towering redwood groves, over trestles, and up a winding narrow-gauge grade to the summit of Bear Mountain.
Located in the Los Altos Hills, it’s worth the drive to visit this real working farm. Its mission is to educate, and that it does with its organic gardens and animals. Children love to get up close and personal with chickens, cows, pigs and much more. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy the afternoon….
During the Holidays, you can create a cherished family memory by cutting your own tree at one of the Christmas tree farms located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
A great Fall activity is to take the whole family out to a Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay pumpkin patch and select the perfect pumpkin. Most of the larger farms have other activities too that range from gigantic hay labyrinth to petting pens to pony rides and haunted houses.
The Pumpkin Festival has plenty of activities designed specifically for younger attendees. From face painting to pie eating and pumpkin carving contests, there is something for just about everyone!
During the Spring and Summer, many local farms between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay open their fields to the public for berry picking. This can be fun, educational, and yummy activity for the whole family!
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