Race day is coming in hot!!! By the time this post hits the world wide web we will be less than a month from the 2018 She. Is. Beautiful 5k & 10k. There is so much more to Santa Cruz than the Boardwalk and beaches, and while both are pretty awesome, I wanted to add some more fun to your weekend. Don’t worry… there are still beaches and The Boardwalk involved.
If you talk to a lifetime Santa Cruzan (which I am not), like many surf breaks, there are many names for different parts of town. This post, however, will be merging some of the neighborhoods together to make things a little easier. Whether you stay on the West Side or East Side or somewhere in between, I’ve picked out the necessities that happen to be my go-to spots. Let’s start planning…
WEST SIDE – For this post’s purposes, the West Side is going to cover most of Mission Street to the coast.
Place for Morning Coffee: Head to Companion Bakeshop for a pleasing cup of Cat & Cloud Coffee. Be good to yourself and grab some of their delicious food as well. Might I suggest the Buckwheat Blueberry Scone to go with that cup of coffee?
Place to Party: Beer? Wine? Food? It is all here at Swift Street Courtyard. Many of the Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards have brought the tasting rooms to one place. If wine isn’t your thing then there’s a great choice of local brews from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Humble Sea Brewery or West End Tap. This is a super fun spot to hang outside and toast your racing success
Place for Lunch: I’m a total fan of food trucks and ocean views. Both are offered at Steamer Lane Supply. On Saturday and Sunday the food truck is serving up tacos, but if you happen to get there another day of the week, the Poke Bowl is a special treat. Added bonus… the SIB Post Race Party happens to be right across the street. Grab the grub and take a stroll for a bit of a course preview.
Place for Dinner: Runners are known for carb loading prior to a race and Ristorante Avanti can meet those needs. Known for healthy, locally sourced ingredients, I encourage you to start with the Calamari and end with the Gnocchi. They also have a daily special that has yet to disappoint. For a more casual vibe, head down the street to the restaurant’s old space, Pizzeria Avanti, where you can find true Italian style pizzas.
Place to Shop: While you are at Swift Street, be sure to stop into Cameron Marks Boutique. There are two shops to find all kinds of treasures. My favorite thing in the store would be the Santa Cruz Market Bag. It’s my go to gift for friends and family that have visited our home. Maybe I need to stop in there and purchase one for myself…
The Tourist Thing to Do: If you do one thing on this trip please head out to Wilder Ranch State Park and walk around the Old Landing Cove Trail. This loop is one of my very favorite places to run in all of Santa Cruz. Just trust me… If you take Hwy 1 there is a dirt parking lot right before the official entrance to the park. Here you can park for free, or save your legs for the race and pay the park entry fee so you can get right to those bluffs.
MIDTOWN/DOWNTOWN – For this post’s purpose this area will cover from Pacific Avenue to the Santa Cruz Harbor.
Place for Morning Coffee: Whether you want to hang downtown or in midtown, you can find Verve Coffee in both places. While it’s technically not coffee, the Bowl of Soul can’t be beat. Actually it can… Mary’s Cookies from Verve are perfection. You should get both. If you really want coffee, this will be one of the best cups you’ll ever have.
Place to Party: Santa Cruzans have a brand new place to party and we can’t keep it a secret. The new Abbott Square is the place to be! The bar, Front & Cooper, serves up local wine, beer, and high end cocktails. The cocktail menu includes insanely fun drinks that taste great and look fancy. All good parties need food and you can find wood-fired pizzas, poke bowls, oysters, vegan fair and popsicles from Milk and Wood (Nutella for the win).
Place for Lunch: If you want lunch with a view, head to the Crow’s Nest at the harbor. They have typical American fare, and the salads are always my go to meal. If you happen to have a salad for lunch (or not), afterwards you should head right back down town and grab cookies from Pacific Cookie Company. On the weekends chocolate dipped cookies are available. I make my choices by the weather – Lemon Drop when it’s warm, Ginger Spice when it’s cool and Dark Chocolate Cranberry when it’s in the middle… and always dipped if available.
Place for Dinner: Be sure to make a reservation or be prepared to wait, but either way, this is one of the very best meals in town. Lillian’s Italian Kitchen has never disappointed. It’s tough to even make a recommendation for what to eat because it’s all good. My only suggestion would be that, if you are a fan of polenta, swap polenta for noodles in a dish.
Place to Shop: For this part of town, there’s a tie for where to go. Stripe and Stripe Men are fun shops downtown with beautiful clothes, handmade leather bags, and fun accessories and gifts. If you are more of a nature type, stop into Dig Gardens for everything plants. Inspiration abounds in this little shop… you’ll definitely walk out with something… like air plants.
The Tourist Thing to Do: The. Giant. Dipper. Who can resist a classic wooden roller coaster? The Boardwalk is full of fun and all, but this is the one ride to feel make you like a kid again. Hands down.
EAST SIDE (+) – For this post’s purposes, the East Side+ will include Pleasure Point down to Capitola/Soquel.
Place for Coffee: Cat and Cloud recently popped up in the Pleasure Point area and it has quickly become a neighborhood favorite. From the small batch roasted coffee to the avocado toast, this little coffee shop is a post-run dream. Friends rave about the hot chocolate too.
Place to Party: Beer 30 is the place to be most days of the week. True to its name, there are 30 beers on tap. Food is available for purchase from Carpo’s, but this is a spot where carry in is never frowned upon. It’s kid and dog friendly, but if these are the things you came to Santa Cruz without, there’s an adult only area filled with outdoor games. The only downside of Beer 30 would be the number of restrooms… there’s one. So… if you need to pee after that beer get in line before it becomes urgent.
Place for Lunch: Pleasure Point is one of the most laid back areas in Santa Cruz. With this laid back style, burritos and pizza are top choices. Burrito love can be found at the Chill Out Cafe… this is a cash only place so be sure to hit the ATM before you visit. Pizza in Santa Cruz is pretty much dominated by Pleasure Pizza. Pizza by the slice is available with many pies to choose from. The Santa Barbara gets my thumb’s up! Oh… and since both burritos and pizza are easily transported be sure to take a stroll along the coast while you chew.
Place for Dinner: If you are staying within 3 miles of Shadowbrook, give the restaurant a ring and they’ll send the old fashioned cab to pick you up. Between the hillvator and gorgeous scenery, who cares about the food! Just kidding… my favorite place to eat at Shadowbrook is in the Rock Room. Here the food is more casual with the wood-fired pizza being a highlight. There’s often live music and a chill vibe. Shadowbrook can be a tourist trap in the summertime, but the early spring makes for a time to enjoy the scenery. If you’ve been there, done that, try out Suda. This is another spot that prides itself on local ingredients and they just dumped a ton of money on their outside dining area making it a prime spot for drinks and conversations.
Place to Shop: If you’ve seen the handmade candles that SIB offers up then you’ll be delighted to know that there’s a whole store of goodness at Hip and Chick. Here you can find more sweet candles, but also small batch, organic bath and body products.
The Tourist Thing to Do: Capitola. Seriously… there are a ton of cute shops (check out Jade Allen Boutique), a beach and food to meet everyone’s needs. Please… take a bicycle or walk there because it is a traffic nightmare by car.
There you have it! These are the places that I often find myself sharing with out-of-town family and friends. There are so many hidden gems in this town to make your stay full of great fun that I couldn’t possibly hit them all. Please share some of yours too!
Wishing you fast feet, big smiles, and all the ab-busting laughter you can handle throughout race weekend. Until next time…