The Bay Area has so many beautiful places to explore it can be hard to decide, ocean, forest, wine country, the city, and all of them are within an hours drive of one another, but for our family it’s really no contest… The ocean is calling…
More often than not a free weekend means piling in the car and heading for the water and more specifically Half Moon Bay. Tim loves the waves, the boys love the fish and chips and I love family time. A win for all!
Barbara’s Fish Trap
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the way we discovered Barbara’s Fish Trap and we never looked back. The perfect place for our family, Barb’s is a casual dining restaurant with friendly service and consistently good food! They have both indoor and outdoor seating and a take away window as well.
We aren’t the only ones who love Barbs, so if you’re interested in table service be prepared to wait, otherwise the ever present line for the take away window moves along at a fairly rapid pace and the quality of the food remains the same! We’ve met many interesting people over the years while sharing one of the sunny yellow picnic tables outside at Barbs.
If you’re wondering, what do we get? Elliot and I always get the clam strips & chips and Simon likes traditional fish & chips while Tim likes the seafood combo. The portions are quite generous so you might consider sharing. Keep in mind they only take cash, but there is an ATM on the premises.
Now if only there were pumpkins behind them!
Mavericks is a world famous surfing location off of Pillar Point Harbor and just up the road from Barbara’s Fish Trap. It’s also Tim’s favorite part of visiting Half Moon Bay! The bigger the waves the more he likes it. He follows the surf report and he will often drive down early in the morning in the hopes of seeing some wave action.
The waves can reach as high as 60 feet in the winter and most winters they hold an invitation only big wave surfing competition. Because the waves are unpredictable spectators aren’t allowed to go down to the beach during the competition, but the beach is very accessible at other times of the year.
Surfers in Half Moon Bay
Bill Lewis the Sandcastle builder.
There are so many fun things to do in and around Half Moon Bay depending on the time of the year!
Strawberry picking at the U-pick patch in the summer!
A visit to the pumpkin patch at Halloween time.
Walks and hiking along the beach…
The Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton offers many fun activities throughout the year and you don’t even have to be a guest to enjoy them. For example, at the holiday time they show movies on a large screen under the stars and of course there is another one of our favorites, marshmallow roasting all year long!
I’ve never really enjoyed watching sporting events, of any kind. I admit it. I’m that person, you know, the one chatting away, who hardly has a clue which teams are playing. Often, I’m wondering, why is everyone screaming, or is that cheering, at the television? What just happened? Oh well, what was I saying…
I hail from Seattle, and with the success of the Seattle Seahawks and their recent back to back appearances in the Super Bowl I’ve tried to pay more attention, but the truth is my favorite parts of the Super Bowl are the commercials and the excuse to eat as much 7 Layer Dip as I can! Last year’s commercials were downright depressing, so I guess it’s just me and the 7 Layer Dip… The Half Time Show isn’t bad either. 😉
As you’re probably aware the Seahawks won’t be playing in the Super Bowl this year, but my happily ignoring all the pregame media, and showing up just in time for the dip, is proving difficult since the game is taking place about 20 minutes from my house. That’s right, Super Bowl 50 is taking place in the Bay Area, and more than one million football loving people are expected! YEAH!
My question is? Since Levi’s Stadium holds approximately 68,500 people, what are the other 932,000 people going to do before, during and after they finish off their 7 Layer Dip? Eating, drinking and shopping comes to mind… Here are just a few of my favorite places:
Friendly, quaint, cozy and definitely worth a visit! I’m talking about Capitola, an adorable little seaside town of 10,000 people, which is located about 50 miles south of San Francisco. While I have been to nearby Santa Cruz many times it wasn’t until close friends of mine took over a cute little hotel in downtown Capitola that it came onto my radar.
Beaches, shopping, great food and friendly locals…The perfect place for a Girls Weekend!
Wrights Station Winery
We started the weekend off right with wine tasting and lunch at Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery. Relatively new, Wrights Station is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains and specializes in estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery has a lovely private room, which can be reserved in advance. We brought our own lunch and then purchased wine to go with it! Don’t worry, we had two designated drivers!
The Capitola Hotel
Not that we need a reason to come together, but this weekend was chosen not only to celebrate our newly minted hotelier’s birthday, but also as an opportunity to say farewell to 2015. We wanted to give 2016 a proper start and what better place to make that happen, then the Capitola Hotel!
Located right in the heart of the village, the hotel is only steps from the beach as well as many restaurants, shops and galleries. We took full advantage of them all! There are 10 rooms and with 9 in our group we took over the entire Hotel. All but one of the rooms are accessed directly from the lobby making it easy for us to visit each other… Like a giant slumber party!
Once everyone was settled we met up in the lobby for a wine and cheese hour! Just to the left of the lobby there is a cozy little courtyard complete with comfortable chairs and a fire pit. If you get cold there are warm blankets available as well! A great place to sit and relax with a glass of wine before heading out for the evening. Speaking of which… We enjoyed the courtyard so much we were almost late for dinner!
After dinner we spent the evening in the lobby dancing and talking the night away… The following morning we woke to freshly brewed coffee and breakfast treats also in the lobby! Such a nice way to start the day!
Capitola isn’t a big place, but it does have a lot to offer!
There are many fun shops to pop in and out of and of course I managed to find a few treasures to bring home! A travel book and funky bracelet at Pacific Gallery, a fun new shirt at Yvonne’s and candy at Carousel Taffy.
Our dinner at The Stockton Bridge Grille was fun and the food and service were good. Sunday’s lunch took place at Margaritaville, (no relation to the Jimmy Buffett chain). Not only was the service great, but it was right on the water and the food was really good! I had a trio of incredibly yummy tacos, Fried Avocado, Skirt Steak and Chorizo Potato. The Chorizo Potato was my favorite! The views were lovely and both of these restaurants would be worth a second visit!
Wishes For 2016 & Each Other
As I mentioned earlier this weekend was about making sure we got 2016 off to a great start! We participated in a group activity designed to encourage and inspire each other! We wrote down any negatives from the previous year as well as hopes for the coming year, which we then shared with the group. As each of us took our turn the rest wrote notes of encouragement and inspiration on small slips of paper. These were then put into tiny scented jars which we all took home. Fun!
Full Disclosure: Close friends of mine own the Capitola Hotel, but the services I enjoyed while staying there are offered to all guests. This includes both the wine and cheese hour as well as the fresh coffee and breakfast.
The Bay Area is home to some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and a place people come from all over the world to see. Having all this beauty in our “backyard” I’m a little embarrassed to admit we don’t always appreciate or take advantage of it the way we should. There are still so many places we’ve yet to explore.
One of those places was the Año Nuevo State Reserve, home to a large colony of Northern Elephant Seals and located about 90 minutes south of San Francisco. The Reserve offers docent led nature walks enabling you to get within 25 feet of these incredible animals in their natural habitat.
Weighing up to 5000 pounds these enormous creatures look like they would be slow and clumsy, but it’s just the opposite! 25 feet sounds like a decent margin of space until you learn they can easily move that distance in a matter of seconds.
We’d only gone a short distance along the trail before we started hearing the unique guttural sounds of the seals. The way the sound traveled on the wind and across the dunes made it difficult to pinpoint exactly where it was coming from. There is limited visibility when walking among the dunes so there are ranger lookouts posted along the walk letting the volunteer guides know which pathways are safe and which should be avoided.
Early on in our visit our lookout called out to the guide, an alpha male was defending his territory, we’d better get moving! One moment the alpha was resting in the sand and the next our guide was telling us to move out of the way. The alpha male arched up and bellowed before charging down the side of the dune toward the offending male and our group! Exciting and a bit scary too!
Not only is it mating season, but there are also seal pups being born as well. We were able to see some pups nursing during the visit. We were surprised to find out that the babies only stay with their mothers for the first 28 days of their lives.
Reservations And Other Need To Know Information
Although the Elephant Seals are in residence all year long the most popular time to see them is mating season which takes place between December 15 and March 31. Keep in mind Reservations are required for the guided walks and the number of attendees is limited. Self-guided walks are prohibited during mating season.
The tours take place rain or shine and umbrellas are not permitted. It rained quite heavily during most of our visit and while it would have been nice to stay dry the plus side was that the Seals love a rainy day and were pretty active while we were there.
You’ll be walking three miles roundtrip and the terrain is a mix of gravel, dirt and sand, but overall it wasn’t a terribly difficult walk. Our group ranged in age from seven to seventy-three and although none of us had any trouble physically my seven year old lost interest during the lengthy nature talk. The scenery was really lovely and as usual I had a difficult time choosing which photos to include!
My older son recently turned 13 and because it’s a milestone birthday something extra special was in order! Of course now he’s a teenager and planning something he and his friends would consider “cool” did present something of a challenge. I was up for the task!
When considering what direction this party would take there was only one clear choice: Video Games! Simon has never met a video game he didn’t like! I know I’m not the only parent with a video game fanatic on her hands and I’m sure some of you can probably relate.
Gone are the days of cute little kids running around our house and yard, these teenagers are big, loud and not just a little smelly, this party had to be anywhere else! We considered hiring a video game truck, but our street doesn’t really lend itself to that and I’m sure they’d find their way back inside the house in no time. Another option was hitting up the arcade at a nearby mini golf place, but I’m not a big fan of games that spit out tickets and something a little more private seemed in order…
Enter the High Scores Interactive Arcade Museum located in Alameda, California. High Scores focuses mainly on the classic games of the 1980s and is available to rent for private parties or events. The decor is classic video game arcade with a jukebox and laser lights thrown in for effect. All the old favorites are present, Mario Bros, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Paper Boy, Frogger, even my personal favorite Crystal Castles! You name it they’ve got it!
We weren’t in the arcade 5 seconds before the kids, and most of the adults, made a direct beeline for the games! We took a break for cake toward the end of the party, but otherwise the “kids” had two blissful hours of nonstop play!
High Scores was a huge success! The time flew by and no one wanted to go home at the end. I might be going out on a limb here, but I have a feeling the goal of throwing Simon a “cool” party was achieved! If you’re in the Bay Area or are planning a visit this place is definitely worth checking out. Its open to the public Wednesday thru Sunday and payment is per player/per hour so you won’t need coins or tokens.
Twice a year I make an elaborate cake, one for each boy’s birthday. They get to pick the design. In keeping with our retro video game theme Simon asked that I make replicas of the controller from the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I enjoy baking, but what I love more is the challenge of decorating the cake! Game on!
How To Make NES Controller Cakes – Player 1 & Player 2
NES Controllers are long and thin, so I decided to make two one layer cakes for a more realistic effect. Two 9 x 13 cakes were baked and trimmed to the desired size. The printed template measured two times the size of the original controllers.
The cakes should be completely cooled before you trim them to size and then covered in a thin layer of buttercream.
Next you’ll want to prepare the fondant. I wanted light grey, so decided to make it myself using black food paste and white fondant. Using a toothpick add small amounts of the black food dye to the fondant and then knead until you achieve the desired color.
After rolling the fondant out transfer it to a piece of parchment paper and roll it up. When you are ready you can unroll the fondant right onto your frosted cakes.
Once the cakes have been covered with the base layer of fondant its time to start cutting out the small detail pieces. Use the template as a guide and remember to cut two sets of each shape if you’re making two controllers. A dab of water is all you need to “glue” the individual pieces together. The “cord” was made of black licorice.
The annual visit to the pumpkin patch… is it obligation or fun? For our family it’s some of both, but definitely leaning more towards the fun side!
Like many families the tradition of visiting the pumpkin patch started when our oldest was just a baby and the boys have gone each and every year since. I did miss one year, I don’t remember why, but it must have been important, and I was heartbroken. So, even though finding time to go the pumpkin patch can feel like a chore, getting the kids to pose nicely for my annual photo is beyond frustrating, and living in California means our pumpkins will rot long before the big day, we go… and we like it!
The Obligatory Photo
Beyond the collection of perfectly shaped pumpkins my other main agenda item when visiting the pumpkin patch is getting that obligatory adorable photo of the kids. I don’t want to complain, but living in California means that the ideal pumpkin patch I remember from my childhood, just doesn’t exist. You know, the one with lots of giant pumpkins growing on curly green vines as far as the eye can see. Don’t forget the squishy mud you had to wade through to get to them. Who knows, maybe that’s not even real? It could be we bought our pumpkins at the local QFC? Mom?
Anyway, here in sunny California we have dusty dirt fields with a bit of hay strewn about and the occasional pumpkin here and there. At this point its late in the month, and pickings are getting pretty slim and so are the photo ops, we’ll just have to make it work… and we do!
I’ve dressed the boys in Halloween-ish type shirts and arranged a few pumpkins strategically, hoping to make a nice scene, but Elliot is easily distracted and keeps running off and darn that California sun, but Simon just can’t keep his eyes open no matter what direction I point him. I yell at them for a while and take about 100 bad photos before I give up and hope I got at least one decent shot. There are always the Halloween night photos? This is fun, right?!
We’re Having Fun Now!
Barb’s Fish Trap has the best clam strips!
Now if only there were pumpkins behind them!
There are many pumpkin patches in the Bay Area, but we usually head to Half Moon Bay, a favorite destination all year round. The weather was beautiful, so after we completed our pumpkin mission we ate outside at our favorite seafood restaurant, Barbara’s Fish Trap, and then took a lovely walk on the beach. Gotta love that California sun! We decided to end our day with a treat… Roasting marshmallows at the Half Moon Bay Ritz. The views were amazing and there were bagpipes playing! Okay, we are definitely having fun now!
Surfers in Half Moon Bay
Bill Lewis the Sandcastle builder.
Creating Our Pumpkin Masterpieces!
I’ve always enjoyed carving pumpkins and I generally choose something in the pop culture genre, Simon tends to go for something a bit more spooky and Elliot designs his own on the fly. Neither Simon, nor Elliot used patterns of any kind this year and both tried their hand at doing some sculpting! I had decided upon Hello Kitty and a hilarystyle.me pumpkin. Though I didn’t do any sculpting I did use acrylic paint to enhance Hello Kitty’s face and bow and I carved hilarystyle.me freehand.
This was 2013s pop pumpkin
2012’s pop pumpkin
If you decide to use paint, make sure to clean and dry the pumpkin before applying the paint and wait for each coat of paint to dry before applying the next one. If you live in a rainy place its best to keep your pumpkin undercover.
I found this pattern online
Acrylic paint works great if you wash and dry the pumpkin first
I used red paint to highlight the inside of the bow…Ta Da!
Roasting the pumpkin seeds was a Halloween tradition in my house and one I’ve enjoyed continuing with my own kids. For added flavor we like to leave a bit of the “pumpkin goo” on the seeds. I love the smell of them roasting!
Heat the oven to 375 degrees and spread the seeds out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Salt liberally before putting them into the oven for about 10 minutes. You’ll want to use a spatula to toss them around before putting them back into the oven for another 5 or so minutes. Don’t forget to salt them again! Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
I’ve always loved dressing up for Halloween even before I could use the kids as an excuse! Now, that I have two, the sky’s the limit! In recent years I’ve been everything from Bat Girl to a pirate and a day of the dead skeleton to the Black Swan. This year I’m going as a Harajuku Girl! We have a number of Halloween events planned, so I’ll be getting a lot of use out of my costume this year! Fun!
The Anderson Collection, a new art museum, recently opened in Silicon Valley and if you’re in the bay area it’s definitely worth making the trip! It opened in September 2014 and I must admit that I’m disappointed it took me so long to finally get around to a visit.
It’s conveniently located right next to the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford Campus, and one could easily make a day of it visiting both! Admission is free and the Cantor has a nice cafe open Wednesday through Sunday.
Although they do offer guided tours, my older son and I really enjoyed taking our time and wandering from painting to painting on our own. He took this fun photo of mom and me using two phones! He was in the artistic spirit!
The Anderson Collection was a gift from a Bay Area family who built the collection over the last 50 years. According to the official website it is one of the world’s most outstanding private assemblies of modern and contemporary American art. Upon seeing it, its impossible not to agree! It’s hard to imagine one family owning this much incredible art! If you do get a chance to visit there is a lovely video explaining who the Andersons are and showing the art hanging in their home.
There are many wonderful things about living in the Bay Area not the least of which is living a two-hour drive from one of the best wine growing regions in the world! Even if you’re not a wine drinker the region has a lot to offer, beautiful scenery, fine art galleries, shopping, spas, bike tours, ridiculously good food and much more! Within the region of Napa Valley there are many little towns, Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga to name a few.
While I don’t get there as often as I might like, I have been fortunate enough to find myself there for various reasons three different times this year! March found me running the Napa Valley Marathon, August found me shopping and dinning in both St. Helena and the town of Napa with a scenic drive along the Silverado Trail, and finally another trip in August to tour the wineries in high style with a group of girlfriends! So there you have it Napa three ways!
The Napa Valley Marathon
I’ve been an avid runner for a number of years now and after running countless races of all distances I decided it was time to take it to the next level and attempt a full marathon. Many of my marathon running friends suggested the Napa Valley Marathon as a great first marathon! One of my best friends flew up from LA to join me! Yes! She’s an excellent friend!
If you are planning to run the marathon you should know that the course is incredibly beautiful, but also very hilly! The course starts in Calistoga and follows the scenic Silverado Trail for the majority of the 26.2 mile course. It ends at the Napa Valley High School and as most races do this one starts very early in the morning. We drove up the Saturday before so we had time to go to the race expo, explore the town of Napa and have a big carb loading dinner with our running group!
Pre-race. It’s cold and early!
A favorite winery
The end is in sight… .2 to go!
We made it! Check!
Napa is a fairly quiet place, but definitely on the rise with a number of fun little shops and restaurants worth checking out. Visitors often confuse the entire region of Napa Valley with Napa the town so they’ve given themselves the #realnapa. St. Helena, Geyserville, Yountville and Calistoga all have fun little shopping areas to explore as well.
Just east of downtown across the river is the Oxbow Market. It’s a great place to grab a bite and do a little shopping. They have a little bit of everything and I found a fun magnet board in one of the little shops. We weren’t drinking much the day before the full marathon, but we did treat ourselves to one glass of wine. How could we resist?
We stayed a short distance outside of town in a very decent place, however, it wan’t convenient to anything. If I had to do it over again I would choose the Andaz Napa where another friend stayed. It was in a great location walking distance to all of Downtown Napa and the rooms were very nice. Wouldn’t this nice big tub be a welcome sight after 26.2!?
The Oxbow Market
Fun shops and food in the Oxbow Market
lots of goodies to tempt you
I picked up this fun magnet board
The Bathtub at the Andaz is HUGE!
Napa Valley with Family
Recently my folks came for a visit and we drove up for the day. While they weren’t sure they were interested in wine tasting (What?!) I thought they might enjoy the drive and poking around the little towns. Our first stop was at V. Sattui a wonderful and well established winery. If you’ve never been to the area I highly suggest you stop here. They have a large market where you can purchase all sorts of lovely food to accompany your wine. Their grounds are stunning with large picnic areas. I first visited in 1999 when Tim and I were still dating. Very romantic!
We weren’t ready for lunch so decided to keep driving and have lunch a little further up the road in St. Helena. We ate on Main Street in a little place called Market which is Michelin Guide recommended. Both the food and the service were nice, but I’ll probably try somewhere new next time. After lunch we popped in and out of the shops and galleries along the street and sampled some chocolates at Woodhouse Chocolates which I will definitely visit again!
I really wanted my folks to see the Silverado Trail it’s incredibly beautiful and I thought it might be fun to show them my marathon route. It’s lined with winery after winery and a lot of them will probably sound familiar to you as you drive by. Of course you don’t have to keep driving! Most offer wine tastings between 10 am and 5 pm. I recently learned that the Silverado Trail was the first permanent road built between Napa and Calistoga!
We finished up our circle drive in #realnapa where we wandered through the shops and the Oxbow Market before heading home.
Even the boys enjoyed the flowers
V. Sattui Wine tasting and food market
Peanut Butter Crunch
I mentioned Napa three ways and I’ve saved the best for last…
While Napa Valley has many things to offer let’s be real… the main reason to visit is tasting the WINE! Many people find they don’t want to drive from one winery to the next as their ability to taste becomes hampered by their need to NOT drink and drive, so it makes sense to find alternate transportation.
While there are many options we’ve found that renting a limousine and splitting the cost among us makes the most sense. Not having to think about who will drive takes all the worry out of the day! We’ve done this a few times and usually head out from home around 9 am. As I mentioned most wineries don’t stay open past 5 pm, so getting an early start is a good idea!
If you haven’t been before it helps to consult a map of the Valley before setting out that way you’ll have an idea of where you’re going in advance. Keep in mind that some of the wineries require an advance reservation and the map will help you to figure out which ones those are. In our group we have both white and red wine drinkers so we each pick somewhere that interests us. That’s another great thing about hiring a driver, they know their way around the Valley and if you give them a list of destinations they’ll take care of the rest!
On our most recent trip we visited four different wineries. We had grand plans to visit more, but there is so much going on at each location it’s quite difficult to find the time especially given that most places close early and you’ll want a break for lunch!
When I first started visiting back in 1999 a lot of the wineries had free tastings, but those days are long over. There are pros and cons to this. The con obviously being that it can really add up when you’re paying $20+ at each winery for a tasting, however the pro is that because you’re paying they are even more attentive and take more time explaining the different wines!
St. Supery was our first stop as it’s a favorite of this group! The grounds are really lovely with beautiful ivy and flowers everywhere. They offer tastings and you can choose to stand inside at the counter or there is a lovely seating area just outside, both are very inviting. It’s quite modern inside which really appeals to me! If you have time to linger there is a little shop and there are some lawn type games you can take advantage of.
It’s almost harvest time
Our second stop, just 5 min down the road, and just as loved is Peju! While I admit that I’m the white wine drinker of the group, the other girls really prefer red and in fact belong to the wine club here. I will say they do have a great Sauvignon Blanc! The grounds are like stepping into a fairytale with flowers and fountains everywhere. I spent a lot of time taking photos while they spent a lot of time drinking the red! It might be a good idea to call ahead at Peju as its pretty popular. We always walk away with a “few” bottles to bring home.
After the drive up and stops at two different wineries its time for lunch! There are a number of wineries with markets and restaurants, but we thought we might do a less formal lunch and decided to eat on the go. I know I mentioned Dean and Deluca in my New York! Pizza, Restaurants, Markets & Bars! post, but guess what!? They have a location in Napa Valley too! We stopped here to pick up picnic goodies which we ate in the limousine. There are so many choices and everything is so good, it’s hard to make decisions. It definitely doesn’t help matters if you walk in hungry… Oh, and they also sell knives and other kitchen items should you need them.
A little bread…
a little cheese…
Everything looks so good!
Aaron… our very friendly clerk!
After lunch I thought we should try somewhere new, so we visited Long Meadow Ranch also on the St. Helena Hwy. They have a lot to offer here as they aren’t just a winery, but a complete farmstead with multiple locations. Beyond wine they also produce, olive oil, beef, eggs, fruits & vegetables and honey. You’ll find a selection of some of these products in their shop. We did a tasting and probably due to the size of our group they were kind enough to put us in this adorable little private room. I really enjoyed the music, Johnny Cash was playing, and the decor, farmhouse chic, there was something incredibly welcoming about this place. We didn’t get a chance to eat here, but we heard that their restaurant is definitely worth a try!
Our last stop of the day was the Frank Family Vineyards which is a favorite of Tim’s and a little bit off the beaten path, but so worth it! They don’t do a lot of marketing and the wines are really only sold at the winery, and in a handful of select restaurants and retailers. You can order online, but we don’t usually do that… if we want more we have to drive up and get it. It’s a definite favorite around our house and a big hit at dinner parties. The landscaping is really beautiful with a different more wooded or rustic feel than the other locations we visited. Antonio, the gentleman doing our tasting was really funny and definitely very good at his job as I walked out with a case of wine!
We ended our day with dinner at Redd which is located in Yountville. I like to be as positive as I can when talking about my experiences, but I just didn’t love this place. The positives were that the main courses and the waiter were both great! However, I thought my chair was about as uncomfortable as they come and I literally hated one of the desserts and thought the other one was only okay.
After all that lovely wine tasting, eating and beautiful scenery it was time to head home… How great is it that someone else was driving!
So, there you have it… Napa three ways! What do you think? Which one appeals to you?!
The very laid back beach city of Santa Cruz is located about 75 miles from San Francisco and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s got great beaches, an amusement park, a vibrant downtown and friendly people!
Seabright Beach located just off of East Cliff Drive is part of the Twin Lakes State Beach and is your perfect beach stereotype! There are brightly colored beach umbrellas as far as the eye can see. Families can set up camp in the morning and stay all day picnicking, boogie boarding, swimming and more! I’ve been lucky enough to see dolphins, seals and even an otter from my beach chair!! The beach is open until 10 pm and bonfires are permitted. During summer days there are lifeguards and there are restrooms as well.
Parking is very limited and dogs are allowed on the beaches which I’m not crazy about. However it’s definitely less crowded than the beach on the other side of San Lorenzo point which is also the location of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
If you don’t feel like picnicking or eating at the Boardwalk there are some decent restaurants located at the Santa Cruz Harbor. It’s located on the far end of Seabright beach. All you have to do is walk to the Seabright lighthouse and take a left. We ate at Aldo’s which has a perfect view of the boats coming in and out of the harbor, decent food and great service! Oh and we saw a seal swimming around in the harbor as well!
If you are familiar with the 1980s movie The Lost Boys you might be interested to know that most of it was filmed in and around Santa Cruz and especially the Boardwalk area! The Boardwalk is open from around 11 am to 11 pm but hours vary so you’ll want to check before going. There are some winter hours, but they are quite limited. My older son and his friends have summer passes and are happy to go alone.
Above Seabright Beach on East Cliff Drive is the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History! It was the first public museum in Santa Cruz and is over 100 years old. How cool is that?! Its open everyday except Monday and while I haven’t had a chance to peek inside yet, it’s definitely high on my list of things to do next time I visit the area.
Pacific Avenue is the main street in downtown Santa Cruz and it has a lot of great shops to poke around in! There are also some neat candy stores, cafes and a few restaurants worth checking out! We went while the older kids were at the boardwalk and were free to wander and shop without complaint! Here are a few of my old and new favorite places to stop and do a little shopping.
Wallflower a tiny little clothing accessory boutique is on Locust Avenue just off of Pacific. The prices are right and the sales staff is very friendly. I ended up with a new scarf and some really fun handmade necklaces! One of them is a tiny little harmonica that really plays!
Flip Flop just as you would imagine from the name this place has just about every brand and style of flip flop sandal you can imagine for men, women and children!
Sock Shop and Shoe Company this shop has every single sock you can ever imagine and then some. There are even superhero socks with capes! My boys like this shop a lot and we always pick up at least a few pairs each.
Stripe for both women and men are clothing/home shops located just off of Pacific on Walnut Street. They are two doors away from each other and both are decorated beautifully and creatively. I usually find a something fun to bring home. Last time I ended up bring home some borosilicate juice glasses with little stars etched into them and a tiny wooden spoon!
Verve coffee is a trendy small coffee chain with three locations in the Bay Area and one in downtown Los Angeles. The decor is very industrial and current with especially interesting light fixtures! While the coffee was good, It was the cookies they were selling that I loved! They’re made by a woman named Mary from Aptos. They’re the size of a small plate and they taste divine! I tried two Marshmallow and Carmel Pretzel. She makes 12 dozen a week and double that in the summer! They also sell a variety of other baked good and Elliot especially liked the vegan chocolate donut.
Each time we visit downtown Santa Cruz we have to eat at El Palomar Mexican Restaurant! It’s right on Pacific Avenue in the Palomar Inn. They have the most amazing tortilla chips I’ve ever eaten. The tortilla soup and sopes are also delicious!
Tramonti Pizza on Seabright Avenue is another favorite Santa Cruz spot. It’s a friendly neighborhood kind of place and the food is very authentic
A few things to consider before heading to the beach in the Bay Area. The weather along the coast in Northern California can be unpredictable and it is often fogged and in and chilly while the inland areas are sunny and hot, so it’s always a good idea to check the coastal weather before heading over! If you do find that it’s sunny and warm on the coast, then be prepared for some traffic heading over!
Playing in the Sand
Panorama from San Lorenzo Point
Circle Scarf from Wallflower Boutique
Necklaces from Wallflower Boutique
Verve Coffee and Mary’s Cookies
Carmel Pretzel Heaven
Vegan Donut at Verve
Fisherman’s Platter at Aldo’s In the Harbor
Fish & Chips at Aldos
Tortilla Soup at El Palomar
Fish Tacos El Palomar
Sopes w/Shredded Beef
Kids Menu at El Palomar
Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!