Scenes from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

We’ve become California weekend warriors.

Whenever Evelyn and I make the trip out to Palo Alto, it’s a must that we make at least one Bay Area side trip.

This time, it was Santa Cruz up next on our weekend bucket list!

Santa Cruz is a short 1 hour drive from Silicon Valley, but only if you time it right. Even though I knew it would still be foggy and cold in the morning, I made Evelyn and Matt pack up early and hop in the car at 8 AM. Leaving any later would guarantee we’d be stuck in some crazy summer beach traffic.

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

We got to the beach around 9:30, and my prediction was right. The ocean was still spitting some mist and you could hardly see the wharf through the foggy marine layer. But lucky for us, the boardwalk was just opening up and there weren’t too many other people around yet, so we found some super cheap metered parking across the street (a heck of a lot cheaper than the $15 lot nearby).

We needed to kill some time while the fog burned off, so we decided to take a walk along the wharf. We didn’t make it all the way to the end, but stopped at a few kitschy souvenir shops along the way.

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

I was super excited about buying a cute Santa Cruz t-shirt for Evelyn (though, once we got it home, I realized it was too small to even fit over her big head, ugh!) and a little stuffed Octopus that we named “Olly”. Evelyn was obsessed with Olly. She squealed as loud as she could when Matt took him away to pay.

We headed back for dry land as it was finally warming up and the sun was coming out.

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

We stopped at The Picnic Basket for an early lunch. It’s located right down the street from the boardwalk and we came early enough that it was pretty easy to get a table on their front patio. We ordered a mix of breakfast and lunch: a market salad, frittata sandwich (which was amaze) and a breakfast burrito (which I will assume was also amaze, since I was never even offered a bite from Matt!)

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

We of course had to finish the meal with a scoop from The Penny Ice Creamery. The owners of The Picnic Basket also own the local favorite ice cream shop, so they serve up some of their most popular flavors in the restaurant. We killed two birds with one stone and got a scoop of salted caramel coffee ice cream to go (which is made with local Verve coffee, so…I guess that makes 3 birds?)

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

Back along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, it was now almost noon and things were heating up! The empty boardwalk we dawdled along a few hours ago was now packed with people. There were so many colors, noises, smells…it was a sensory overload!

I’d have loved to ride the Sky Glider (^^how cute is that!), but since Evelyn was too little, we just envied the riders from the ground.

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

Matt had to try his hand at at least one carnival game. The softball toss seemed most fitting for my former baseball player. It seemed simple enough…knock down 4 teeth and win a small prize.

Try #1. $3. Not a single tooth knocked down.

“Well you’ve gotta try again, now that you’re warmed up”, I said.

Try #2. $3. 3 teeth knocked down.

“Again??” Matt says, with a little kid smile. He’s so close!

“Um, really?!” I say, in an ‘are you kidding me, you really want to keep losing $3′ kind of voice.

Sometimes I wish I were not so practical… 🙂

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

Smells of funnel cakes and deep fried twinkies filled the air. It’s a good thing we’d eaten before we came, or we could have done some serious damage to our diets. If obnoxious fried foods aren’t your thing, there are plenty of rides to keep you busy for hours.

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family FunFun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

Whether you’re driving up the coast, or need a weekend getaway with kids, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a super cool spot to check out with something for everyone.

Plus, when you’re all wore out (or more likely, out of money), you’re only steps away from the ocean! What can beat that?

Read Next: Charming Capitola: California’s Happiest Seaside Town

Liked this Post? Pin It!

Fun for the whole family at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: a perfect day trip from San Francisco! #santacruz #california #familytravel // Family Travel | Travel with Kids | California Road Trip | US Travel | USA | United States | SF Bay Area | Weekend Trip | Day Trip | Beach Towns | Family Fun

Freebies!

SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY
NEWSLETTER AND GET FAMILY TRAVEL TIPS AND INSPIRATION SENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

(As a special bonus for subscribers, you’ll also receive access to our free travel resource library.)

Reader Interactions

Inline