Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Westside Santa Cruz

My kids love the beach. My husband loves craft beer. And I love a good cup of coffee. With that said, it was only a matter of time before we found ourselves taking a trip to Santa Cruz. This laid back beach town has always been a destination for surfers and beach-goers, but explore beyond the beaches and you will find a great selection of local boutiques, eateries and family friendly breweries/tap rooms.

Our first stop of the day was the West Santa Cruz Farmer's Market. It is a relatively small farmer's market, but it had a great assortment of organic vendors and reasonable prices (compared to SF/Berkeley markets). It was also refreshingly uncrowded! There was room for the kids to run around and you could get coffee/pastries etc. without a long wait. We settled on scones and a cookie from Companion Bakeshop and spent some time listening to the live music. My only regret was not trying one of the breakfast tacos from Back Porch, which looked amazing!

Just down the road from the market is the Swift Street Courtyard, a collection of local shops and tasting rooms situated in a strip of beautifully re-purposed warehouses. At the heart of the development is Kelly's French Bakery, which opens to a beautifully landscaped (and very peaceful) courtyard, surrounded by a handful of upscale boutiques.

It is hard to believe this used to be a brussel sprout packing plant!
One of the many tasting rooms.

After perusing the shops, we settled in at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery for a sampler and a pint of their IPA. The Brewery does not sell food, however, you can have food delivered from Kelly's French Bakery and there was a food truck selling homemade Tamales for $1.50, which were delicious! If you are more of a wine lover, you can try the West End Tap & Kitchen, or one of the handful of wine tasting rooms that line the adjacent warehouse. A return visit is definitely in our future!

In addition to great food, shops and drinking, West Santa Cruz is also home to Natural Bridges State Park. Just a short drive down the road (less than 2 miles) you can dip your toes in the ocean and admire the crashing waves and famous views of the natural bridge. We were here during high tide and the waves were pretty amazing to watch as they crashed into the rocks. We probably spent an hour running from the waves as they chased us along the beach.

Our final stop of the day was a quick detour to The Pennery Ice Creamery. You can't read a review on Santa Cruz without mention of this well known ice cream shop. They feature unique flavors of homemade ice cream using locally sourced and organic ingredients. We shared a scoop of their mint chocolate chip (made with real mint) and were very satisfied. If you need a little boost before the drive home, the affogato with Verve Coffee looked amazing! Or you can settle for a cup of coffee from the Verve Coffee's flagship cafe just down the street.

Our trip to Santa Cruz definitely left me wanting more. Good thing I have a couple more trips planned for later in the year!

What are your favorite spots in Santa Cruz?

The Details: Santa Cruz is about an hour and half from Berkeley. Parking at Natural Bridges State Park is $10, however there was plenty of street parking along the road as you approach the entrance to the park. 

The Facts: Gas/Toll: $10, Pastries at the Farmer's Market ($7), Beers and Tamales at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery ($18), Ice Cream ($4). NOTE: To keep costs down, we brought a lot of food for the kids from home, and packed a 3-bean and Arugula salad (recipe coming soon) to compliment our tamales.

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