Downtown Santa Cruz houses a variety of storefronts and businesses. It is also stage to many street performers, musicians, and artists, oftentimes creating the presence of background music and miscellaneous street side entertainment when visiting downtown. Consequently, Pacific Avenue serves as an outlet for the artistic and unique culture that Santa Cruz possesses.
Santa Cruz is home to several state parks and beaches, including Lighthouse Field State Beach, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, Twin Lakes State Beach, and Seabright State Beach. Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve is a marine protected area off the coast at the northern edge of Santa Cruz. Underwater parks, marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems. Most of the rest of the coastline of Santa Cruz lies adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Santa Cruz is well known for waters ports such as sailing, diving, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, paddling, and is regarded as one of the best spots in the world for surfing.
It is the home of O’Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards, as well as Santa Cruz Skateboards and Santa Cruz Bicycles. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California’s oldest amusement park and a designated State Historic Landmark. It is family-operated, and celebrated its Centennial in 2007. Home to the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster, which is currently the fifth oldest coaster in the United States. The Giant Dipper is a historic wooden roller coaster located at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an amusement park in Santa Cruz, California. It took 47 days to build at a cost of $50,000.
Home to a National Historic Landmark, a 1911 Charles I. D. Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster, the Boardwalk has been owned and operated by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company since 1915. Santa Cruz has three greenbelt open space properties along the city limits, including Arana Gulch, Moore Creek, and Pogonip.
There are also five community parks and eighteen neighborhood parks. The Santa Cruz Wharf is known for fishing, viewing marine mammals and other recreation. Local parks offer many opportunities for birding and butterfly watching, as well as outdoor sports such as skateboarding, cycling, camping, hiking, and rock climbing. The Santa Cruz Skatepark is open to the public 7 days a week and is free.
In addition to its reputation in surfing and skateboarding, Santa Cruz is known for other sports such as disc ultimate and disc golf. The De Laveaga Disc Golf Coursedesigned by hall of fame and local disc sports promoter Tom Schot, hosts PDGA tournaments, including the annual Masters Cup. De Laveaga was the disc golf and discathon venue for the WFDF-sanctioned World Disc Games overall event held in Santa Cruz in July 2005. Santa Cruz has a number of cultural institutions and other attractions, including the University of California, Santa Cruz, Arboretum; Mission Santa Cruz; the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History; the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History; the Santa Cruz Art League (which includes an art gallery, theater, and classroom); the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (housed in a lighthouse near Steamer Lane); and the Tannery Arts Center.