Santa Cruz: Vacation meets Staycation

When faced with the prospect of buying four plane tickets to go to a beachy destination, my family opted to book our summer vacation in Santa Cruz. We redirected our airfare funds toward a splurgey hotel experience, and I highly recommend our five-day getaway. We left our house around 9 am the first morning and were dipping our toes in the water by 11 am. No shuttle buses, security lines, or parking lots.

The Dream Inn is a modern, newly renovated hotel, situated right on the beach with a hip, LA-style pool area. A toddler pool offers non-swimmers a place to splash around. The poolside food is quite good and makes for an easy, flexible lunch solution.  We stayed in a suite that had a queen sized bed in the living room area, where we slept, enabling us to close off the bedroom during naptime.  We still had a large space to play on the floor with our older child, and could watch tv when they both slept at night in the bedroom.

We spent our time on the boardwalk, at the beach, in the pool, and in the downtown area. These places you can probably find on your own.

Some picks I want to share, whether you intend to spend a week in Santa Cruz or just go down for a day trip:

  • A vegetarian restaurant called Malabar. Depending on how old your kids are, and how picky they are, I’d suggest you check out the menu to see if you can risk it. It’s possible that our kids ate only mango and rice for dinner.
  • The Taco Bar in The Palomar restaurant is super casual and has a full bar. The main restaurant is too fancy for the way my kids treat black beans.
  • San Lorenzo Park features large play structures and a duck pond.

What I would not do again: See that lovely skyway ride in the picture?  Riding on it with my three-year old was terrifying. There are no modern-day seatbelts on it.

Recently my friend Karen suggested a restaurant for a kid-friendly dinner in Santa Cruz. It’s a pizza joint where they make a big show of throwing the dough up in the air.  Has anyone been?