The California beach town of Santa Cruz still has its share of surfers, hippies, and students. But in recent years the food scene has expanded to cater to the highbrow tastes of nearby Silicon Valley.
See for yourself at the Penny Ice Creamery, where Chef Kendra Baker churns flavors such as celery and black sesame. Close by, ride wooden roller coasters and vintage carousels on the boardwalk, or take a crab sandwich from The Riva Fish House out on the wharf. There you can watch sea lions come to shore and catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales.
Those looking for more exercise can head to the hills above town to hike redwood groves near the University of California at Santa Cruz.
To get there, it takes less than two hours to drive 70 miles south to Santa Cruz along coast-hugging Highway 1.
Try to stay at the retro-chic Dream Inn is the only local hotel right on the beach. It’s within walking distance to the wharf and boardwalk, and all rooms have balconies or semiprivate patios with views of Monterey Bay.