As the long days turn to twilight and the sun sets to the west the Santa Cruz nights light up with something for everyone. Whether you are looking for cool jazz, rock 'n' roll or some acoustic guitar you'll find it here. Locals and travelers join together to celebrate great food, cool drinks and night beats. See Santa Cruz Area NightLife A-Z
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715 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 831-423-7337 Collages of snapshots taken inside this popular bar—going strong for more than 60 years—align the walls. High spirits and fun times can be found here. Plus: three pool tables and one of the best juke boxes in town.
711 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 831-426-3434 One of Santa Cruz’s older drinking establishments, The Avenue boasts four pool tables, an air hockey table, and even a couple of old-school video game machines—but the clientele itself is interesting enough. There is a large patio/deck. Check out famous “drink and drown” Wednesdays, where selected domestic beers go for $4.25/pitcher and $1.75/pint.
209 Esplanade, Capitola 831-477-0749 Boldly lays claim to the best burgers in town. Curl up with a cocktail in front of the fireplace in the winter. Full bar, pool tables and an Internet jukebox.
923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 831-423-7117, thebluelagoon.com Blue Lagoon caters to just about every palate: deep house, Goth-industrial, hip hop, Brit-pop and a thriving ’80s music. Fun events, too.
Brady’s Yacht Club
413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz The second living room for many Seabright residents, Brady’s is a perfect place to throw back a pint after work.
8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-688-1233; 110 Monterey Ave., Capitola, 831-464-2583, britanniaarmsaptos.com This authentic British pub offers a taste of Dear Old Blighty. Imported beer plus a full menu.
3623 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-465-8200 A great neighborhood bar—festive, sporty, fun. This is a just-be-yourself and “hang” place. Nice service and nice interior lounging options.
1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,, 831-423-1338,
catalystclub.com A local legend and the place that once lured in the likes of Tina Turner. Features great music acts—most that tour—and two full bars.
Cava Wine Bar
115 San Jose Ave. Capitola, 831-476-2282, cavacapitola.com Hard not to love this little haven. A wide array of stellar wine—some local— Cava hosts many theme nights, plus live music. You can chat with local winemakers here, too, and settle in for some jazz. Experience a glass of your favorite wine. Impressive and always fun.
2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com Offers a wide variety of live entertainment and dancing in the upstairs lounge. Add that to the full bar with ocean views and some appetizers from the Breakwater Grill, and you’ve got a classic night out in Santa Cruz.
120 Union St., Santa Cruz, 831-459-9876 A perfect blend of locals, some university students and professionals. Entertainment and food are a plus here.
6275 Hwy 9, Felton, 831-603-2294, donquixotesmusic.info Its menu may be dominated by upscale Mexican cuisine, but Don Quixote’s is the place to go to hear the country’s best Americana/Roots musicians. Acoustic folk, bluegrass, country-blues—you name it.
418 Front St., Santa Cruz 831-466-9770, the418.org The 418 serves as one of Santa Cruz’s premiere performance arts venues. Dance, drumming, classes and more happen in this home to artists. Around for years, the 418 is a favorite establishment.
515 Kitchen and Cocktails
515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz 831-425-5051, 515kitchenandcocktails.com The impressive Mediterranean menu and the long list of speciality drinks make this hip place sizzle.
9450 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond 831-336-9318 Wild times in the redwoods. Often the “biker’s” haven.
Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz 831-427-2227, kuumbwajazz.org A local icon, this long-running, world-famous intimate venue lures in prominent jazz musicians such as Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau. There’s food and wine, too.
Mad House Bar and Lounge
529 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz 831-425-2900 The ultimate neighborhood bar. Fine selection of DJs, great drink specials, a nice dance floor and more. This is a festive spot with amazing DJs. It also is LGBT-friendly.
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz 831-479-1854, moesalley.com You can’t beat Moe’s. It’s one of the best blues/music venues in town. But take note of the salsa, reggae, rumba and hip-hop acts that also round out the line-up during the year. Fully-stocked bar and outdoor patio.
1209 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-2516 Going strong and thriving in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz, Motiv has a great variety—hip (lounge) dining experience and big-city bar feel. DJ AD (above) spins at the popular portal on Tuesdays. (And then at Rosie McCann’s, across the street on Fridays.) Best thing about Motiv: great service, good attitude and it’s large enough to move around, have some fun—and dance, in between socializing. Check out the stellar Happy Hour here.
Photo: Kelly Vaillancourt
99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall Restaurant & Pub
110 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz 831-459-9999,
99bottles.com Taking inspiration from the drinking song of old, 99 Bottles offers beer lovers a little bit of everything—99 varieties of beer in stock, from breweries and locations all over the globe. Entertainment most nights ranges from music to trivia to a raffle for fabulous prizes and free booze.
The Parish Publick House
841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-421-0507, parishpublickhouse.com Good food. Good beer. What else is there to say? Sometimes, that’s all you need.
The Poet and the Patriot
320-E Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-8620, thepoetandpatriot.com Sporting lads and lassies, darts and brews, the thirsty will enjoy the Guinness on tap.
The Red/The Red Room
200 Locust Street., Santa Cruz, 831-425-1913 One of the town’s best hot spots—and you get two here—one upstairs (The Red), the other at street level. And each with a distinctly different vibe. The upstairs Red boasts a memorable menu—a great dinner lounge. The Red Room is a funky throwback bar—completely orginal and distinct. . Beyond its phenomenal decor, the list of food and drink options are downright impressive.
Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-9930,
rosiemccanns.coM This popular downtown venue is festive, generous with its food portions and creative with the types of drinks it offers. The Irish pub/restaurant sports about 25 beers on tap, and the best selection of rare Bushmills, Jamesons and other single malt Scotches and whiskeys.
The Rush Inn
113 Knight St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-9673 Devotees of Bay Area teams can usually catch a game or two on the TV at night, pool sharks can play a close-quarters game if it’s not too crowded around the table.
Soif Wine Bar & Merchants
105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
831-423-2020, soifwine.coM An amazing wine boutique and divine place to eat. In the wine store, you will find local and international wines. In the actual bar, order from an eclectic food menu or sample the wines. One of the best spots in town.
Surf City Billiards
931 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-7665, surfcitybilliards.coM There are 16 tables here, some trivia, shuffleboard, big-screen TVs and great Happy Hour (4-7pm) drinks. It recently won a design award for one of the Top 10 best new billiard rooms.
725 Front St. #101, Santa Cruz, 831-426-8466, vinocruz.com One of Downtown Santa Cruz’s priceless gems, Vinocruz has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and other noteable publications. Best news is that Vinocruz caters to wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains—with more than 60 wineries. Impressive wine tastings and upscale nibbles are a plus.
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