1001 Center St., Santa Cruz 831-425-1003, sccat.org It’s the Santa Cruz playground for dramatic artists. New written works and local actors hit the stage in full-length productions and in short 10-minute shows. The theater also frequently boasts out-of-town talent including performers from San Francisco. Great portal for community theater.
Art League Broadway Playhouse
526 Broadway, Santa Cruz, 831-426-5787, scal.org It boasts an impressive art gallery as well as a small theater, and over the past two years it’s rocked audiences with thought-provoking shows from Pisces Moon Productions and The Monterey Bay Repertory Theatre Company.
Cabrillo Stage at the Cabrillo Theatre
6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-479-6154; 831-479-6429, cabrillostage.com Summer always heats up with Cabrillo’s high-caliber offerings. This year’s line-up includes “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” “Swing” and “Cabaret.” Professional actors, great stage direction and brilliant music arrangement.
PHOTO: jana marcus
Henry J. Mello Center
215 East Beach St., Watsonville. 831-763-4047, mellocenter.com One of South County’s finest. The lavish setting has balcony seating, a luxurious stage and much more.
Louden Nelson Community Center
301 Center St., Santa Cruz, 831-420-6177 The famed local center often attracts quirky and diverse offerings on the theater front, but take note of its other offerings—everything from seniors yoga to dance. The hallway doubles as an art gallery.
Mountain Community Theatre
9370 Mill St., Ben Lomond 831-336-4777, mctshows.org A wide range of shows—from “RENT” to “The Pirates of Penzance”—makes this local company stand out.
1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-8209, riotheatre.com It’s a former movie palace cum multi-use performing arts venue where the likes of Danny Glover, David Sedaris, She & Him and Ramtha have graced the stage. Occasional theater is mixed in with music and other events like the Santa Cruz Film Festival.
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
307 Church St., Santa Cruz, 831-420-5260 This one-time mega gymnasium was all about shooting hoops, but now it’s been re-imagined for great local outings—and the ballet—and award-winning music festivals, as well as art and wine festivals.
UC Santa Cruz Shakespeare
1156 High St., Santa Cruz 831-459-2121, 831-459-2159, shakespearesantacruz.org It’s one of the finest Shakespeare fests in the country and Shakespeare Santa Cruz lives up to that honor. Each summer, it produces at least three plays. There’s also a winter production in December.
1368 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 831-423-8183, artisanssantacruz.com This showcase for local talent offers a slice of everything, from woodwork and ceramics to jewelry, prints and glass art. Hours: 10:30am to 6:30pm Mon.-Thurs., 10:30am to 8pm Friday and Saturday, 10:30am to 6:30pm Sunday. With a mission like “Delight the eye with beauty,” how can you go wrong?
107 Elm St., Santa Cruz 831-471-0147, felixkulpa.com Felix Kulpa specializes in offbeat, never pretentious, contemporary art. Art shows change on a regular basis. Most are downright impressive. Hours: 11am to 7pm Wed.-Sun. One of the best galleries in Santa Cruz.
Made in Santa Cruz
57 Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf 831-426-2257, madeinsantacruz.com Expect a large selection of original paintings, blown glass, ceramics and sculpture from local artists here. And note the body products from Bonny Doon Farm. Hours: 10am. to 7pm Monday through Friday, 10am to 8pm Saturday and Sunday. Summer hours: Friday-Sunday 9am to 9pm, Monday-Thursday 10am to 8pm.
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
Porter College, UC Santa Cruz 831-459-3606 An amazingly wide variety of art covering all genres decorates this hidden treasure at the City on a Hill. Open Tuesday–Saturday, noon-5pm, Closed on university holidays and during summer.
Michael Angelo Studios
1111 River St., Santa Cruz 831-426-5500, michaelangelostudios.com Once an old tanning house, the historic building was about to be demolished when a local sculptor stepped in and converted it into a gallery and maze of studios for local artists. Now it offers everything from art openings to fundraisers.
131 Front St, Santa Cruz, 831-539-6310 Truly a unique spot. From its high ceilings and open space, this local gallery has everything. Take note of the many local artists featured here and the events that take place—all amidst terrific art.
Museum of Art & History
705 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-429-1964, santacruzmah.org Downtown’s impressive art haven has an extensive array of art, many from locals. The great thing about MAH is that it has a big-city feel.
Santa Cruz Art League
526 Broadway, Santa Cruz, 426-5787, cal.org One of the area’s most revered portals for art, SCAL showcases the county’s finest works. This charming creative hub is a hotbed of activity in October, too, when the annual Open Studios tour is under way, but check this spot out year-round.
2404 Mission St., Santa Cruz 831-457-4422, shensgallery.com The large Mission Street showroom offers a huge selection of Chinese antiques not easily found anywhere else. Local delivery and world-wide shipping available. 10am-6pm daily, 11am-6pm Sunday.
2601 East Lake Ave., Watsonville, 831-724-5898, aghistoryproject.org See antique farm machinery and get a sense of how they used to do it in the good old days. The Central Coast is internationally known for its farming and this museum has some of the best collections.
Bockius-Orr House and Volk Museum
332 East Beach St., Watsonville 831-722-0305 Dolls, games, musical instruments and other treasures, all dating back to the 1800s, pack this beautiful, historic house to the rafters. For the antique lover this museum is king.
Capitola Historical Museum
410 Capitola Ave., Capitola 831-464-0322, capitolamuseum.org The charming village by the sea and its museum are often called quaint. With photographs and artifacts dating back to the days of Camp Capitola, the museum is lovingly curated.
Roaring Camp Railroads
Graham Hill Road, Felton 831-335-4484, roaringcamp.com Riding on the railroad will take you back in time into the redwood forest ending at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a historical point of interest in its own right.
San Lorenzo Valley Historical Museum
12547 Highway 9, Boulder Creek 831-338-8382, slvmuseum.com The San Lorenzo Valley is rich in historical interests and this museum covers it all, from life-size dioramas depicting pioneer life, to the tools they carried.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St., Santa Cruz, 831-423-5590 Who on this Earth would not enjoy an afternoon or evening of thrilling rides, carnival games and amazing food? Not to mention the awesome view and location, next to the Municipal Wharf and close to the Boardwalk Bowl.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
144 School St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-5849 One of the historic missions built in California during the 1800s, the Mission La Exaltacíon de la Santa Cruz is where the town gets its name—Holy Cross.
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
1305 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz 831-420-6115 Simply one of the easiest museums to find because of the life-size concrete gray whale resting out front.
Santa Cruz Mystery Spot
465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz, 831-423-8897, mysteryspot.com The Mystery Spot is open 365 days a year, so it’s always a great time to satisfy your curiosity.
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz 831-420-6289, santacruzsurfingmuseum.org Besides being inside one of the most recognizable Santa Cruz icons, the museum is perched above one of the world’s premier surf spots, Steamer Lane, where you can see some of the best in surfing.
Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab
100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, 831-459-3800, seymourcenter.com The Seymour Center is a destination that will leave you with the abysmal regret that you didn’t pursue a marine biology degree.
Wilder Ranch State Park
1401 Coast Road, Santa Cruz Highway 1 just past Swift Street 831-423-9703 Wilder Ranch was one of the bigger ranches, and though most of the cows have left for greener pastures the 100-plus year-old ranch survives intact complete with old barns, wagons and farming paraphernalia. A great place to hike along the tall cliffs you’ve been enviously watching from the car window on the Pacific Coast.