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3 Ways to Fuel Your Days in Santa Cruz, California

Explore local flavors in Santa Cruz.

By: Sara Sheehy + Save to a List

There's nothing like a great meal after a day of exploration, am I right? Something about being out in nature makes the food taste richer, the beers more refreshing, and calling for seconds on dessert less embarrassing.

Or maybe it's just me on that last one.

Santa Cruz, on California's Central Coast, feeds not only your adventurous soul but your hungry belly, too. From farm-to-table bites to hearty meals served up al fresco on the waterfront, there's a little something for everyone in this hip city.

1. Farmers Market Delights

Photo by Garrick Ramirez // Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County is full of fertile farmland, and independent farmers use those lands to grow tasty produce like strawberries, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, apples, and tomatoes. It's also an excellent spot for vineyards, but we'll get to that tempting idea in just a bit.

Farmers markets happen almost every day of the week in Santa Cruz. Swing by a market to get the ingredients for a picnic lunch, or gather up what you need for a decadent dinner. While you're there, you can nosh on tasty bites from a food truck, slurp a fresh oyster, or grab a loaf of fresh-baked bread to eat by the handful.

To get even closer to the action, head to one of the many pick-your-own farms near Santa Cruz. If you're into the offbeat, $4 at the Glaum Egg Ranch in Aptos will get you a song and dance — and 18 eggs — from an egg vending machine.

2. Sip Local Varietals

Photo by Garrick Ramirez // Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County

If a day of sampling wine sounds right up your alley, Santa Cruz is your kind of place. The area has over 70 small-production wineries and tasting rooms that feature varietals grown right here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

Start your journey on the Corralitos Wine Trail, which winds through six independent, family-owned wineries. The vineyards are all within six miles of each other, so you won't have to travel too far to enjoy your next sip. 

Other options for exploring include nearly a dozen dog-friendly wineries, mixing art and wine at Annieglass' Craftbar, and live music on Thursday nights at Bargetto Winery, the oldest winery in Santa Cruz.

When nothing but a cold glass of beer will do, check out locally-owned Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, who serves up certified organic brews alongside tasty shrub sodas.

3. Have a Meal With Friends

Photo by Garrick Ramirez // Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz is all about local foods, but you don't necessarily need to go to the farmers market or a pick-your-own field to find them. Many restaurants in town source their produce and other ingredients from the farmers markets and directly from regional farms.

Charlie Hong Kong serves vegetarian and vegan street-food style meals with local flavors and is a favorite of Santa Cruzers. Check out Café Cruz for a classic California fresh vibe and popular outdoor patio, or go even more upscale at elegant Soif (reservation recommended).

If you've left any room for dessert — you'll be sad if you don't — stop by the Penny Ice Creamery for a couple of scoops made in-house, using locally sourced ingredients like mint from Route 1 Farms. 

Win a Vacation Getaway

This spring, Visit Santa Cruz County is giving away a two night, three day stay in Santa Cruz. The winner will receive a stay in a two bedroom condo at Pajaro Dunes Resort, a $150 gift certificate to Capitola Village, a craft bar experience for four at Annieglass Studios, and four tickets each to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp Railroads. Enter here to win.

Looking for a side of adventure with your foodie journey? Check out 5 Reasons to Visit Santa Cruz!

Additional Info

Looking things to do in Santa Cruz? Check out 5 Experiences for Your Unforgettable Trip to Santa Cruz County, California.

Looking to stay the night or weekend in Santa Cruz? Check out 4 Ways to Stay in Santa Cruz.

Cover photo by Garrick Ramirez // Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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