We wanted to put the spotlight on smaller college towns in America where the quality of life is high. These smaller spots on the map tend to offer big city advantages thanks to the cultural and cosmopolitan influx created by universities (such as theater, concerts, & public lectures) minus big city inconveniences (like high property prices, traffic, & pollution).
Whether you’re an artist or a nature lover or something else entirely, Santa Cruz has something for everyone. Plus, you’re just a hop skip and a jump away from other beautiful cities like San Jose and San Francisco, but they’re big enough on their own. We’re featuring the small but mighty college town of Santa Cruz, California.
Unique in all aspects, Santa Cruz is a strange blend of tourists, college students, and life-long residents. Home to one of the largest UC campuses, this small but vibrant town always has something going on.
The school itself offers things to students and locals alike. The theater and art departments host events and shows that are open to the public, and often are free! If you’re looking for a little culture, mosey on up the hill to campus and see some amazing student work.
The town itself is filled with art as well; the Museum of Art and History (the MAH) is centrally located right on the iconic Pacific Avenue and is host to amazing exhibits and events for people of all ages. Their First Friday events are free monthly events that have live music, drinks, and activities for all ages, ranging from group poems to art projects.
Taking a walk down Pacific Avenue is a treat in itself; many local businesses have made the walk street their home, and you can get everything from locally made ice cream to handmade jewelry and clothing.
Nature-lovers rejoice! Santa Cruz is home to some of the most amazing natural structures. The Arboretum and Upper Campus are beautiful spaces right on campus that are perfect for a hike or even just a pleasant stroll. When venturing further into tow, Wilder State Ranch is a huge expanse of land overlooking the beautiful Monterey Bay, and it’s dog-friendly!
Take a stroll down iconic West Cliff Drive; with the ocean on one side and beautiful, traditional homes on the other, the views are almost too much to take in. If you stick it out to the end, you’ll wind up at Natural Bridges State Park, which is another iconic Santa Cruz must-see. If you’re lucky, you’ll be here during Monarch season, when you can see thousands of Monarch butterflies hatch and take flight. And what’s a trip to Santa Cruz without a stop at the Beach Boardwalk? Incomplete, that’s what.
Related: A Love Letter to Austin, Texas