5 Fun Day Trips From a Santa Cruz Home Base

Posted by Lauren Spencer on Thursday, October 31st, 2019 at 3:46pm.

Best Day Trips From Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is an amazing city with a lot to keep you busy.

But sometimes you may want to get out on the open road and see what the wider area has to offer.

The choices can get overwhelming. Which is why we've put together this list of some of the best day trips to take from Santa Cruz.

Let's start with an easy one...

The Mystery Spot

The Mystery Spot is a popular local Santa Cruz attraction, just 10 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz.

So, what makes this a "day trip" worthy of the name? Well, for a start, there are all the wonderful "mysteries" you can enjoy there.

I know what you're asking already...

"What IS The Mystery Spot?"

The Mystery Spot is a collection of large-scale illusions, including oddly arranged environments and off-kilter buildings. These all have interesting effects on visitors, like making familiar things (including yourself) appear to have confusing height or position.

Bring a camera! Amaze your friends!

The Mystery Spot is open 365 days a year and also features some hiking opportunities nearby (bring a compass). We recommend that you buy tickets before you go, just to avoid disappointment.

So, what's next?

Explore the Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Take Highway 9 north out of Santa Cruz, turn off at Boulder Creek (west), and you'll find yourself at the entrance of one of the great sites of natural wonder in California.

Redwood trees in Big Basin State Park

The journey will take about 45 minutes. But that's just to get there, so leave ample time to drive (slowly) around this awe-inspiring park, perhaps have a short walk around, a picnic, and then a long relaxing drive home.

Day visits are allowed from 6 am to sunset. If you get a chance, do the walk around the Redwood Grove Loop.

Another great thing about this trip is all the places you can visit along the way. Felton is a particular highlight, home to the Roaring Camp Railroad. This old-fashioned steam train will take you along wood-trestle tracks through beautiful redwood groves.

This destination is not to be missed, but what if you're more of a city person? 

Simple: keep going!

Visit San Francisco For City Sight-Seeing At Its Best

San Francisco really needs no introduction, so here's a list of things to check out on a day trip through this beautiful city.

San Francisco, must-see attractions:

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Chinatown
  • Lombard Street

And if you're still craving the great outdoors, take a short drive north of Golden Gate Park and visit the Muir Woods National Monument.

Looking for another driving-centered trip?

Take the Big Sur Scenic Drive South of Monterey

Take Highway 1 south out of Santa Cruz and... just keep going. It's up to you how far you go and how much you see.

Enjoy the best of California from the comfort of your car.

Big Sure Scenic Coastal Highway

The scenic, winding highway with endless ocean views is yours to take in. Every bend will greet you with a brand new photo opportunity.

Highlights along the Big Sur Scenic Drive:

If you just want to drive one of the country's most scenic routes, then this is the trip for you.

And finally...

Yosemite Valley

If you're willing to leave early (and get home late), then you should head east from Santa Cruz to visit Yosemite National Park.

This is a world-famous destination, with tourists visiting from across the globe, so if you're as close as Santa Cruz there really is no excuse.

Directions to Yosemite from Santa Cruz:

Take Highway 1 south, then turn off onto Highway 129 near Watsonville heading east. Transfer to the 101 north, then again onto the 152 at Gilroy. After some time, cut north across the 99 to join up with Highway 140. Highway 140 will get you to one park entrance (there are others to choose from).

The whole trip to Yosemite will take around 4 hours. A long drive for a day trip - but well worth it!

What should you look for once you arrive? Pick up a brochure or map and look for these top attractions in Yosemite National Park:

  • Half Dome
  • Yosemite Falls
  • Glacier Point
  • El Capitan
  • Tuolamne Meadows
  • Valley View

Summary - Best Trips From Santa Cruz

There you have it, the best day trips near Santa Cruz, CA:

  • The Mystery Spot
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • San Francisco
  • Big Sur Scenic Drive
  • Yosemite National Park

Have fun and let us know how it goes!

Ready to find out more about this area, including Santa Cruz real estate? Contact Lauren Spencer today.

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