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Top 8 Places to Visit in NorCal for Spring Break

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSC chapter.

Every college student around the world right now must be aware that Spring Break is only right around the corner, and you can bet that they’re counting down to the very last second.

However, sometimes plans fall through –you can’t book that last minute flight home, you have work interfering, etc –that’s why I’m here! I know some students stay at school during Spring Break, and although this list may seem to only target UCSC students –students from all over Northern California (or California in general) can abide by it as well. I hope this is helpful in choosing your next destination during Spring Break; these are all wonderful places where you can find a lot of fun and rewarding things to do.

You know you’re procrastinating on your studying for finals by daydreaming about the places you could be in less than a week from now. You’re doing it right now, aren’t you! Well, pause your daydreaming for a moment, and procrastinate by reading these Top 8 Places to Spend Your Spring Break in moderately near proximity of your college!


1.     Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an oceanfront amusement park, and it is California’s oldest surviving amusement park. The boardwalk is undoubtedly the perfect place to visit with your friends and family around this time of year. There are tons of rides to go on, and tons of food to eat at the boardwalk! And the beach is amidst of all this fun. You can go on rides such as the Giant Dipper, Undertow, Logger’s Revenge, Cliff Hanger, and so many more! Around the boardwalk there’s also places to laser tag, go bowling, and grab some delicious ice cream. For banana slugs, the boardwalk is nearby and you can guarantee you’ll always have fun every time you visit.

2.     Santa Cruz Wharf

           The Wharf is adjacent to the Boardwalk and Main Beach. It’s a long pier with many places to eat, and shop for cute little knick-knacks to keep as souvenirs. You can get a really nice view of the ocean and of the boardwalk from nearly every spot on The Wharf. It’s nothing like San Francisco’s huge wharf, but it has its perks. You can go for a walk through The Wharf by yourself, or with friends, and simply people watch or even sea lion watch! Those sea lions are cuties. Bottom line: don’t miss out on The Wharf, and the breathtaking view of the coastline. It’s a simple yet rewarding place to visit.

3.     West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Miles and miles of beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Along the scenic Santa Cruz Coast, West Cliff Drive offers miles of physical access to: surfing, cycling, skating, walking, tidepools, beaches, kite flying, fishing, sea otters, whales, dolphins, monarch butterflies in season, and SO many more awesome things that nature has to offer. Sometimes it can get insanely packed but it is a gorgeous nature walk and recreation aea. You can easily walk to Natural Bridges State Beach from here (yep, that’s next on the list!). You can never get tired of West Cliff -just stop by and watch surfers ride out tall waves. You can even deviate from your nature walk and stop by the Dog Beach, a bunch of cutie paws (bad joke alert!) play there. But really, make sure to stop by West Cliff Drive, you won’t regret it. #noragrets

4.     Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

OK, so I know Natural Bridges State Beach could probably fall into #3 because it’s right along that walk. However, I felt the need to give this place its own section because of all the cool sea creatures you can find there! Also, Natural Bridges State Beach is absolutely breathtaking. At Natural Bridges you can find the intertidal rocks covered in life: sea stars, seaweeds, urchins, crabs and more. In the picture featured, you can find sea anemones. These sea anemones are pretty neat. Sea anemones are not poisonous here on the California coast, so if you dare, try brushing it gently with your fingers and watch as it closes up because it thinks your fingers are food. It’s really awesome to see this up close because sea anemones look like lifeless creatures. But, if you’re reluctant then maybe look for a small stick and be sure not to hurt the sea creature. The beach is definitely one of the prettier beaches in Santa Cruz. It is easy to get to, and has a surrounding park where you can hike as well. It is very clean, and perfect for a BBQ with friends and family.

5.     Big Sur, California

Have you ever listened to “Bixby Canyon Bridge” by Death Cab for Cutie? It goes a little like: I descended a dusty gravel ridge, beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge, until I eventually arrived, at the place where your soul had died… Sounds kinda sad, right? Anyway, that’s beside the point! The point is, Death Cab for Cutie wrote that song about this exact bridge located in Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway 1. This place is definitely not sad, it has the opposite effect -it makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the world. It’s overwhelming to look at this gigantic bridge! The scenary the coast offers around it, is even more overwhelming. Visiting the Bixby Creek Bridge should definitely be on your bucket list  for this Spring Break. It is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges along the Pacific Coast due to its aesthetic design and location. If you’re feeling wild, then you CAREFULLY step onto the side of the bridge, sit down, and snap a quick picture! Come on, your Instagram followers will be so jealous.

6.     Monterey Bay, California

There are countless of things to do in Monterey Bay from visting the Monterey Bay Aquarium for some sea creatures, to visiting the Monterey Zoo for land animals. There is a lot to do and learn in Monterey Bay. Monterey Bay is home to many species of marine mammals: sea otters (they’re literally all over the coast, am I right?), harbor seals, and bottlenose dolphins. The Monterey Bay is also on the migratory path of Gray and Humpback Whales and a breeding site for elephant seals. If you’re into literary sights, like myself, then Cannery Row is also a great place to visit. Cannery Row in Monterey was the locaton for one of John Steinbeck’s most famous books, yes you guessed it, Cannery Row. On a walk from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to McAbee Beach, you can see many buildings that were the basis for locations in the novel. Cannery Row is also the home of a John Steinbeck statue. Go, and take a #selfie with the literary master himself! 

7.     Salinas, California

Salinas may not have the rep for being a greatly visited place, but it still has its charms. For one, if you’ve ever read John Steinbeck’s works then you know this city accounts for a lot of his material. Salinas’ hospitality blends yesterday’s charm with contemporary conviniences. It’s the best of both worlds. If you visit Salinas, you can explore the nearby Monterey Peninsula, and historic missions of San Juan Bautista, Soledad and many more. You can make sure to visit The National Steinbeck Center, it was after all, his hometown. The Center offers distinct visitor experiences in literature and history, agriculture and art, as well as special events. You can discover Steinbeck’s world through interactive, multi-sensory exhibits, rare artifacts and seven themed theaters that showcase East of Eden, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and much more. 

8.     San Francisco, California

Ready to be WOW’ed by the city that steals every tourists heart? San Francisco or better known as The Bay is a radiant city with things to do at every corner. There are so many attractions to see here, you can’t just visit for one day –spend your whole Spring Break here, or go back for more! The Bay will astonish you with its sights and heights. Some of the great and fun things you can do in SF include: touring the city by cable car, escape to Alcatraz, drive (carefully!) through Lombard Street, have a picnic at Dolores Park, catch a game at the AT&T stadium, take selfies with the Bay Bridge (come on, that right about sold it for you!). What about nightlife, you ask? You can go up to Twin Peaks and catch a breathtaking view of The Bay with your bae. That was another attempt at a lame joke, someone stop me! Orrrrr, you can also hit up extensive options of bars in Downtown SF and drink responsibly, of course. Orrrr, even better, you can do something educational yet fun and stop by the deYoung Museum with your friends -experience some wonderful art.  No matter what you do in SF, you will have fun.


Here’s the playlist to go along to your roadtrip to these places!



Safe Travels, collegiates!

I'm an Undergraduate Literature Major at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Class of '15. I'm an L.A. native, have been since '93 -but I'm now living in the Santa Cruz county. I enjoy literature and I have a love for books and reading. I have an addiction for fiction. Some of my hobbies, other than reading, are baking, exploring the city, listening to music, and watching Netflix. Yes, that counts as a hobby in my mind. I like to be spontaneous but I also enjoy doing a whole lot of nothing.