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Top 9 Santa Cruz Activities for the Fall Season

Boy and girl skating together.

As a working mom, by the time November rolls around, you’re probably not feeling the festive vibe just yet. It’s not surprising. Studies tell us that 57% of women in the workplace are on the brink of burnout!

Another year is winding down and holiday stress is looming on the horizon. Chances are you’ve got a whole house to spruce up before the in-laws arrive for Thanksgiving too.

We get you. Fall may be an attractive time of year, but the shorter days can seem overwhelming when your to-do list is longer than any other season. Why not make this year different?  

Ladies, it’s time you started taking advantage of all the wonderful Santa Cruz activities available this fall. Here’s where to get started.

1. Visit a State Park

There are two state parks within a few miles of Santa Cruz and they’re just what the doctor ordered for beating your daily stressors. Being outside has several health benefits and also gives you time to share the marvels of nature with your children.

Ano Nuevo State Park is a great place to set out hiking along the ocean bluffs and learn more about California’s marine life. The education center on-site is interesting for parents and little ones alike. You can take guided tours to visit the amazing elephant seals from 15 November until mid-January. 

Natural Bridges State Park has forests and beaches for exploring as well as picnic sites for weekend meals in the great outdoors.

2. See the Butterflies

A trip to the Butterfly Preserve within Natural Bridges State Park is one of the best things to do in Santa Cruz with children. Every year, from November to January, the trees are alive with fluttering color, thanks to thousands of butterflies.

The preserve is an important winter habitat for the Monarch butterfly. Watch them feasting on the winter blooms of Eucalyptus trees and sipping on the sap of milk woods. You won’t see this phenomenon anywhere else in California, and it’s right on your doorstep.

3. Fun Weekend Santa Cruz Activities 

Fall heralds a fair share of weekend events for families in Santa Cruz. Try some of these for a day out to remember:

  • La Selva Beach Holiday Fair for live music, hot food, and handcrafted goods
  • Family Volunteer Day where families get together to help those in need
  • The Lighted Boat Parade in the South Harbor

If you and hubby need some time to yourselves, you’re in for a treat on Wine Passport Celebration Day this November. Hire a sitter for once and head off to some of the finest Wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains for a day of sipping and savoring. Time away from chores and responsibilities is so important for a happy marriage.

4. Eat Up

Fall is at the time for shameless snacking on pumpkin-spice everything, and then some. 

Try seasonal lattes, cheesecakes, ice cream and cookies from local outlets. Don’t forget the apple pie from Gizdich Ranch or cider from local artisan brewers. There’s even a child-friendly, no-alcohol version of this refreshing apple drink.

5. Pick Some Apples 

On the subject of apples, apple-picking is one of the top fall activities for families in Santa Cruz.  Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch in Davenport is just the place to stock up on organic apples of every kind.

There are so many apples here, you’ll need a map to help you find your favorite type!

While we’re on the subject of apples, isn’t it time you hauled out your grandma’s old recipe and tried your hand at baking your own apple pie? Children love to lend a hand and baking brings a sense of achievement – and delicious rewards.

6. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk 

The boardwalk is great any time of year but it’s transformed into a wonderland from 16 November to 5 January every year. 

Expect holiday lights, arcade games, rides, and an ice rink by the beach for festive family fun.  Parties, live shows, and events are on the go all through the festive season, so no matter when you pop in, you’re in for a treat. 

7. Happy Holiday Train Rides 

Take a nostalgic trip on the Holiday Train during November and December. The train is ablaze with colorful Christmas lights and Santa’s on board to put a smile on every child’s face.

Christmas carols and apple cider are part of the fun when you board these vintage carriages and take a trip through the town. The train departs from the boardwalk on selected days during the season. 

8. Capitola’s Surfin’ Santa 

Santa and his elves will be surf kayaking into Capitola Village on 30 November. Bring your kids and your Christmas wish list and get to meet the man of the moment at the Main Beach.

Kids can look forward to sweets and selfies and a chance to chat with the North Pole’s most important person. Afterward, you can try your hand at fishing from the pier or take your chances with a surfboard out on the ocean.

9. A Whale of a Time at Monterey Bay

It’s not only Santa Claus that comes to town at the end of the year in Santa Cruz. Thousands of California Gray Whales make their way past our shores from December.

Hire a charter boat and head out to meet them in their winter playground. Dolphins, humpback whales, sea lions, and otters often come to the party too. It’s a wonderful way for the whole family to find out more about these gentle giants.

Get Rid of the Guilt

With a host of Santa Cruz activities to choose from, you have plenty of good reasons to spend more time with your family. Besides, a respite from the daily grind is exactly what every working mom needs

You’re probably thinking of all the house cleaning chores that will go undone if you take some time off, right? Don’t. Weekends aren’t meant for catching up on housekeeping.

Give yourself a break! Get in touch to book a professional housekeeper to help with house cleaning and other chores, tick one item off your long, long list, and have some fun for a change.


Anita's Housekeeping Editors