Free Activities for Santa Cruz Wedding Guests

Seven Ways to Keep Santa Cruz Wedding Guests Entertained


The Santa Cruz Surf Museum and West Cliff Drive

The Santa Cruz Surf Museum and West Cliff Drive. Photo by Richard Masoner.

When you plan a wedding in Santa Cruz or anywhere along the California coast, the event becomes a “destination wedding.” In other words, people create mini vacations around your wedding weekend. It’s a Big Deal! Help your guests by suggesting these free, fun destinations in and around Santa Cruz.

1)   West Cliff Drive – West Cliff Drive near downtown Santa Cruz features a gorgeous wheelchair-accessible two mile pathway along the Pacific Ocean. Drawn by the spectacular scenery and a safe environment, Santa Cruz locals stroll, jog, bike and wheel the area from sunrise until dusk. The small Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (free) is along the way. From there you can see the tiny island of Seal Rock, which is a regular hangout for seals and sea lions.

Parking can be found along West Cliff drive. Click for directions!

Tip: Following a West Cliff afternoon, some wedding guests might enjoy winding down at the nearby Ingalls Plaza, which houses a local brewery and several Santa Cruz wineries.

Highway 1

Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz. Photo from Eurico Salis.

2)   Highway 1 – Drive up the California coast for spectacular views and an unexpected sensation of freedom. Pescadero Beach is about a half hour away and makes a great stop-and-turn-around point for those based in Santa Cruz. In Pescadero you can spend time at the beach or check out rustic shops and the historic Duarte’s Tavern, which is more of a family-style restaurant than you might assume from the name. You’ll also see a mission near Pescadero Beach; the Pacific Coast Highway is the route of Spanish missionaries.  

But this drive is more about the trip than the destination. Driving from Santa Cruz to Pescadero, you can stop at small beaches such as Bean Hollow and Panther Beach for a picnic, photography or sunbathing.

Pigeon Point lighthouse is another picturesque stop along the way. Often a lighthouse keeper will provide a free tour to show the impressive lighthouse lens, a rare Fresnel lens that looks like a giant chandelier. It’s genuinely interesting for kids and adults. This lighthouse has a hostel with access to an oceanfront Jacuzzi too! Sea lions can be seen and heard in the distance.                                                                                                       

Natural Bridges State Park

Natural Bridges State Park

3)   Natural Bridges State Park – Natural Bridges is an oceanside state park not far from downtown Santa Cruz. It’s a favorite spot for jogging, dog walking and biking – and every October, Natural Bridges is a haven for an estimated 100,000 monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico. Visitors can access the butterfly hangout and the rest of this beautiful natural sanctuary by foot or on bike for free. Parking costs $10.

4)   Santa Cruz Harbor Beach – This beach in mid-Santa Cruz is generally quiet and clean, and it has volleyball courts. A nearby coffee shop with pastries and a Mexican restaurant provide ocean views. Santa Cruz Harbor Beach is located at 5th Avenue and East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. The visitor information website is                                          

5)   Downtown Santa Cruz – Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz is ideal for window shopping and people watching. Your Santa Cruz wedding guests will find affordable food and great deals on vintage or trendy clothing – and those with expensive tastes can drop a bundle on dining and at high-end shops. Lots of restaurants with delicious, healthful food line Pacific Avenue. New Leaf, an organic grocery that makes smoothies, is on Pacific and Trader Joe’s is just yards away on Front Street.

When the weather is nice, street performers in downtown Santa Cruz fill the air with their renditions of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and other hippie-era songs. On rainy days, guests can pass a few hours at one of the downtown movie theaters. Art installations line the several blocks that form the core of the downtown commercial district.

Capitola Village rental properties for visitors

Capitola Village rental properties for visitors

6)   Capitola Village – Santa Cruz wedding guests will sense a bit of the Mediterranean in Capitola Village, a ridiculously charming district south of downtown Santa Cruz. Its official name is Capitola-by-the-Sea.

Most of the properties in this area are holiday rentals or businesses that cater to tourists. A main business area with restaurants, clothing shops and bars leads into the well-kept Capitola Beach. Click here for driving directions and a calendar of special events.

7)   UCSC – The University of California at Santa Cruz boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in America. Your wedding guests can access the campus for free and enjoy a beautiful hike with postcard views of Santa Cruz. Visitors can schedule a professional tour and visit campus attractions such as the arboretum. For details and directions, see

Are you planning a Santa Cruz or Monterey Bay area wedding? See our online guide with video of Santa Cruz wedding planners, photographers, and more!

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