Old-school eats: Garlic fries at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (beachboardwalk.com), which opened over 100 years ago.
New-school classic: The coffee at Verve Coffee Roasters (3 locations; vervecoffeeroasters.com), served by a barista who knows the average rainfall at the Guatemalan farm where your beans were handpicked.
Park it: The old-timey Santa Cruz Beach–Downtown Trolley (santacruzchamber.com) shuttles you from the Wharf to downtown. So what if it’s got a truck engine? For 25 cents, we’re in.
So Santa Cruz: Find kombucha on tap and locally sourced lunchables at River Cafe ($$; 415 River St.; 831/420-1280).
News splash: The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center (monterey bay.noaa.gov) opened near the Boardwalk in summer 2012. Walking through a kelp forest is a good way to pass time between meals.
Hike like a local: At Pogonip park, just east of UC Santa Cruz’s campus, the redwoods shoot sky-high. To get into the thick of things, park your car where Spring Street dead-ends and hop on Spring Trail. Hang a right at the Lookout Trail, and it’s all forest and wide-open meadows. Either way you go, you’ve got 9 miles of path and green space to play in. santacruzparksandrec.com
Play farmer for the day: Don’t let the name scare you off. The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the UC Santa Cruz campus is lightning bolts of fun. The country’s best sustainable farmers come here to train, but you don’t have to quit your day job to wander the field and gardens. Grab a brochure for a self-guided tour of the edible paradise. Directions at casfs.ucsc.edu