When a long weekend comes around we are usually itching to go on a road trip. Santa Cruz is always high on the list for us. It’s less than a three hour drive away, there’s a beach, affordable hotels, and our son loves the boardwalk. Our kid can run around like a maniac, play games, and go on rides while we try and keep up without spilling our drinks. We drove there early to avoid the usual traffic in the San Jose area and got to the boardwalk before it opened. It was quiet and sunny and the best way to start the day. I love all the surf shops and the seafood and the laid back atmosphere.
Dining in Santa Cruz
One of our favorite spots to eat is the Dolphin Restaurant. It’s at the end of the pier with outdoor seating and a spectacular view of the ocean and boardwalk. We have had breakfast here before and decided to go again, mostly because it was the only place open at 10am. The waiter was nice when he greeted us but perhaps he should have said ‘Hi my name is Tim and you won’t see me again until the check comes out’. The food took over 30 minutes, which is understandable because it was busy. I’m happy to report the crab omelet was well worth the wait and overflowing with crab and a delicious dill sauce. The mimosas were very light on the OJ which I loved but my son wasn’t thrilled with his dry cheese omelet.
Bring a small ice chest for your day at the Boardwalk and stop at Deke’s market on 7th Avenue for ice, drinks and fresh deli sandwiches. My husband enjoyed the hot tri tip sandwich and drink selection and I was happy with the generous amount of chunky and fresh avocado in my sandwich. This is a good way to save money on overpriced food and drinks at the Boardwalk.
On this trip we followed a friend’s advice and stayed at the dog-friendly Chaminade Hotel. It’s a short drive from the boardwalk, with modern décor, beautiful grounds and an ocean view from the terraced restaurant and bar. We booked through their website and got a family package that included a pizza and soda dinner, milk and cookies upon arrival and an in-room movie. Unfortunately, the cookies never got to us while we were there. After completing a survey about our experience the hotel very generously sent a box of cookies to us at home! They were delicious by the way, and not chocolate just as we had requested. Kids 10 and under eat free and will surely enjoy the heated pool and hot tub.
Another great hotel that is close to the boardwalk is the Hotel Paradox. We enjoyed the affordable room rates, upscale modern décor and the restaurant and bar. Plan to spend an afternoon at the pool and rent a cabana.
After checking in, we headed back to the Boardwalk, which was fairly crowded. We spent about $40 on games and walked away with no less than 6 high quality stuffed animals. My son’s favorite was the noisy bazooka zombie blast game, save your money and skip the chicken throwing game. The games are a good way to avoid long lines for rides and keep kids happy. Since we came early in the year we decided to purchase the $77 season pass that includes $5 off all day rides for a friend, a casino arcade exclusive in April (free play from 9-11am) and lots of discount coupons on food, drinks and souvenirs. Bring a friend on the ‘free all day rides for a friend’ days in October and November and save $34 on an all-day ride wristband.
With another successful get-away in the books I’m ready to face the week. Short trips away with my boys are truly what gets me get through the hard days (and weeks). The memories we make are priceless. The stuffed animals, not so much.