fun to do kids north santa cruz california   Travel for Kids
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  | California | Central Coast | Santa Cruz
     
   

Around Santa Cruz - North

Natural Bridges State Beach California
 

Natural Bridges State Beach – This just a lovely beach at any season, with a distinctive rock formation, the "natural bridge." There's a lifeguard on the beach in summer, picnic tables in the trees, and a little creek and lagoon to wade in, tidepools to explore.

   

Visitor Center – Before running down to the beach, be sure to stop into the Visitor Center to learn about the sea creatures you'll see in the tidepools - giant sea anemones, shore crabs etc. And, in an aquarium tank there's also marine life in the ocean, such as the amazing Monkeyface Picklefish eel.

   

Tidepools – These are our favorite tidepools in Santa Cruz area. You can't miss the amazing emerald giant sea anemones, colonies of mussels and gooseneck barnacles. Also look for pinkish periwinkle snails, zippy shore crabs with bright red legs, and sea stars. Tip: Don't poke your fingers into the sea anemones – it takes a day for the anemone to recover, and it can't eat in the meantime.

    The easiest way to get to the tidepools is to park on Delaware Ave., past Natural Bridges Dr., and before Shaffer Rd. Walk west (toward the beach) on paved Lakeside Dr. to Cascade Dr. When you see the artificial lake with ducks and a swan, go down and follow the dirt path to the beach. At the beach, turn right next to the cliff, and there are the tidepools.
    Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve – Natural Bridges State Beach is also a Monarch butterfly preserve. In the winter months, November to February, thousands of adult butterflies migrate to the central California coast, and kids can see them here at Natural Bridges.
   

Before going out to the Monarch Trail, stop into the Visitor Center to learn about the life cycle and migration of the Monarch butterfly, and see Monarch caterpillars, munching on milkweed, or in the small garden outside the center.

   

Go out to the boardwalk, and walk through the eucalyptus trees, thousands of adult butterflies are fluttering around, sipping on nectar from blossoms, or sheltering together in the trees when it's cooler. Be sure to bring binoculars.

   

From the Monarch Boardwalk, also follow the dirt trail, take a left at the fork, to come back around to the road (just north of the Visitor Center).

Seymour Marine Center California
  Seymour Discovery Marine Center Find out about what lives in Monterey Bay. In the touch pools, kids can feel sea urchins, and sea anemones, even touch sleeping swell sharks (the skin is like sandpaper), or rub their fingers on sea otter fur, harbor seals and sea lion pelts.
    "Aquaria" tanks are filled with a luminous red octopus (watch it try to squish into a bottle), bat stars, leopard sharks, sea nettles, sunburst anemones, a huge California spiny lobster, and more.
    Outside is a huge skeleton of a blue whale, and telescopes to check out Monterey Bay.
    Tip: This is a delightful aquarium, not as big as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but not at all crowded.
    Swanton Berry Farm (Davenport) – Stop into the Swanton Berry Farm to pick your own strawberries in summer. This is fun for kids, plants are low to the ground, and there's nothing like a sun-warmed, just-picked strawberry. In the fall months, there's a farm stand with pumpkins.
    Ano Nuevo State Reserve – Elephant seals, the biggest seals, definitely have the best noses, and the new pups look the most like sausages (new pups are dark brown, bigger pups are silver-colored). From December to March you can see northern elephant seals – cows (moms), bulls (dads) and their pups – this is one of largest elephant seal breeding colonies on the west coast.
    To view the seals, it's necessary to take a guided seal walk. Call for reservations well in advance, 650.879.2025 or book online.
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