It was a long weekend and I wanted an adventure. See what my best friend and I got up to in Santa Cruz, California.
My best friend Jessie (you meet her here in Chico and here in LA) is a Christmas baby. Her 23rd birthday was on December 30th, and I owed her a birthday and Christmas gift. I decided the best present I could give her would be some quality time together! Jessie and I meet up in Santa Cruz for the long MLK Jr. Weekend. We had a blast!
I loaded my car up with gas and snacks and took off for the 5.5 hour journey. Although I took the dreary route up the I-5, I still enjoyed my drive and passed the hours listening to ‘Defending Jacob‘ by William Landay on my Audible app (review coming soon!).
I arrived in Santa Cruz around 2pm and checked into my Airbnb. This was my first time using Airbnb and I have to say I loved it. I stayed with this couple and they were awesome hosts. If you are going to be doing some traveling, I would definitely check out Airbnb as an alternative to the typical hotel. You can easily find an inexpensive option in the heart of the city you are visiting and it is a great way to meet someone new! Plus, your host will probably have great recommendations of things to do and places to check out during your stay.
Since Jessie had work all day Friday, she would not be arriving in Santa Cruz until 8pm. With a few hours before my girls’ weekend officially started, I took the opportunity to meet up with a friend from the Bay Area. Mylan and I bummed around the beach for a few hours. We walked along the pier, checked out the cutesy shops, and enjoyed the fresh air. Although Capitola Village (the area we were exploring) is pretty small, there is a ton to see. The colorfully stuccoed villas transport you to a place far beyond the California coast.
We then stopped for happy hour at The Sand Bar, a beach bar with a small-town country feel. We sat on the patio in the back and watched the waves roll in. It was an awesome view to enjoy nachos, calamari, and strawberry margaritas.
Feeling relaxed and full, we moseyed around a few shops until the sun went down. If you are in the area, check out my favorite shop Charlie and Co. Everything there was pretty overpriced, but delightfully cute. Leave your wallet in the car to resist temptation, but bring your camera. I guarantee you will find some DIY inspiration while shopping here! Pinterest, here I come.
When Jessie arrived, she, Mylan and I all met up for some pizza at Pleasure Pizza in Downtown Santa Cruz. Here, we met up with two other friends from San Jose: Jeremy and Jason. It was a happy coincidence that they were visiting Santa Cruz only for the night, so I relished in the idea of getting to see so many of my NorCal friends at once. Plus, it was Jeremy’s birthday a few days prior so we now had two birthdays to celebrate! With full bellies, we were ready to hit the town. We bar hopped in Downtown Santa Cruz, starting first at a place called The Redroom. They have a full restaurant here, but if you head upstairs you will find a cool lounge, complete with fireplaces and room for dancing. Since it was a Friday night, there was a DJ spinning some tunes and the place was packed. It was in the medium price range, but provided a great way to meet some local students or get your dancing on.
We needed some cool air after dancing near the fire at The Redroom, so we walked until we found a place to pop into. We decided on an Irish Pub called Rosie McCann’s. Upon walking in, we found it to be pretty dead for a Friday night. If you are hoping to relax with a Guinness and not really be disturbed, this is your place. We, however, found it too slow paced so left after an Irish Car Bomb and a few shameless bathroom selfies.
We then decided to check out a place called Motiv. This is a dance club that has themed nights. Friday was mainstream music and the place was packed. There wasn’t a cover, which was nice, but we were crammed like sardines on the dance floor. It was a great way to burn some calories shaking yo thang on the dance floor, but if you are looking to meet people and chat, this isn’t the place.
We all agreed that the golden rule when drinking is to have a midnight meal, so we picked a diner called Saturn’s. Not only was it the only place open at the late hour besides Taco Bell, it is also 100% vegetarian, which was perfect because Jessie has been a vegetarian for 10 years now. My four friends chowed down on veggie burgers (which they all loved) and I opted for some vegan pancakes (skip ’em…). At about 3am we called it a (very late) night and went our separate ways! It was an awesome time hanging out with so many of my friends!
Jessie is an avid bagel lover, as I am! We knew our first breakfast together would be bagels, and lucky for us Santa Cruz had lots of options near by. We chose The Bagelry on Soquel. It definitely hit the spot. We then took off for my favorite thing of the weekend: a hike!
We found a trail in the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park and into the woods we went. We followed a railroad for a few miles and enjoyed the great conversation that a few quiet hours in nature can prompt. There was a steady drizzle, which cleared away the majority of other hikers, letting the woods become our private playground. Together we darted across railroad tracks, giggling tentatively as we used only the tracks to cross bridges, unwilling to turn around so soon.
We discussed the ease of traveling, if one only makes time for it. Here we were, in a wonderfully beautiful place, just hours from our homes. Why had we never thought to come down here together? Why had I let myself believe for so many years that things had to be well planned out ahead of time? On a day off, I could have easily driven to Santa Cruz and back, if just to take my dog on a hike and have a strawberry margarita at happy hour. I am so grateful that I have learned to respect my impulse for spontaneous travel.
With happy hearts and tired legs, we left the woods to get cleaned up before dinner. As we had only had bagels all day, we worked up a pretty good appetite. We went back to Capitola Village, were we had Thai food at the recommendation of our Airbnb hosts. We went to My Thai Beach, where the food was delicious and hearty, but the service was slow. We shared veggie spring rolls, each ordered an entree (I had BBQ prawns and beef, and Jessie had Pad Thai), and I ordered mango sticky rice for dessert. Along with some Thai iced teas, we were set.
We then popped over to The Sand Bar again for a drink. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that The Sand Bar has live music 6 nights a week! We had an awesome night meeting some students in town for the long weekend from Stanford. Khalid and Makan were great company and gave us tons of laughs in between the band’s songs. Both guys are 5 months into earning their MBAs at Stanford, and since I am going through the application process currently, they gave me some much-needed tips and reassurance. I am really finding that if I open myself to the world’s possibilities, people really do come right into your life when you need them most.
We met with a friend of Jessie’s at a place called Gayle’s Bakery and Rosticceria. This cafeteria-style restaurant was great. It offered tons of options for breakfast, from eggs to artisan bread to pastries. It had it all. The three of us girls bonded over breakfast burritos.
After grabbing pastries to go, Jessie and I went to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It was closed for the Winter season, but as she and I have both been here previously, we weren’t too bummed. Like in the State Park, the light rain drove out the crowds and we had the place to ourselves! We walked along the water and up onto the pier. We watched sea lions and otters sleep, eat, and play and checked out a chocolate festival that was randomly going on!
After hanging around the Airbnb for a while, we got ready for our last night in Santa Cruz. We heard there was going to be a group of about 30 musicians playing at the Sand Bar that night, so we went back to Capitola Village. We grabbed a slice of pizza at Pizza My Heart and then ice cream at Village Grill and Creamery (you have to try flavor 1020). We then went to wash it all down with a drink at Sand Bar. We spent a while dancing together to the live music, and then Ubered over to Downtown Santa Cruz again. We heard it was reggae night at Motiv, so we made our way there. Motiv was not nearly as crowded as it had been on Friday night, so we had plenty of room on the dance floor. We spent the whole night dancing away!
After sleeping in a little, we grabbed breakfast at Main Street Bagel. Quick and hearty, it was the perfect place to share our last meal of the weekend together. We then packed up and went our separate ways: 5 hours South for me and 2 hours North for Jessie. On the drive home, I finished reading ‘Defending Jacob’ and started a new Lee Child’s book called ‘The Enemy’.
I also decided to try out a new route home. I pushed myself out of the comfort of the I-5 and instead took the 101. Wow, have I been missing out! Although it makes for a longer drive, the scenery of the 101 is well worth the extra time! It always feels great to come home, even if you were only gone for a long weekend.
Santa Cruz, thanks for showing us an awesome time!
How did you spend MLK weekend? Let me know below.