Santa Cruz sits at the north end of Monterey Bay, across from its ritzier neighbor, Carmel-by-the-Sea. Though an hour’s drive away, the two towns are worlds apart. Santa Cruz is proudly weird and rough around the edges, and has a lot to see and do. In addition to world-class surfing, the town offers spectacular natural beauty, a colorful downtown, great food and drink, and historic beachfront amusement park – all in temperate, but sometimes moody, weather. Funky, earthy, soulful, hippie-ish, laid back and weird are all words that are used to describe NorCal’s favorite beach town…but good ol’ fun should be in that mix, too, since one of its main attractions is the 114-year-old Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park featuring thrill rides, casino arcade, mini golf, laser tag and more. A jam-packed day might have you careening on a Boardwalk roller coaster, riding a steam train through the redwood forest, eating abalone at a beach shack, playing golf at the revered Pasatiempo Golf Club, grooving to street performers, musicians and artists along Pacific Avenue, watching expert surfers shredding, splashing in the pristine Pacific, taking a whale-watching tour or tracing the locations from The Lost Boys movie. And I haven’t even mentioned The Mystery Spot, a popular, freaky place where life seems to defy gravity! The food and drink options are as varied as the attractions, ranging from burgers and pizza to seafood and Michelin-rated fine dining. Plus, it’s just a scenic, 33-mile drive from San Jose International Airport.