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Santa Cruz is a delightful destination for families. The main attraction here for kids is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Ride the Big Dipper, get a caramel apple or ride the sky ride that runs end to end with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. This is a great way to spend an afternoon as a family. Take a picnic and sit out on the beach and take in the beauty of the area.
This is also a great area to surf or to learn to surf. One of the shops in town can direct you to instructors for lessons and offer you a nice selection of rental equipment, including wetsuits.. The wharf area is great fun for families, featuring many seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and scenic places for that Kodak moment with your family and friends.
Another attraction for kids, and adults, as well, is the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad, in the little town of Felton, 7 miles up Hwy 9 from Santa Cruz. Take an antique steam train up the mountain through the redwoods, with a real old-timey conductor.