Whether you met the love of your life while riding the Giant Dipper roller coaster on our internationally-known Boardwalk or learned to surf for the first time off of West Cliff, Santa Cruz is a place where memories are created. For more than 100 years, tourism has continued to grow, expand, and diversify. There is always something new to discover.
Not only are there beautiful beaches, parks and open spaces, a burgeoning art scene, sightseeing, tons of attractions and activities,
but Santa Cruz has also become a destination for wine tasting, foodies, outdoor recreation, and agri-tourism - which has made our city a year-round destination to get away and have some fun. This community of businesses ranges from traditional hotels and restaurants all the way to the Brew Cruz (a microbrewery bus tour) to family friendly Segway tours along Westcliff. This mix of new and historical businesses make for unique experiences that keeps visitors coming back for more.
Since the mid 1800s people have been flocking to Santa Cruz to take advantage of the sunshine and natural beauty of our beautiful beaches and forests. Promoting the benefits of bathing in salt water, public bathhouses were the first big Santa Cruz attractions. By the early 1900s the tourism industry was in full swing. The first casino (which included a ballroom), The Plunge indoor swimming pool, a pleasure pier, and boardwalk opened in in 1904. The Boardwalk, built to be the “Coney Island of the West”, constructed its first roller coaster in 1908, which was quickly followed by the arrival of the merry-go-round in 1911.
The 1920s saw the first Miss California Pageants hosted at the Boardwalk and Cocoanut Grove Ballroom. The rise of Santa Cruz as a Tourist hot spot also brought other businesses catering to tourists: hotels, restaurants, photo stands, souvenir shops, bike, skate and surf shops - and more.
Today, Santa Cruz draws visitors both nationally and internationally, and has developed into an industry that generates over $500 million in direct travel expenditures annually and employs about 8,000 people countywide.
million tourists per year
Hotels & Motels
Boardwalk Rides & Attractions
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