Under 21 and looking for something fun to do in Santa Cruz? Sick of house parties and frolicking in the campus woods? Break free from the campus bubble for a bit and descend the hill into town to check out some of these unique local attractions.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
The Boardwalk is a magnet for out-of-towners and kiddie parties, but don’t think you can’t have a good time here with your college buddies, too. Starting in September, the Boardwalk is open weekends only from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will have significantly fewer tourists. Relive your childhood in the arcade, challenge your friends to laser tag (spoiler alert: they don’t allow running), and if you are feeling bold, go for a spin on the Fireball, a ride that is sure to rock your world.
The Boardwalk Bowl
115 Cliff St.
The local bowling alley has something to keep you busy almost every night of the week. Bowl without breaking the bank on Mondays and Tuesdays, when games are half-price. Bring your glow sticks for atomic bowling on Thursdays and Sundays, when the lights go down and the party begins. Saturday is Rock and Bowl day, while karaoke can be enjoyed five days of the week. Check their website for a schedule of live music, too.
Midnight Movies at the Del Mar
1124 Pacific Ave.
You aren’t a true Slug until you’ve participated in a midnight movie at the Del Mar — yes, participated. Don’t think you can sneak away to a quiet, empty midnight showing of your favorite cult classic; and why would you want to? These movies are often packed, rowdy and guaranteed fun. Not to mention admission is cheap and there are raffles and prizes. Fridays and Saturdays only. The tradition returns Sept. 19 with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Santa Cruz Roller Palladium
1606 Seabright Ave.
How many towns these days can boast an old-school indoor roller rink? Santa Cruz may be one of the few. Open year-round, bring your skates — or rent a pair — and take advantage of this fun treasure. The Palladium is open for public skating sessions, but can also be rented out for parties (just imagine the possibilities for a theme … Saturday Night Fever anyone?).
You young‘uns are lucky when it comes to under-21 nightlife. Whereas only a few years ago there were none, there are now two poppin’ hookah bars in town. Giza Hookah Lounge is located conveniently close to campus, at 1515 Mission St., and open until 1 a.m. on the weekends. If you find yourself downtown and in the mood for some relaxing shisha, check out Madani Hookah Lounge at 2017 N. Pacific Ave. Madani’s is open until 3 a.m., and the dim light, mystical music and plush couches allow you to imagine you’ve been teleported into a genie’s bottle.
On Cedar and Lincoln St.
It would be a shame to wait until you’ve lived off campus for a while before discovering the magic that is the Santa Cruz Farmers Market. If you don’t have class on Wednesday afternoons, head downtown to roam the aisles of locally grown, organic and delicious veggies, fruits, artisan bread and pastries, fair-trade coffee, colorful flowers, fresh seafood and more. The market is also a good place to stop by for lunch or dinner, with tasty options like Mexican and Indian. Join in the drum circle that pounds away beside the food aisles, or just sit and listen while chowing down. The Farmers Market runs from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday. For a closer-to-campus, equally treasured version, visit the West Side Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2801 Mission St.
The Mystery Spot
465 Mystery Spot Road
The Mystery Spot may be a tourist trap, but it is also something you can’t go four years at UC Santa Cruz without checking out once (and once is definitely enough). Trek out there on a lazy Saturday, pay the five bucks, let yourself be amazed by the tilts and illusions, take some pictures and voila — you’ve participated in a Santa Cruz rite of passage. Located at 465 Mystery Spot Road, the attraction is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.