Photo illustration by Rachel Edelstein. Map photos courtesy Santa Cruz Metro.
Photo illustration by Rachel Edelstein. Map photos courtesy Santa Cruz Metro.

Face it: You didn’t drop an arm and a leg to come to UC Santa Cruz just for its academic reputation. Granted, the school and faculty are excellent, but another big selling point is the school’s view and the town below.

There are plenty of reasons to leave campus and crash the city of Santa Cruz. Beach bodies, downtown nightlife and wild characters wandering the streets are all incentives to hitch a ride out of the bubble. So when you’ve settled down in your dorm room and you’re ready to take the town by storm, jump on the Metro and check these places out.



Access to the OPERS athletic facilities, an ever-expanding library and all of the other university resources makes the campus the prime spot to do just about anything. While you’re here, keep an eye out for some performances at the Barn, college nights and — if you dare — the First Rain run.

Perks: Running track sandwiched between forest and ocean, thousands of 20-somethings, movies and music videos in McHenry’s Media Center, 88.1 KZSC

Quirks: mobile home park and weekly protests

How to ride: Metro routes 10 through 27 will bring you to campus. All even routes will go counter-clockwise through campus, entering the East entrance and leaving the West (odd routes vice versa). Campus buses will also take you around campus.



Full of characters like the Pink Umbrella Man, the Great Morgani accordionist and every kind of street performer imaginable, the free entertainment downtown is both phenomenal and weird. You can find plenty of boutiques, four movie theaters, used bookshops and record stores. At night if you’re looking to dance, you can head to the Catalyst night club, Aqua Bleu and the Red Room.

Perks: Trader Joe’s, Planned Parenthood, weekend midnight movies at the Del Mar

Quirks: drum circles and panhandlers

How to ride: Almost every bus route that passes through including the 16, 15, 19 and 20. To get there faster, try catching one of the lower numbered routes, such as the 10. If you are really lucky, you might even catch the 27X (which only stops by College Eight, the Health Center and the bookstore), the fastest of all the campus bus routes. If you’re looking to stay out late, the Metro has night owl routes — the 16N and 19N. The last night owl bus to leave the downtown Metro station is 2:00 a.m. on weekdays, except on Fridays or Saturdays, when it’s at 3:00 a.m.


Mission Street

One of the busiest sights of traffic in the entire city, Mission Street is one of the only places in the city where you’ll find corporate chain restaurants (McDonald’s, KFC and Subway, to name a few). Plenty of other practical stops litter either side of the road, including gas stations, bike maintenance shops and musical stores.

Perks: Taco Bell, Safeway, Burger, Café Brazil, New Leaf and farmer’s market on Saturdays (Swift Street)

Quirks: One of the only places to find chain restaurants

How to ride: The most frequent routes to Mission Street from either downtown or campus would be the 15 and 16. However, the 13 also passes through Mission Street, as does the 19.


Beach Boardwalk

The Boardwalk itself hosts laser tag, mini-golf and roller coasters. If that weren’t enough, surrounding the place are gorgeous beaches, famous surf and the seafood-rich wharf. Don’t forget to take a walk on the bluffs.

Perks: Boardwalk Bowl and the Giant Dipper

Quirks: Everyone fits into one of these categories: camera-toting parent, middle school skater kid, surfer or otherwise bored UCSC student

How to ride: Catch either the 19 or 20, preferably the 19. If you’re looking to get a ride back to campus from the Boardwalk (and don’t want to walk the distance to the downtown Metro station), you might want to consider waiting at the Pacific & Viaduct bus stop near the wharf, since both the 19 and 20 make a stop there.


The Capitola Mall

For the highest density of corporate stores within a UCSC student’s grasp, go to the Capitola Mall. You’ll find generic brand-name stores, marble-esque floors and the sounds of draining checkbooks.

Perks: It’s a mall in an otherwise mall-less county. Plus, the sushi from the nearby “Pink Godzilla” almost makes the trip worthwhile.

Quirks: Unless you have access to a car, this is probably a trip you’ll have to make around your regular schedule, as it takes a while to get there and back by bus.

How to ride: To get to the East Side you will first have to catch a bus to the downtown Metro station, then take the 66, 68, 68N, 69, 69W, 69A or 69N. All of these routes will stop directly in front of the mall, so don’t worry about missing your stop. But when you’re looking to come back, make sure you check with your bus operator before boarding, as it can be easy to accidentally get aboard a bus bound for Cabrillo instead.


You can download maps of all Metro bus routes, available in PDF, at the Santa Cruz Metro website: