Santa Cruz is a town with a lot to offer. But despite the wide array of options, students often end up scratching their heads over what to do each weekend. With Valentine’s Day weekend coming up, the City on a Hill Press city reporters took it upon themselves to suggests activities, beaches, stores, and restaurants worth checking out.
Fantastic Eats and Cinematic Feats
By Nikki Pritchard
There’s no date more classic than dinner and a movie for Valentine’s Day. In Santa Cruz, there are four movie theaters to choose from, but the Nickelodeon and Del Mar theaters are locally owned gems that all UCSC students should be familiar with before they graduate. Both theaters have an old-time charm reminiscent of an era before illegal movie downloads.
Originally opened in 1969, the Nickelodeon Theatre (210 Lincoln St.) is known for its dedication to independent art and foreign films. Wednesday nights are the prime time to catch the student rate: $7.50. Restaurant options are abundant in Santa Cruz, but in the interest of affordability and proximity, check out Jack’s Hamburgers (202 Lincoln St.) next door when visiting the Nick. During happy hour (3 to 4 p.m. daily), Jack’s patrons can grab one burger and get the second one half off. A local favorite, Jack’s burger joint provides affordable, filling food that will satisfy your craving for all-American grub.
The Del Mar Theatre (1124 Pacific Ave.), opened in 2002. It offers weekly “midnight movies” for $6.50 every Friday and Saturday night. Owned and operated by the folks who brought you the Nick, the Del Mar stays true to the independent flavor Santa Cruzans love. Its quirky staff raffles off door prizes before the movie begins, and there are often trivia questions or movie quote competitions. This Friday and Saturday night’s midnight movie at the Del Mar will be “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
Pizza My Heart (1116 Pacific Ave. #B) is a great place to eat before viewing a movie at the Del Mar. A chain originating in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pizza My Heart sells pizza by the slice until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. For $6, you can purchase a slice and grab a Pizza My Heart shirt for your sweetie.
Reinventing Valentine’s Day for Singles
By Chelsea Hawkins
As Valentine’s Day weekend rolls in, if you suddenly find yourself without a date and annoyed by the onslaught of couples on the bus making you all too aware you’re going solo once again, remember to step back and recognize the freedom that comes with being single.
For those of us not held up by a relationship, there are some noteworthy Santa Cruz singles options for making a memorable night.
Singles might consider paying a visit to the El Palomar Ballroom, located downtown on Pacific Avenue.
On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, the Palomar offers both drop-in dance classes and dance parties. Drop-in classes start immediately before the dance parties and range in style from West Coast Swing to Latin, giving people the opportunity to learn various styles of dance and try out their new skills later that evening.
There is no need to pre-register for classes or even commit to a class. The entire evening can cost as little as $10.
El Palomar dance parties last from 9 to 11:30 p.m. and cost $5 at the door.
If a night of dancing isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, there are several other places where singles might hit a few high notes.
The Boardwalk Bowl, near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, offers more than bowling — it is also known among students for its rowdy karaoke nights.
Karaoke nights at the Boardwalk Bowl are notorious for the local characters who get behind the microphone. There is no need to be part of a duet to enjoy a pop ballad or two.
Unlike other places in town, the Boardwalk Bowl does not have a minimum party size or minimum purchase requirement, but after 9 p.m., karaoke is closed to people under 21.
The Bowl is not the only place in town that offers singles the opportunity to test their courage behind a microphone. With easy access from downtown, local restaurant I Love Sushi has become a staple for the university crowd. It’s not just the menu that draws a crowd — the atmosphere and friendly demeanors of the staff make I Love Sushi a student favorite, and the owner is known for challenging customers to sake bombs.
If you’re able to assemble a small group of eight, you can easily reserve a table in the karaoke room, order drinks and sushi, and spend the evening reveling in the somewhat questionable vocal stylings of locals.
Although this is only a taste of the things offered throughout the Santa Cruz area — cafés, theaters and beaches to name a few — they are sure-fire ways for the young and the unattached to get out of their comfort zones and have a little fun.
Save That Money, Honey
By Stephanie Meade
Valentine’s Day, with all of the expenses it can incur, can be a dreaded day for poor college students across the nation. But some creativity can keep you and your heart from going bankrupt.
There isn’t anything more intimate than grocery shopping with your sweetheart. Santa Cruz has many different grocery stores to choose from: Safeway (2203 Mission St.), Trader Joe’s (700 Front St.) and New Leaf (1101 Fair St. or 1134 Pacific Ave.), to name a few. See what’s on sale and bust out your club card when applicable. Pick up some fresh, organic fruit, cold cuts and cheese to enjoy with a baguette and butter. This simple meal makes for a perfect picnic. Plan a nice outdoor activity — perhaps a hike around Natural Bridges or a beach-side bike ride, and then settle down somewhere pretty with a blanket and your grocery store treasures.
If you or your sweetheart prefer indoor activities, try taking a fresh spin on the old “dinner and a movie” date. You can cook up something romantic for dinner. Pasta is tasty, cheap and easy to make. Make it a little more romantic with some red wine, like Trader Joe’s infamous Two-Buck Chuck. Lay down a makeshift tablecloth. Your roommate’s sheets will look great, but make sure to wash them first. Light a few candles for ambience.
Trips to the movie theater can cost upwards of $40 with snacks for two people. Instead, you and your date can rent a movie together and snuggle up under a blanket. Pop your own popcorn to save money. Plus, you won’t have to deal with crying babies, ringing cell phones and chatty moviegoers interrupting your mid-movie make-out sessions.
If everything you touch in the kitchen burns, and you think it would be safe to dine out instead, try taking your darling out for lunch instead of dinner. Many restaurants offer the same or similar menu items for cheaper lunchtime prices. Sabieng on Mission Street offers an excellent lunch special. Diners can get the soup of the day, an entrée and rice for under $7.
If you’re on a first date and you don’t want your date to think you’re cheap, you have options. Try going out for sushi. It’s delicious, often affordable and incredibly adorable to share. Taco platters, another classic dish to share, can also be affordable. El Palomar Taco Bar all the way at the back of the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company on Pacific, offers tasty tacos and burritos for relatively low prices, plus free chips and salsa. The small dining area can get very crowded and loud, but the staff at the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company usually doesn’t mind if you bring your tacos and sit and eat in their much quieter café.
Have fun this Valentine’s Day, and remember to show love to your sweetheart as well as your wallet.
Want a Sandy Romance? Go to the Beach!
By Michael Mott
Santa Cruz is well known for its wealth of sunny sand. Even in February, you can traverse the beaches with your sweetheart like a true local.
If you don’t mind crowds, then a day at the Main Beach by the Boardwalk is sure to be fun. After getting an ice cream at Marini’s, head down to the volleyball courts and spike a ball. Or relax and unwind under the pier if it gets too hot. The wharf and boardwalk can be expensive for food, so bring lunch. Picnics are a time-honored guarantee to impress your date.
The Boardwalk itself is an old-fashioned, classic place that has enchanted friends and lovers since 1907. Stroll hand-in-hand down past the arcades and the mini-golf course to the rides, where your date will be sure to lean in on the roller coasters.
If you and your valentine scoff at the tourists, try Seabright Beach just south of the Boardwalk. This beach has fewer people and more sand.
You can find some East Side locals and even a cave to write your lover’s name in. You might not want to show off your body-boarding skills just yet here, because the waves can be vicious. Set up an umbrella and feel free to people-watch, and you two will be bound to come up with some funny stories.
Like the sand? Instead of taking a long awkward walk, woo your date with your castle-building and hole-digging skills. After the day is done, set up camp and have a bonfire, because this beach is one of the few in Santa Cruz that allows them.
After a few hours of spelling each other’s names in the sand, head over to the delicious Betty’s Burger on Seabright Avenue, where you can get such romantic ground beef as the “Big Betty.” This half-pound patty and Betty’s secret lube, or “The Duke,” a half-pound island-style burger with grilled pineapple, bacon, cheddar and sweet teriyaki lube will tantalize the taste buds.
If you’re feeling daring, head east of the wharf for some surfing at Cowell’s Beach. Unlike in ice skating, however, your partner will not think it’s cute if he or she falls down and gets obliterated, so keep it safe.
Got sand in your pants after your beach date? Just one more reason to head back to your place and shower.