Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Santa Cruz

Over the 4th of July weekend, Todd and I went to Santa Cruz. This wasn't a new destination for either of us; Todd had attended UC Santa Cruz during undergrad, and I had been on a couple occasions when I was in high school during vacations to the Bay Area. But it had been quite a while since either of us had been, and there were some touristy things that we wanted to see in addition to spending some time with Todd's super fun cousins that we only see at rare family gatherings.

Since we only spent Friday and Saturday in Santa Cruz, this will be a short post, but I feel it is worth documenting anyway.



Having a prized 3-day weekend off together, we woke up late on Friday, July 4th, and hit the road. We had a 2:12pm reservation (random time, right?) at Mystery Spot, and, having planned for holiday traffic, arrived in Santa Cruz with some time to kill. Todd decided to take me to the UCSC campus where he got his undergraduate degree, and showed me around the buildings where he used to attend class. I'd never seen this university before, and it was VERY different from where I attended college. At Dominican, we could walk across the whole campus in 7.5 minutes. UCSC has an entire bus network to get students from the various locations, which are divided into colleges. I still don't fully understand the system, but the campus was huge. They had adorable dorm buildings (which I bet would be fun for students to live in), tons of trees and nature and squirrels running around, and a fabulous view of the ocean. Since it was a holiday during the summer, we had the campus essentially to ourselves as we toured.

After checking out UCSC, we headed over to Mystery Spot. Neither Todd or I had ever been, so we were excited to visit such a famous (and mysterious!) attraction. My goodness, was that place packed! It was good that we had made reservations in advance online, because they were completely booked for the day and were turning away people at the parking lot.

If you don't know much about Mystery Spot, Wikipedia describes it as a tourist attraction where: "The operators of the small site (which is about 150 feet in diameter) claim at that location the laws of physics and gravity do not apply and provide a number of demonstrations in support of these claims, where water seems to flow upwards, people seem to be standing in slanted positions etc."



Sure, it is some kind of optical illusion, and I went in with a hugely skeptical attitude towards the whole ordeal. But the tour was well-done, and they even gave quite convincing arguments against the skepticism. While I may not be convinced there's an alien ship buried underground causing strange magnetic reactions (just one of the outlandish theories), it was still a fun diversion.

Me, standing at an angle in the Mystery Spot

The rest of the evening we spent with Todd's cousins, enjoying cocktails and snacks on the balcony of their beautiful home. For dinner, we visited a brewery that their son worked at, and devoured some delicious burgers to live music. I loved getting to know this part of Todd's family better, and we even had some nighttime shenanigans that involved shopping carts, parking signs, and fireworks at the beach.

You can see their balcony in Todd's glasses!



I spent the morning recovering from our excursions the night before, but by midday we were ready to head out to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I had loved this place as a teenager! Having not been back since, and because Todd had NEVER been (even though he lived there!!), I was very excited to go. Yes, I know it's touristy. Yes, I know it's way overcrowded on holidays. Yes, it's not the cleanest or most upscale attraction I've ever been to. But I'm a fun-loving kind of lady, and a day of roller coasters, sunshine, mini golf, and soft serve ice cream cones on the beach is my type of date! Plus, the Boardwalk is home to Ghost Blasters, which is my very favorite ride on the planet.

Parking was, of course, a huge nightmare. The lines to get into the Boardwalk parking lot were insanely long, and it cost $15 for the day. Instead, we found a metered parking spot about half a mile away via a pleasant walking path next to the river. Much cheaper, and much quicker! I suggest doing this if you ever go. We also happened to run into one of Todd's friends from Marin as we were crossing the street, which was totally random and unexpected!



The Boardwalk itself was (as predicted) wildly crowded. I had only ever been during the off-season, which is much preferred, in my opinion. The lines were long, but not devastatingly so (not like Disneyland or anything like that), and with our Costco deal, we were able to get all day ride wristbands as well as tickets to two attractions and some arcade money. As roller coaster enthusiasts, we started our day right with a big spinning roller coaster called Undertow: surprisingly smooth, but still thrilling. We proceeded to ride some other favorites, like the Sky Glider (basically gondolas...a great way to view the Boardwalk and beach) and the Giant Dipper, which is a wooden roller coaster that first opened in 1924 and is now a historic landmark. Of course, Ghost Blasters we saved for last; it's basically a low-budget version of Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters at Disneyland, though it was in operation long before Astro Blasters opened. I may be terrible at sports and baking and lots of other things, but good heavens, I dominate those laser gun rides! I beat Todd's score by double (yes, I am bragging, and no, he was not pleased).


After terrible food for lunch, and tasty swirl cones for dessert, we located a Dole Whip stand. UNBELIEVABLE! Dole Whip is one of the best things about going to Disneyland! I couldn't believe they had one! So of course I got a float...complete with pineapple juice. And oh man...it was not good. Not at all. I only ate half. It was a cheap version of the heavenly concoction you would find in Disney. Depressing. Don't order that if you go.

We decided to use some of our attraction tickets next. Our choices were a rock climbing wall, laser tag, a laser maze (think Catherine Zeta-Jones), mini golf, bowling, or Fright Walk (haunted house). We chose mini golf...and truly, the Boardwalk has an impressive mini golf course. Pirate themed, complete with a black light ocean cave and pirates that move and talk (think Pirates of the Caribbean ride), we were ready for a fantastic, if not particularly competitive, round. Unfortunately, there were just SO MANY people that we were backed up 3 or 4 groups for each hole and spent a lot of time waiting...so long, in fact, that we ended up giving the remaining tickets we hadn't used to the kids behind us so that we could start the drive home.


The weekend was short but sweet, and definitely tons of fun. I think it's better to go to the Boardwalk when there will be less people so you can get more done, but otherwise, our trip to Santa Cruz was a fantastic success!