Skip to main content

The Definitive Downtown Santa Cruz Guide

The Definitive Downtown Santa Cruz Guide

Downtown Santa Cruz is full of fun things to do and a vibrant community. Here's your definitive Downtown Santa Cruz guide.


4 min read

July 03, 2024

Amy Jeske is a local Santa Cruz realtor that knows the area like the back of her hand. Making the move to a new town can be an intimidating experience, Jeske makes things easy with a wealth of experience and ensures every relocation is as smooth as can be. Amy Jeske is a member of the Recommended Business Program.

Welcome to Downtown Santa Cruz, a vibrant and eclectic hub nestled along the picturesque California coast. With its unique blend of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, Downtown Santa Cruz offers something for everyone. Whether you're a local resident or a visitor exploring this charming city, our definitive guide will help you navigate the best spots to eat, shop, and play in Downtown Santa Cruz.


Shogun Japanese Restaurant

For an authentic Japanese dining experience, Shogun Japanese Restaurant is a must-visit. Known for its fresh sushi and sashimi, Shogun offers a delightful array of traditional Japanese dishes. The warm ambiance and friendly staff make it a perfect spot for a relaxing meal. Don’t miss their signature rolls and the expertly prepared tempura.

Pacific Cookie Company

A visit to Downtown Santa Cruz wouldn't be complete without stopping by the Pacific Cookie Company. This local favorite has been serving up freshly baked cookies since 1980. With a variety of flavors from classic chocolate chip to unique options like Dr. Midnight and Mint Condition, there's a cookie for every taste. Pair your treat with a cold glass of milk for the ultimate comfort food experience.

Kianti’s Pizza & Pasta Bar

If you're in the mood for Italian cuisine, Kianti’s Pizza & Pasta Bar is the place to go. Known for its lively atmosphere and delicious menu, Kianti’s serves up some of the best pizza and pasta in town. Their outdoor seating area is perfect for enjoying a meal while soaking in the Santa Cruz sunshine. Be sure to try their wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta dishes.

Nahna Eritrea

For a taste of East Africa, Nahna Eritrea is a culinary gem in Downtown Santa Cruz. Specializing in Eritrean cuisine, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience with bold and flavorful dishes. From savory stews to spiced meats, Nahna Eritrea brings the rich flavors of the Mediterranean to your plate. Their injera, a traditional flatbread, is a perfect complement to the diverse menu offerings.

The real highlight with Santa Cruz is how tight the community is.


Botanic and Luxe

Botanic and Luxe is a haven for those looking to add a touch of elegance to their homes. This boutique offers a curated selection of crafted home goods and unique gifts. From beautiful plant arrangements to chic home décor items, Botanic and Luxe has something to brighten up any space. Their carefully selected products make perfect gifts for friends or a treat for yourself. They offer exactly what is described, as “earthy luxurious goods.”

Cognito Clothing

For fashion enthusiasts, Cognito Clothing is a treasure trove of unique vintage finds. This store is known for its adventurous style, offering an array of vintage clothing, costumes, wigs, and accessories. Whether you're looking for a one-of-a-kind outfit or just browsing for fun, Cognito Clothing promises a shopping experience like no other.

Mythic Games

Board game lovers and hobbyists will feel right at home at Mythic Games. This local gaming store is packed with the latest board games, models, and paints. Whether you're a seasoned gamer or a newbie looking to dive into a new hobby, Mythic Games has everything you need. Even if you want a place to hang out on Friday’s to play some card games, Mythic Games offers a space for that.

Bookshop Santa Cruz

A cornerstone of the community, Bookshop Santa Cruz is a beloved independent bookstore with a vast selection of books, from bestsellers to hidden gems. The welcoming atmosphere makes it a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon browsing. Don't forget to check out their event schedule for author readings and book signings.

OM Gallery

OM Gallery offers a collection of handmade and eclectic items that are perfect for adding a touch of personality to your home. From garden décor to unique lighting solutions and ornaments, this store is filled with treasures. Each item at OM Gallery tells a story and is a conversation starter, making it a great place to find meaningful gifts.

Recomended businesses

Show me
Recommended Businesses near

Discover the best of California. Our recommended businesses are top-quality and are committed to their communities.

Things to Do

First Friday

First Friday is a cultural standout among major cities and Santa Cruz is no different. You have to make it out to First Friday and check out the huge amount of artists, musicians, and artisans that brighten up Downtown Santa Cruz with their creativity. Get yourself some great food or unique products when out at First Friday.

Del Mar Theater

Step back in time at the historic Del Mar Theater. This beautifully restored cinema offers a mix of contemporary and classic films. The vintage charm and comfortable seating make it a delightful place to enjoy a movie. Absolutely check out the Del Mar Theater’s film series events. They are fantastic opportunities to check out films you wouldn’t normally see in a beautiful environment.

Yoso Wellness Spa

For a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, visit Yoso Wellness Spa. Offering a range of services from facials to massages, Yoso Wellness Spa is the perfect place to unwind. They offer just about every kind of service you could want. They also run a lifestyle shop Yoso The Annex, a great place to pick up wellness products that will keep you going day-to-day.

Santa Cruz has several beautiful areas that stand out among any city in California.

Downtown Dollars Program

The Downtown Dollars program is a fantastic way to explore and support the local businesses in Downtown Santa Cruz. These gift certificates are accepted at around 80 businesses, including restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. Whether you're looking for a stress-free night out or a thoughtful gift for a loved one, Downtown Dollars are a versatile and appreciated choice. They can be purchased online or at several in-person locations, including Bookshop Santa Cruz, the Downtown Information Kiosk, and Pacific Cookie Company.

Downtown Santa Cruz is a vibrant and diverse community with something for everyone. From delicious dining options and unique shopping experiences to relaxing activities and the convenient Downtown Dollars program, this guide will help you make the most of your visit. Enjoy your time exploring the heart of Santa Cruz!

Need help with a home improvement project? Get a free quote today!

Enter Your Zip Code

Enter Your Zip Code

RELATED Articles

Discover More

fueled by the power of California love
We're committed to helping you discover the places, people and businesses that make our state Golden. Our online publication, updated daily, brings you all the content you need to live your California dreams. And that's just the beginning…
Purpose section
Purpose section