San Francisco or Santa Cruz in Sunny California, which to choose? Not like we could really go wrong, both locations are amazing, it all depends on what kind of vacation you are wanting. We enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Santa Cruz over the go, go, go fast-paced big city life of San Francisco and if back in that area of California that is where we would likely choose to stay and hang out again. That being said, we are glad to have been able to visit both and enjoyed our time in each location very much for different reasons.
The busy city of San Francisco. Lots of hills. Lots of people. Lots of entertainment.
Things to do in San Francisco
- See the Golden Gate Bridge. You can actually walk the bridge if you have the energy and wish to do so.
- Splurge on a fancy dinner. San Francisco is full of amazing restaurants, but also some pretty expensive prices. Brandon and I, the boys and my parents went to a steakhouse and the 4 adults and 2 children were able to rack up a bill of over $400.
- Walk around the city, enjoy the noises, the people, the shops and parks along the way. The hills feel like they get steeper and steeper and steeeeeper, but we had a great time walking to most places that we went.
- Go to Fisherman’s Wharf. Obviously this is something that nobody should miss out on! Fish being tossed through the air, endless fresh seafood eateries and lots of shops and boutiques to visit. One of my favorite things about the wharf was the street entertainment, we had a smile on our faces the entire time. Musicians, comedians, magicians, we saw it all and it was wonderful……and free!
- Take the ferry to Alcatraz Island. We enjoyed this so much, I have an entire post dedicated to our trip to the island.
- Visit Pier 39. There is something for everyone at Pier 39. Shopping, the aquarium, the marina and lots of different tours to choose from. Our favorite things at Pier 39 was exploring the marina and going to a 7D experience. The 7D theater and massive screen put you into the action, you even get your own laser gun to use throughout the “adventure”, so great!
- Take a tour of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien. You get to go through every nook and cranny of the ship, it’s pretty awesome!
- Go to a museum. They have lots of cool museums to choose from… San Francisco Cable Car Museum, Disney Family Museum, art museums and totally awesome for kids is the Exploritorium which is a hands-on science museum.
Next up is the laid back city of Santa Cruz. Beaches. Relaxation. Water Sports.
Things to do in Santa Cruz
- Instead of staying at a hotel, rent a beach house. We used VRBO to find our home and splitting a 3 bedroom between the family and all staying together we ended up spending less than we would have at a hotel!
- GO TO THE BEACH! We spent a majority of our time at the beach. Sand in our toes, cold drinks in our hand, soaking up the sunshine and relaxing!
- Build sand castles
- Have a picnic and bring a cooler of drinks
- Watch the surfers
- Whale, dolphin and bird watching
- Walk up and down the beach
- Search for shells and crabs
- Play in the water
- Go to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s a busy place with lots to do. Amusement rides, games, food. We spent quite a bit of time in the arcade and the boys had a blast!
- Visit the Santa Cruz Wharf. We had a great day on the wharf. We walked down the boardwalk and looked and taste tested all the fresh seafood options. The ladies got to do plenty of shopping. And you can’t miss taking a peek at the hilarious barking sea lions, we must have watched them for at least an hour.
- Drive the coast. So much beautiful scenery!