It’s so easy to get stuck in a weekend rut of familiar nearby places and activities. Most of us love to explore when we travel, but when we’re at home, we often stick close to it.
MK, our friend Maureen and I decided to start doing a bit of backyard tourism. Every few weeks we pick a location within an hour or so from Mountain View, California, and we go exploring.
We’ve developed a pretty awesome rhythm for these day trips -- awesome enough that I think they’re worth sharing. Here are the elements we typically incorporate into each perfect day, and how we put them into practice during a recent visit to Santa Cruz, that quintessential NorCal beach town.
But First, Brunch
We begin compiling ideas in the week leading up to the day trip, largely courtesy of Yelp and friends familiar with the area. This always begins with a good local breakfast spot.
For our trip to Santa Cruz, Maureen’s friends pointed us in the direction of Cafe Brasil. The atmosphere is warm, friendly and colorful, and the food is delicious Brazilian fare. To avoid the well-earned wait, get there by 9:30. There is something for everyone on the extensive menu. We all tried one of those trendy acai bowls for the first time -- definitely worth the hype. Imagine a breakfast sundae. Yeah, it’s that good.
Finding a local coffee shop has become a day trip tradition. Verve Coffee Roasters, the chosen spot for our latest trip, has three locations in Santa Cruz and one in L.A. Their downtown cafe provided a charming and tasty boost to our exploration of the shops and sights in the area.
Spend a Little Time in the Great Outdoors
Whether it’s a park, a garden or a beach, most of our trips involve a bit of outdoor time (this is California, after all). Given that we’d all been to Santa Cruz previously and had already visited its famous boardwalk, we decided to spend our afternoon at Twin Lakes Beach.
Even though it was a gorgeous day, and there was a fair amount of expected traffic getting to the beach, the beach itself wasn’t overcrowded -- there was plenty of space for us to grab a spot of sand among the picnic-goers, boogie-boarders, sand castle-builders and volleyball players.
Don’t forget the SPF! Oh, and MK shared a pro tip with us for removing the sand from your feet après-beach -- sprinkle a bit of baby powder on the sandy area, and it easily wipes right off. Boom. Of course, if you have darker skin like me, you should use a baby wipe or apply a bit of lotion afterward so you don’t walk around looking like Casper.
Get Thee to a Brewery
If coffee is our morning tradition, beer is our afternoon ritual. There are several breweries in and around Santa Cruz (learn more about the Santa Cruz beer trail here), but Seabright Brewery offered the perfect combination of awesome local beer, crave-worthy pub food (you have to try the fries) and a great location. The outdoor patio is also dog-friendly, if you have a pup in tow. The staff was incredibly friendly as well, which further enhanced the experience.
Revisit Your Youth
Both our visits to Santa Cruz and Berkeley took us within close proximity of incredible colleges with fantastic campuses, and we couldn’t help but to wander through them. There’s something so nostalgic about being back in a collegiate setting. UC Santa Cruz is also nestled amidst amazing redwoods (like the ones pictured above), and we just had to stop and marvel at their grandeur.
On our brief stroll through the campus, we spotted a deer and her three fawns, tried our hands at naming the countries tied to each of the flags waving around the international relations building, and had an impromptu karaoke session in an empty dining hall where the cleaning crew blasted Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (much to the delight of the crew).
The great thing about these day trips? They’re highly customizable to fit the interests and budgets of you and your travel companions. You also get to sleep in your own bed at the end of your very full day. Bonus.