|City and county seat|
The "Town Clock" tower at the head of Pacific Avenue
|Nickname(s): Surf City|
Location in Santa Cruz County and the state of California
|Mission||September 25, 1791|
|Incorporated||March 31, 1866|
|o Mayor||David Terrazas|
|o State senator||Bill Monning (D)|
|o Assemblymember||Mark Stone (D)|
|o United States representatives||Anna Eshoo (D) and Jimmy Panetta (D)|
|o City||15.83 sq mi (41.00 km2)|
|o Land||12.74 sq mi (33.00 km2)|
|o Water||3.09 sq mi (8.00 km2) 19.51%|
|o Urban||58.4 sq mi (151.1 km2)|
|o Metro||607 sq mi (1,570 km2)|
|Elevation||36 ft (11 m)|
|o Estimate (2016)||64,465|
|o Density||5,060.05/sq mi (1,953.65/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-8 (Pacific)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-7 (PDT)|
|GNIS feature IDs||1659596, 2411820|
Situated on the northern edge of Monterey Bay, about 32 mi (51 km) south of San Jose and 75 mi (120 km) south of San Francisco, the city is part of the 12-county San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area.
Santa Cruz is known for its moderate climate, natural environment, coastline, redwood forests, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. It is also home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a premier research institution and educational hub, as well as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an oceanfront amusement park operating continuously since 1907.
The present-day site of Santa Cruz was the location of Spanish settlement beginning in 1791, including Mission Santa Cruz and the pueblo of Branciforte. Following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, California became the 31st state in 1850. The City of Santa Cruz was incorporated in 1866 and chartered in April 1876. Important early industries included lumber, gunpowder, lime and agriculture. Late in the 19th century, Santa Cruz established itself as a beach resort community.
Prior to the arrival of Spanish soldiers, missionaries and colonists in the late 18th century, Santa Cruz County was home to the Awaswas Natives. The misnomer Ohlone, while often used to describe the native people of the Santa Cruz area, is a generalized name for the many diverse groups that lived in the region stretching from San Francisco to the Monterey Bay. The diverse and numerous tribes of this region were also earlier referred to by the Spanish as Coastanoan. The term "Ohlone" has been used in place of "Costanoan" since the 1970s by some descendant groups and by most ethnographers, historians, and writers of popular literature. Awaswa was one of the eight Costanoan languages and made up a tribe of Native Americas living in Western Santa Cruz County, stretching slightly north of Davenport to Rio Del Mar. The Awaswas tribe was made up of no more than one thousand people and their language is now extinct. The only remnants of their spoken language are three local place names: Aptos, Soquel and Zayante; and the name of a native shellfish - abalone. The majority of Ohlone or Coastanoan tribes had no written language, and lived in small villages scattered around the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay regions. Within fifty years of the Spaniards' arrival, the Ohlone or Coastanoan culture and way of life had virtually disappeared in the Bay area. Today, two of the Coastanoan tribes, the Awaswa people 'missionized' in Santa Cruz and the Mutsun people 'missionized' at San Juan Bautista, have joined together as the Amah Mutsan Tribal Band in an effort to protect and maintain the authentic and distinct cultural history and practices.
The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition led by Gaspar de Portolà, passed through the area on its way north, still searching for the "port of Monterey" described by Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. The party forded the river (probably near where the Soquel Avenue bridge now stands) and camped nearby on October 17, 1769. Franciscan missionary Juan Crespí, traveling with the expedition, noted in his diary that, "This river was named San Lorenzo." (for Saint Lawrence).
Next morning, the expedition set out again, and Crespi noted that, "Five hundred steps after we started we crossed a good arroyo of running water which descends from some high hills where it rises. It was named "El Arroyo de la Santisima Cruz, which translates literally as "The Stream of the Most Holy Cross").
In 1791, Father Fermín Lasuén continued the use of Crespi's name when he declared the establishment of La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz (also known as Mission Santa Cruz) for the conversion of the Awaswas of Chatu-Mu and surrounding Ohlone villages. Santa Cruz was the twelfth mission to be founded in California. The creek, however, later lost the name, and is known today as Laurel Creek because it parallels Laurel Street. It is the main feeder of Neary Lagoon.
In 1797, Governor Diego de Borica, by order of the Viceroy of New Spain, Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, established the Villa de Branciforte, a town named in honor of the Viceroy. One of only three civilian towns established in California during the Spanish colonial period (the other two became Los Angeles and San Jose), the Villa was located across the San Lorenzo River, less than a mile from the Mission. Its original main street is now North Branciforte Avenue. Villa de Branciforte later lost its civic status, and in 1905 the area was annexed into the City of Santa Cruz.
In the 1820s, newly independent Mexico assumed control of the area. Following the secularization of the Mission in 1834, the government attempted to rename the community that had grown up around the Mission, to Pueblo de Figueroa (after a former governor). The pueblo designation was never made official, however. The new name didn't catch on and Santa Cruz remained Santa Cruz. Mission farming and grazing lands, which once extended from the San Lorenzo River north along the coast to approximately today's Santa Cruz County border, were taken away and broken up into large land grants called ranchos. The grants were made by several different governors between 1834 and 1845 (see List of Ranchos of California).
Only two ranchos were totally within the boundaries of today's city of Santa Cruz. Rancho Potrero Y Rincon de San Pedro Regalado consisted mostly of flat, river-bottom pasture land north of Mission Hill ("potrero" translates as "pasture"). Rancho Tres Ojos de Agua was on the west side. Three other rancho boundaries later became part of the modern city limits: Rancho Refugio on the west. Rancho Carbonera on the north, and Rancho Arroyo del Rodeo on the east.
After secularization put most California land into private hands, immigrants from the United States began to arrive in steadily increasing numbers, especially in the 1840s when overland routes like the California Trail were opened. In 1848, following the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded the territory of Alta California to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California was the first portion of the territory to become a state, in 1850. Santa Cruz County was established the same year, and Santa Cruz was incorporated as a town in 1866.
The Santa Cruz mission, along with the other twenty-one Franciscan missions, was secularized within a few years after 1833. Even before secularization, the Indian population had declined, and the adobe buildings slowly began to fall apart from wet weather and lack of maintenance. The chapel tower fell in 1840 and the entire front wall was destroyed in the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake. In 1858 a "modern" church was built next door to the remaining rear portion of the chapel. That remainder was demolished in 1889, when today's Holy Cross church was built on the site, in a gothic style.
The Native Americans of Santa Cruz are known to be the Ohlone people, who occupied the area from Monterey to San Francisco. The Spanish called them "Costanos". Costanos is derived from the Spanish word costa (coast). "Ohlone" is a more recent name for the same language group. The Costanos (anglicized as "Costanoan") people spoke eight known dialects, each defining a different tribelet area. During the mission era, the number of native people in the Bay Area, including Santa Cruz, began to rapidly decrease. Many natives brought to live at the missions (neophytes) died from European diseases to which they had no resistance. As the missions closed, most of the remaining neophytes living at the missions became laborers on the ranchos that inherited the former mission lands.
The ancestors of the Costanoan people are thought to have originally migrated to the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River system sometime around A.D. 500. With the arrival of the Spanish, the Costanoan people experienced a cultural disruption. During their time with the missions the Costanoan people experienced cultural shock, mistreatment and diseases brought from Europe. In 1834, 14 years after Mexico won its independence from Spain, the twenty-one California missions were secularized. The vast lands they were supposed to be holding in trust for converted natives went instead mostly to friends and relatives of the Alta California government (including some foreign immigrants who had married into Californio families). The remaining Costanoan/Ohlone mission residents struggled to survive, and many became servants or agricultural laborers or vaqueros (cowboys). Some small communities were formed after this which promoted old ways but in different locations from their homelands.
Elihu Anthony (1818-1905) arrived in Santa Cruz, California in 1847 and opened many firsts for the city of Santa Cruz; including the first Protestant Church, the first blacksmith foundry, he built the first wharf and was the first postmaster. He developed the first commercial blocks in downtown Santa Cruz with his early blacksmith foundry located at the corner of Pacific Street and Mission Street. Anthony with Frederick A. Hihn, built the first private water supply network in the city and serving nearby communities. The establishment of railroad lines in Santa Cruz in 1876 until 1881 with the Santa Cruz Railroad, brought workers to Santa Cruz and provided market access for the city's timber, leather and limestone industries.
California Powder Works began manufacturing blasting powder for California mining when normal supplies were interrupted by the American Civil War. A powder mill built on the San Lorenzo River upstream of Santa Cruz used charcoal and powder kegs manufactured from local forests. The mill later manufactured smokeless powder used in United States Army Krag-Jørgensen rifles and guns of the United States Navy Pacific and Asiatic fleets. The mill was heavily damaged by a series of explosions on the evening of April 26, 1898. The explosions caused flaming debris to fall on Mission Hill and caused fires threatening the city. The powder works employed 150 to 275 men until operations ceased in 1914.
Santa Cruz was hard hit by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that killed three people. It was also hit by ocean surges caused by the 2011 T?hoku earthquake and tsunami, wherein the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor sustained an estimated $10 million of damage, with another $4 million of damage to docked boats there.
Founded in 1976, The Resource Center for Nonviolence is one of the oldest and most centrally located non-profit organizations committed to political and social activism in Santa Cruz County. The center is "dedicated to promoting the principles of nonviolent social change and enhancing the quality of life and human dignity". In 1998, the Santa Cruz community declared itself a Nuclear-free zone, and in 2003, the Santa Cruz City Council became the first City Council in the U.S. to denounce the Iraq War. The City Council of Santa Cruz also issued a proclamation opposing the USA PATRIOT Act.
As a center of liberal and progressive activism, Santa Cruz became one of the first cities to approve marijuana for medicinal uses. In 1992, residents overwhelmingly approved Measure A, which allowed for the medicinal uses of marijuana. Santa Cruz was home to the second above-ground medical marijuana club in the world when the Santa Cruz Cannabis Buyers Club opened its doors in April 1995. Santa Cruz also became one of the first cities in California to test the state's medical marijuana laws in court after the arrest of Valerie Corral and Mike Corral, founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, by the DEA. The case was ruled in favor of the growers. In 2005, the Santa Cruz City Council established a city government office to assist residents with obtaining medical marijuana. On November 7, 2006, the voters of Santa Cruz passed Measure K by a vote of 64-36 percent. Measure K made adult non-medical cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement; this does not apply to cultivation, distribution, sale in public, sale to minors, or driving under the influence. The measure requests the Santa Cruz city clerk send letters annually to state and federal representatives advocating reform of cannabis laws.
Notable feminist activists Nikki Craft and Ann Simonton resided in Santa Cruz, where they formed the "Praying Mantis Brigade". This collection of activists organized the "Myth California Pageant" in the 1980s protesting "the objectification of women and the glorification of the beauty myth." Myth California was staged concurrently with the Miss California pageant held in Santa Cruz since the 1920s. The protests ran for nine years and eventually contributed to the Miss California pageant leaving Santa Cruz. Simonton founded and coordinates the non-profit group "Media Watch" which monitors and critiques media images of women and ethnic minorities. Beginning in 1983 Santa Cruz has hosted an annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil, rally, march, and protest focusing on the issue of violence against women.
Riots occurred on May 1, 2010, sparked when leftist extremists threw jugs of paint at police cars and painted anarchist symbols and anti-capitalist phrases onto buildings. Property damages are estimated to top roughly $100,000. Prior to the riot, a May Day rally was being held for worker and immigrant rights. According to police, the rally was infiltrated by a local anarchists group, who used the rally as a cover for attacking corporate premises. The riots started when the protesters started vandalizing nearby buildings; by 10:30 pm, approximately, a dozen buildings were already vandalized. It then intensified when a group of about ten people began breaking storefront windows at approximately 11:05 pm. Several police officers were stationed downtown, but retreated after protesters threw stones at their vehicles. After calling in backup resources from around the county, law enforcement reached the riots at 11:23 pm, over 45 minutes after it began, due to a large number of phony 911 calls, which diverted the police force all around the county.
Occupy Santa Cruz formed as an autonomous organization in solidarity with the worldwide Occupy movement, a broad-based protest against perceived economic and social inequality. Occupy Santa Cruz was most active in the fall of 2011, and included over a thousand active members at its peak. The organization gained most of its publicity when members entered an empty bank building owned by Wells Fargo. and occupied the building for 72 hours. 11 criminal charges were filed, at least seven of which have since been dropped.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city covers an area of 15.8 square miles (41 km2), of which 12.7 square miles (33 km2) is land, and 3.1 square miles (8.0 km2) (19.51%) is water.
|Santa Cruz, California|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Santa Cruz has mild weather throughout the year, experiencing a warm-summer mediterranean climate characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, mostly dry summers. Due to its proximity to Monterey Bay, fog and low overcast are common during the night and morning hours, especially in the summer. Santa Cruz frequently experiences an Indian summer, with the year's warmest temperatures often occurring in the autumn.
|Climate data for Santa Cruz, California (1981-2010 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||83
|Average high °F (°C)||60.6
|Daily mean °F (°C)||49.6
|Average low °F (°C)||40.8
|Record low °F (°C)||15
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||6.40
|Average precipitation days||10.6||10.9||10.0||5.9||3.3||1.3||0.3||0.7||1.5||3.5||7.5||10.7||66.2|
|Source #1: NOAA|
|Source #2: Weatherbase|
The principal industries of Santa Cruz are agriculture, tourism, education (UC Santa Cruz) and high technology. Santa Cruz is a center of the organic agriculture movement, and many specialty products as well as housing the headquarters of California Certified Organic Farmers. Tourist attractions include the classic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the beach, the redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains above the town, and Monterey Bay, which is protected as a marine sanctuary.
As of 2014, the top employers in the city were:
|#||Employer||# of Employees|
|1||University of California at Santa Cruz||7,693|
|2||County of Santa Cruz||2,351|
|3||City of Santa Cruz||776|
|5||Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk||347|
|8||Threshold Enterprises, LTD||213|
Recorded from the census of 2000, there were 54,593 people total with 20,442 households and 10,404 families residing in the city. The population density includes 1,682.2/km² (4,356.0/sq mi). There were 21,504 housing units at an average density of 1,715.8 per square mile (662.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.7% White, 17.4% Hispanic or Latino, 1.7% African American, 0.9% Native American, 4.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 9.1% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races.
There were 20,442 households out of which 25.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.0% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.1% were non-families. 29.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 17.3% under the age of 18, 20.5% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 8.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.9 males age 18 and over.
The median income for a household in the city was $50,605, and the median income for a family was $62,231 (these figures had risen to $59,172 and $80,496 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $44,751 versus $32,699 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,758. About 6.6% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.5% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Santa Cruz had a population of 59,946. The population density was 3,787.2 people per square mile (1,462.3/km²). The racial makeup of Santa Cruz was 44,661 (74.5%) White, 1,071 (1.8%) African American, 440 (0.7%) Native American, 4,591 (7.7%) Asian, 108 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 5,673 (9.5%) from other races, and 3,402 (5.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,624 persons (19.4%).
The Census reported that 51,657 people (86.2% of the population) lived in households, 7,910 (13.2%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 379 (0.6%) were institutionalized.
There were 21,657 households, out of which 4,817 (22.2%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 7,310 (33.8%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,833 (8.5%) had a female householder with no husband present, 862 (4.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,802 (8.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 379 (1.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 6,773 households (31.3%) were made up of individuals and 1,862 (8.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39. There were 10,005 families (46.2% of all households); the average family size was 2.92.
The age distribution of the population shows 8,196 people (13.7%) under the age of 18, 17,449 people (29.1%) aged 18 to 24, 15,033 people (25.1%) aged 25 to 44, 13,983 people (23.3%) aged 45 to 64, and 5,285 people (8.8%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29.9 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.7 males.
There were 23,316 housing units at an average density of 1,473.0 per square mile (568.7/km²), of which 9,375 (43.3%) were owner-occupied, and 12,282 (56.7%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.4%. 22,861 people (38.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 28,796 people (48.0%) lived in rental housing units. The median price of a home being $640,000 as of April 2013.
Santa Cruz consistently suffers the highest property crime rates per capita for medium and large-sized cities in the state of California, in addition to some of the highest violent crime rates in the state of California for medium and large-sized cities. Additionally, Santa Cruz suffers some of the highest rates of homelessness in the US, with 9,041 estimated homeless in Santa Cruz county in 2011, approximately 3.5% of the total county population. with over 52% of homeless experiencing some form of mental illness, including clinical depression or PTSD and over 26% suffering unspecified mental illness. Additionally, 38% of homeless surveyed in Santa Cruz county in 2011 experienced drug and/or alcohol dependency. In recent years, citizen groups such as Take Back Santa Cruz, established in 2009, have lobbied city government and officials to address this public safety crisis that has gathered national attention.
In 1973, with the discovery of four bodies in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, then District Attorney Peter Chang mumbled a comment about "Murderville, USA." It was picked up by a reporter and went to wire service as "Murder Capital of the World."
In the United States House of Representatives, Santa Cruz is split between California's 18th congressional district, represented by Democrat Anna Eshoo, and California's 20th congressional district, represented by Democrat Jimmy Panetta.
Santa Cruz has five sister cities in other nations, cities chosen to strengthen international connections. A volunteer committee of citizens organizes cultural exchange opportunities, humanitarian projects, and commercial ties between Santa Cruz and its sister cities.
State Routes 1 and 17 are the main roads in and out of Santa Cruz, with the latter being the primary route north to San Jose and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area. Geographically constrained between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay, the narrow transportation corridor served by SR 1, California's Pacific Coast Highway, suffers excessive congestion. The ramp from SR 1 northbound to SR 17 southbound, onto Ocean Street, is commonly known as the "fish hook" due to its tightening curve. A project to widen the highway and this interchange was begun in 2006 and completed in the fall of 2008.
Amtrak serves Santa Cruz via Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach from rail connections at Amtrak San Jose Diridon Train Station operated by the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District by way of a partnership with the Amtrak, Capitol Corridor, and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Other rail connections such as Altamont Corridor Express and Caltrain are also available at Amtrak's San Jose passenger station.
Greyhound Lines bus service is another, albeit less commonly used, option for visiting Santa Cruz.
The nearest airports served by major commercial airlines are San Jose International Airport, Monterey Regional Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Oakland International Airport. The nearest public airport of any kind is Watsonville Municipal Airport, about eight miles to the southeast, which serves general aviation users.
Santa Cruz has an extensive network of bike lanes and bike paths. Most major roads have bike lanes, and wide bike lanes were recently installed on Beach Street, near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Additionally, there are levee bike paths along the San Lorenzo River. A Rail Trail - a bicycle and pedestrian path beside an existing coastal train track--is under consideration.
The Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway operates diesel-electric tourist trains between the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp in Felton, through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, with its famous Redwood Grove walking trail.
Santa Cruz is home to several notable educational institutions, including Soquel High School, Aptos High School, Harbor High School, Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School (a grade 6-12 private school), Pacific Collegiate School (a grade 7-12 charter school), Cypress Charter High School, Santa Cruz Montessori (an 18 months to 15 years private school) Monterey Coast Preparatory (also a 6-12 private school), Santa Cruz High School, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College, (which is located in nearby Aptos and holds some classes within Santa Cruz city), and Five Branches University.
The Long Marine Laboratory is a marine research facility on the western edge of the city.
By the 1860s, Pacific Avenue had become the main street of downtown Santa Cruz, and remains so today. Local architect Kermit Darrow and landscape architect Roy Rydell were engaged in 1969 to convert several blocks of Pacific Avenue into a semi-pedestrian street named the Pacific Garden Mall. The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 destroyed nearly all of the 19th-century buildings in the downtown area. After the earthquake, the Pacific Garden Mall theme was eliminated, and an updated downtown design plan by ROMA Design Group was implemented. As of 2016, only one empty lot remains on Pacific Avenue from the destruction of the 1989 earthquake.
Downtown Santa Cruz houses a variety of storefronts and businesses. It is also stage to many street performers, musicians, and artists, oftentimes creating the presence of background music and miscellaneous street side entertainment when visiting downtown. Consequently, Pacific Avenue serves as an outlet for the artistic and unique culture that Santa Cruz possesses.
Santa Cruz is home to several state parks and beaches, including Lighthouse Field State Beach, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, Twin Lakes State Beach, and Seabright State Beach.
Pogonip Open Space is located adjacent to the University of California, Santa Cruz. It includes second-growth oak and redwood forest, meadows and several streams, and is crossed by several hiking trails. Pogonip was the name of the former country club there, which once had a golf course and polo field. The name Pogonip was derived from a combination of "polo", "golf" and the alcoholic "nip" that sometimes followed or accompanied those pursuits.
Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve is a marine protected area off the coast at the northern edge of Santa Cruz. Like underwater parks, marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems. Most of the rest of the coastline of Santa Cruz lies adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Santa Cruz is well known for watersports such as sailing, diving, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, paddling, and is regarded as one of the best spots in the world for surfing. It is the home of O'Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards, as well as Santa Cruz Skateboards and Santa Cruz Bicycles. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California's oldest amusement park and a designated State Historic Landmark. It is family-operated, and celebrated its Centennial in 2007. It is home to the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster, which is currently the fifth oldest coaster in the United States. Home to a National Historic Landmark, a 1911 Charles I. D. Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster, the Boardwalk has been owned and operated by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company since 1915.
In one of the first published descriptions of surfing in California, three Hawaiian princes, Prince David Kaw?nanakoa, Prince Edward Abnel Keli?iahonui and Prince Jonah Kalanianaʻole, surfed on locally milled redwood boards at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River in July 1885. Santa Cruz has 11 world-class surf breaks, including the point breaks over rock bottoms near Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, which create some of the best surfing waves in the world. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at Steamer Lane is staffed by docents from the Santa Cruz Surfing Club who have surfed Santa Cruz waves since the 1930s. Santa Cruz hosts several surf contests drawing international participants each year, including the O'Neill Cold Water Classic, the International Longboard Association contest, and many others.
The Santa Cruz Wharf is known for fishing, viewing marine mammals and other recreation. Local parks offer many opportunities for birding and butterfly watching, as well as outdoor sports such as skateboarding, cycling, camping, hiking, and rock climbing. The Santa Cruz Skatepark is open to the public 7 days a week and is free. In addition to its reputation in surfing and skateboarding, Santa Cruz is known for other sports such as disc ultimate and disc golf. The De Laveaga Disc Golf Course designed by hall of fame and local disc sports promoter Tom Schot, hosts PDGA tournaments, including the annual Masters Cup. De Laveaga was the disc golf and discathon venue for the WFDF-sanctioned World Disc Games overall event held in Santa Cruz in July 2005.
In recent years, Santa Cruz has become home to several minor-league and amateur sports teams. The Santa Cruz Warriors (an NBA G League team), and Santa Cruz Derby Girls (an amateur roller derby league) regularly play games in the Kaiser Permanente Arena.
Santa Cruz has a number of cultural institutions and other attractions, including the University of California, Santa Cruz, Arboretum; Mission Santa Cruz; the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History; the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History; the Santa Cruz Art League (which includes an art gallery, theater, and classroom); the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (housed in a lighthouse near Steamer Lane); and the Tannery Arts Center.
The Monterey-Salinas metropolitan statistical (or service) area (MSA) is served by a variety of local television stations, and is the 124th largest designated market area (DMA) in the U.S. with 222,900 homes:
Due to its close proximity to San Jose, the city also routinely receives coverage in the San Francisco media market.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel is Santa Cruz's only daily newspaper. The area is also served by the weekly newspaper Good Times, bought in 2014 by the owners of its competitor Santa Cruz Weekly, who then merged the two, continuing one paper under the Good Times name, and the legal paper Santa Cruz Record. University of California has its own publication, City on a Hill Press, and an alternative humor publication, Fish Rap Live!. There is also an online newspaper called Santa Cruz Wire.
After Huntington Beach, California, trademarked the "Surf City USA" name, Santa Cruz politicians tried to stop the mark from being registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of a 10-year-old controversy over Santa Cruz's nickname "Surf City." Huntington Beach has obtained a total of seven registrations for the "Surf City USA" trademark. None of these registrations of the trademark are on the principal register, but on the secondary register, which means that Huntington Beach has no exclusive right to assert ownership over the "Surf City USA" trademark. Two Santa Cruz surf shops, Shoreline Surf Shop and Noland's on the Wharf, sued the city of Huntington Beach in order to protect the public use of the term "Surf City." The parties reached a confidential settlement in January 2008, in which neither side admitted liability and all claims and counterclaims were dismissed. The Santa Cruz surf shops continue to print T-shirts, and the Visitor's Bureau retains the right to use the trademark. In 2009 Steve Marble, of Los Angeles Times' L.A. Now news blog, wrote an article The real Surf City? It's Santa Cruz, says magazine saying: "But Surfer magazine proclaims Santa Cruz to be 'The Real Surf City, USA,' after it considered the surf, food and vibe of the nations' best known surf towns." Steve Marble quotes Surfer: "Huntington Beach may have won the right to the name 'Surf City, USA' in the California courts, but any surfer who's ever paddled out at Steamer Lane knows the judge got it wrong."
David Terrazas is the new mayor of Santa Cruz as of this month.