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Santa Cruz Girls' Getaway!

This May is the perfect time to gather your girls—moms, sisters, friends and daughters—pack a bag and load into the car for some good, old-fashioned road trip fun. Sure, you can fly in just over an hour, but tack on travel time to and from the airport and all that goes with flying and it’s easy to see why driving this 350-some-mile stretch to Santa Cruz is the way to go. For a weekend getaway or longer stay that’s not so far away, making the 5-hour journey to Santa Cruz is, as they say, half the fun!

Leave early and catch the sunrise over the ocean as you wind your way on Highway 101 up the coast toward Santa Barbara. Take the San Marcos Pass exit, Highway 154, through the mountains for picturesque views of Cachuma Lake while shaving off some road time too.

An easy cruise through Santa Maria brings you to Pismo Beach, where the cerulean beauty of Avila Bay beckons you to explore this gem of an area. Home to Sycamore Mineral Hot Springs Resort, Avila Bay offers a great stopping point to stretch your legs, empty your bladder and--depending on how much of a hurry you’re in--soak your body in the steaming hot mineral springs (private hillside tubs are available by the hour to rent). If lunch is on the menu, consider noshing at the iconic Madonna Inn, just up the road in San Luis Obispo. You can’t miss this pink landmark, conveniently located at the halfway point to your destination. If you’ve timed it right to avoid traffic (check Waze for current conditions), in just over 2 hours, you’ll arrive in the colorful city of Santa Cruz, where the redwoods meet the sea.

Spanish for "Holy Cross," Santa Cruz is on the northern edge of Monterey Bay and is truly one of the most unique beach towns. From the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and awe-inspiring redwood forests to the diverse variety of shops and restaurants downtown, you’ll want more than a weekend to explore.

Stay

With vacation rentals, campgrounds and hotels of all stars galore, finding accommodations is a breeze—just be sure to plan in advance as this popular seaside town swells with visitors for special events and sunny spring and summer weekends. For the ultimate in luxury combined with onsite spa perks, Chaminade Resort & Spa (Chaminade.com) offers a peaceful place to rest your head and rejuvenate your soul while you’re at it!Located on 300 wooded acres with views of Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains, Chaminade welcomes guests to enjoy lounging and relaxing amidst lush green landscaping, hike Redwood-lined trails and indulge in a massage at the full-service spa. An extra bonus is the resort’s seasonal Vine to View Dinner Series featuring five-course meals with wine pairings from local wineries in an idyllic setting. This month’s dinner featuring Silver Mountain Vineyards takes place May 12.

Eat

Foodies will delight at the huge range of dining options, including grab and go, local breweries, sit-down restaurants and everything in between! Among the local secrets is Lillian’s Italian Kitchen (lilliansitaliankitchen.com), where the casual ambiance belies the gourmet meals served at this popular eatery—try the truffle-stuffed gnocchi in Gorgonzola cream sauce for a taste of heaven!

Hula’s Island Grill (HulasTiki.com) brings island style fresh fare to town—ahi poke, Hawaiian ceviche and an array of fresh fish like Macadamia Nut Encrusted Mahi Mahi and Wasabi Blackened Ahi—plus fruity drinks and a full bar!

For savory and sweet scones and fresh coffee, visit Café Delmarette, located downtown, where you’ll also find an array of dining establishments, including the much-loved Pizza My Heart.

Explore

Downtown Santa Cruz offers hours of shopping, from clothes and gifts, to books, gems, art and so much more. Be sure to savor the area’s natural beauty by visiting one of its plentiful beaches and natural landmarks.

Natural Bridges State Beach is located at the end of the windy oceanfront Cliff Drive and features a natural bridge, easy hikes and picnic tables. The park becomes home to thousands of monarch butterflies that migrate to the area from October through early February.

Visit the classic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for roller coaster (and less adventurous) rides, arcade games, shops and seasonal entertainment—check out the schedule at Roaring Camp Railroads (RoaringCamp.com), which regularly offers rides through the Redwoods to the beach Boardwalk.

Add to your adventures by taking a beautiful drive through the forest to The Mystery Spot (MysterySpot.com), a gravitational anomaly that defies the laws of physics and gravity and adds to the allure of this beach town treasure!

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