Parking in Santa Cruz can get a bit hairy, especially during festival time. So, we’ve put together a Parking Guide for you to easily find a spot to place your wheels. Most of the lots, and all of the garages, are pay-to-park so make sure you have plenty of change, bills or–in some cases–your credit card ready. And be sure to keep track of your time to avoid any unseemly parking tickets because the Santa Cruz Parking Enforcement officers are quick and efficient. Each lot is conveniently located near one of our SCMF venues so no matter where you park, there you are!
Buses – Trains – Airports
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Santa Cruz Metro Bus
Located in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, the Metro Bus Station has multiple routes traveling throughout Santa Cruz County. If you’re traveling from San Jose, the Highway 17 bus conveniently runs on the hour over the highway.
Santa Cruz Metro – Transportation from Watsonville, Aptos, Capitola, Scotts Valley, and surrounding areas. Connections to San Jose, Monterey, and San Francisco through HWY 17 Express.
GreyHound also runs into the heart of the Santa Cruz Metro and is always a great way to relieve yourself of the responsibilities of traveling!
Greyhound – The closest Greyhound Station is in Downtown Santa Cruz (0 Miles from festival site).
If traveling by Amtrak or Caltrain, buy a ticket for Diridon Station in San Jose, then take the Highway 17 bus to the downtown Santa Cruz Metro Station.
Amtrak to Santa Cruz, California
Amtrak – The closest Amtrak rail station is in San Jose (32.5 miles from festival site) with Amtrak bus service to Santa Cruz.
We have no problem claiming Santa Cruz is one of the prettiest places in California, possibly on the entire West Coast. Located at the north end of the Monterey Bay, we have miles and miles of sandy beaches, turquoise waves, and majestic marine life. We highly suggest you take some time out of your festival weekend to explore the beauty that is the Central Coast.
If you want to stick around town, we suggest hanging out on West Cliff Drive at Lighthouse Field State Beach where you can lounge about while people practice yoga, walk their dogs and enjoy the view of the ocean and the Boardwalk. You might even see a fire dancer or two at night!
Further down West Cliff Drive lies Natural Bridges State Beach and Nature Reserve. Calm and serene, Natural Bridges is the perfect place to unwind at night while watching the stars or walk around the Nature Reserve during the day. Trust us, there’s a reason why monarch butterflies migrate here every fall.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
Twin Lakes State Beach
Located along East Cliff Drive, Twin Lakes State Beach is another great place to kickback, although it’s a bit of a walk from downtown. What makes this beach so great are all the built-in fire pits perfect for cooking up some grub with the crew after a day and night of raging. Just remember, alcohol and glass bottles are not permitted but they have plenty of recycling cans so please keep our beaches as beautiful as can be!
Seabright State Beach
Only a half-hour (roughly 21 miles) north of Santa Cruz lies Ano Nuevo State Park and Natural Reserve. Originally inhabited by the Quiroste Ohlone tribe, Ano Nuevo housed the largest population of elephant seals in the state for over a century. While population declined throughout the mid-20th century, numbers have been on the rebound. Between December and March visitors can see the seals lounging about on the beaches so make sure you bring binoculars!
Founded 109 years ago in 1907, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park. Located directly along the Santa Cruz Coast and Cowell’s Beach, the Boardwalk has become an icon for Santa Cruz. Enjoy the massive arcade or if adrenaline is what you seek, take a ride on the Giant Dipper, Cyclone or one of the other awesome rides that await. And don’t forget to scarf down on some of Santa Cruz’s own, Marini’s Candy, in-between the deep friend oreos, funnel cake and corn dogs! Finish your experience with a relaxing lay in the sand while the ocean gently ebbs and flows.
Located next to the Boardwalk is the Santa Cruz Wharf, home of the Stagnaro Brother’s restaurant and their outdoor fish market. Founded in 1937, it’s the West Coast’s largest outdoor fish market. Walk along the pier to see fishers casting their luck and you’ll most likely find a colony of sea lions lounging about the pillars.
Located in the heart of the pristine Santa Cruz Redwood Forest, the University of Santa Cruz California is the perfect place to enjoy and explore. Opened to the public and visitors during the daytime, UCSC is home to tons of hiking and biking trails, beautiful scenery, progressive ideas and coveted local spots. Walk or bike from Upper Campus through the redwoods to the coast of Walker Ranch, or try your luck at discovering Tree 9 where students and Santa Cruz locals go to leave thoughts, prayers and hopes while climbing the canopy for a view of the entire Santa Cruz Bay. Or if intellectualism is more your thing, check out to see who is speaking at the University as many philosophers, economists, and sociologists frequently lecture here, often open to the public. Stop by the Bay Tree Bookstore for a plethora of books, novels and guides about national politics, sociology and the human condition. Don’t forget to check out the local author section to see what Santa Cruzans have to say!
The entry of the campus is also home to the UCSC Arboretum which houses over 300 families of plants. Along with a great place to walk around, relax and enjoy the beauty of Nature, the Arboretum serves as a research and teaching facility so you might just stumble upon a lecture of class for some great information about the California ecology.
For over 100 years people have discovered the wonders of Nature through the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. Founded by naturalist Laura Hecox, the collection features many of her personal finds and artifacts from around Santa Cruz and greater Bay Area. This pioneering woman’s vision has preserved through history providing modern day adventurers and knowledge seekers to have a better understanding of our ecosystem and why it is so important to preserve. Plus, it’s pretty cool to learn about all the rare species the California coast provides a home for. Admission is only $4 for adults, $2 for students (with valid student I.D.) and free for anyone under 18 years old proving education doesn’t have to be expensive.
Located in Downtown Santa Cruz near the heart of SCMF, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (or MAH as us locs call it) is a gem in our town. From the art of Burning Man to the legacy of Santa Cruz Skateboard artist, Jim Phillips, each month they curate different exhibits to highlight Santa Cruz, the greater Bay Area, and all art beyond.
There are over 49 hotels located throughout the beauty of Santa Cruz City. However, some are located closer to the downtown, Pacific Avenue area where the festival will be held. Finding the right one for you can greatly improve your SCMF experience by cutting down on transportation costs and time. Make sure you book your hotel room as soon as possible because we cannot guarantee there will be available the week of Santa Cruz Music Fest.
Top rated hotels on Hotels.com in the Santa Cruz Area are: