This guide is part of Explore Santa Cruz 2021.
Art League Broadway Playhouse
526 Broadway St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-5787, scal.org
There’s an impressive art gallery on one end and a small black-box theater on the other. Overall, it manages to deliver some wonderful artistic splendor on both sides from creative locals.
6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-479-6154, cabrillostage.com
A live orchestra with high quality sets and production values enhance the performances of this acclaimed musical theater.
Henry J. Mello Center
215 E. Beach St., Watsonville, 831-763-4047, mellocenter.org
The lavish setting of South County’s premier performing arts center features a luxurious stage where concerts and performances are presented, including the Santa Cruz Symphony’s full season. (Each symphony performance is also at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.)
Jewel Theatre Company
1010 River St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-7506, jeweltheatre.net
JTC performs at the Colligan Theater, located in the Tannery’s former hide house. The highly respected company produces an eclectic season each year that includes drama, comedy and one musical.
Louden Nelson Community Center
301 Center St., Santa Cruz, 831-420-6177
The famed local center often attracts quirky and diverse offerings on the theater front, but take note of its other events—everything from senior yoga to dance. The hallway doubles as an art gallery.
131 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-457-1616, motionpacific.com
Dance culture in Santa Cruz County is mushrooming and evolving, and Motion Pacific is an important hub of education and performance. Take a class or catch a show, from burlesque to hip-hop.
Mountain Community Theater
9400 Mill St., Ben Lomond, 831-336-4777, mctshows.org
Still thriving in its third decade, MCT produces several ambitious shows a year, thanks to an engaged community’s support in the charming mountain town of Ben Lomond.
Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre
Known for productions of contemporary, cutting-edge plays along with new plays, this group produced one of the first short play festivals in the country: the renowned 8 Tens @ 8, which celebrated 25 years in 2020.
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
307 Church St., Santa Cruz, 831-420-5240
The renowned Civic has hosted festivals, symphony concerts and an abundance of famous artists, including Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles. Call or check local listings for events.
Santa Cruz Shakespeare
501 Upper Park Rd., Santa Cruz, 831-460-6399, santacruzshakespeare.org
The nationally recognized Santa Cruz Shakespeare has a new home after many years on the UCSC campus. Set in an outdoor forest theater in DeLaveaga Park, the Audrey Stanley Grove promises to host the same top-quality performances that have made this theater company beloved.
Tandy Beal & Company
They put on original shows spanning dance, theatre, circus and music.
Artisans and Agency
1368 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-8183, artisanssantacruz.com
This showcase for local talent offers a slice of everything, from woodwork and ceramics to jewelry, prints and glass art.
107 Elm St., Santa Cruz, 408-373-2854
Specializing in offbeat, sometimes quirky but always inventive, art shows.
Multiple locations, firstfridaysantacruz.com
Galleries and pop-up galleries countywide are at their most festive on the evening of the first Friday of every month, when dozens of venues display, for your pleasure, the unique visual feast that is the Santa Cruz arts scene.
Lille Aeske Arthouse
13160 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek, 831-703-4183, lilleaeske.com
Art gallery, intimate performance venue, community gathering site and space-for-hire in the San Lorenzo Valley.
Made in Santa Cruz
57 Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, 831-426-2257, madeinsantacruz.com
Expect a large selection of original paintings, blown glass, ceramics, and sculptures from local artists.
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
Porter College, UCSC, 831-459-3606
A wide variety of art covering all genres. Closed on university holidays and during summer.
1111 River St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-5500, michaelangelogallery.net
Located across the street from the Tannery Arts Center, MichaelAngelo offers everything from art openings to fundraisers.
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
705 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-429-1964, santacruzmah.org
In addition to its ongoing exhibits and special events, the museum hosts interactive events.
R. Blitzer Gallery
2801 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-458-1217, rblitzergallery.com
Renovated warehouse gallery on the Westside that features local and regional artists.
Santa Cruz Art League
526 Broadway St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-5787, scal.org
A charming creative hub and hotbed of activity, especially in October, when the annual Open Studios tour is underway.
2404 Mission St., Santa Cruz 831-457-4424, shensgallery.com
A huge selection of Chinese antiques not easily found elsewhere. Offers local delivery and worldwide shipping.
Tannery Arts Center
1010 River St., Santa Cruz, 831-621-6226, tanneryartscenter.org
This live-work arts campus is the home of many arts events, galleries, two dance studios, live theater space, a cafe/bar, and more. Check the website for a calendar.
Open Studios Santa Cruz County
The Open Studios Art Tour offers an opportunity to explore creativity throughout Santa Cruz County, connecting art lovers with local artists during the first three weeks of October every year.
515 Kitchen & Cocktails
515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-5051, 515santacruz.com
Often voted one of the best places to indulge in a signature cocktail, the popular hangout in downtown Santa Cruz offers a wide variety of inspired cocktails and a drink menu that changes regularly. Take note of the impressive Mediterranean food menu, too. A fantastic enclave for both students and professionals, 515 has it all.
Aptos St. BBQ
8059 Aptos St., Aptos, 831-662-1721, aptosstbbq.com
You can swing by Aptos St. BBQ for its succulent ribs, sausages, sandwiches, and vast selection of beer.
The Blue Lagoon
923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-7117, thebluelagoon.com
Dark, moody and with great drink specials, the Blue is infamous for its low-priced, epic punk and metal shows.
Brady’s Yacht Club
413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-425-9854
The second living room for many Seabright residents, Brady’s is a perfect place to throw back a pint after work.
110 Monterey Ave., Capitola, 831-464-2583
This authentic British pub offers a taste of Dear Old Blighty. Imported beer plus a full menu.
507 Water St., Santa Cruz, 831-427-3119
Everything you want from a neighborhood bar. Come in for a quick drink or stay a while to watch a game, play some pool and enjoy the friendly bartenders serving 15 beers on tap. Plenty of parking!
3623 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-465-8200, thecastawaysbar.com
A great neighborhood bar—festive, sporty, fun. This is a just-be-yourself-and-hang place. Good service and nice interior lounging options.
1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-429-4135, catalystclub.com
Santa Cruz’s landmark nightclub and social hub features live music on its main stage and atrium, plus pool tables and a bar upstairs.
The Crepe Place
1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-429-6994, thecrepeplace.com
Often overflowing, this is a locale to find touring up-and-coming indie bands. Doubling as a restaurant and a music venue, the Crepe Place houses an eclectic blend of concerts in a comfortable, intimate setting, plus late night dining.
The Crow’s Nest
2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com
Offers a wide variety of live entertainment and dancing in the upstairs lounge. Add that to the full bar with ocean views and some appetizers from the Breakwater Grill, and you’ve got a classic night out in Santa Cruz. Full restaurant downstairs.
Felton Music Hall
6275 Hwy. 9, Felton, 510-350-8896, feltonmusichall.com
Nestled in bucolic downtown Felton, this live music venue will showcase local talent and touring musicians, as well as fresh craft food and drinks.
9450 Hwy. 9, Ben Lomond, 831-336-9318, henflingsbar.com
This mountain bar and grill offers some of the county’s best in free rock music several nights a week. Plus, it has one of the county’s more colorful open mics.
320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 427-2227, kuumbwajazz.org
The nonprofit Kuumbwa attracts legendary jazz icons in addition to world and local music. Food and drink are available.
Michael’s on Main
2591 S Main St., Soquel, 831-479-9777, michaelsonmain.net
This is a good place to hear some fun tunes while you enjoy their famous comfort food and visit their new taproom.
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, 831-479-1854, moesalley.com
Offering a dependably diverse and talented lineup each week—with blues, funk and Afro-Latin beats often stirring up the dance floor. A great bar, heated patio and music attract all age groups.
1209 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-429-8070, motivsc.com
Motiv has racked up a number of awards over the years, including Best Dance Club, Best DJ and Best Bartender. It is no wonder some call it the best party in town.
The Parish Publick House
841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-421-0507; 8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos,
Rotating taps, full bar, delicious pub fare, full-on atmosphere. The Aptos location has patio seating.
The Rio Theatre
1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-8209, riotheatre.com
This classy and streamlined setting draws big names of all genres from around the world. It offers a dance floor as well as plush, comfortable seating.
The Red/The Red Room
200 Locust St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-1913
One of the town’s best hotspots. The upstairs Red boasts a memorable menu—a great dinner lounge. The street-level Red Room is a funky throwback bar, completely original and distinct.
Zelda’s on the Beach
203 Esplanade, Capitola, 831-475-4900, zeldasonthebeach.com
Just a seashell’s throw from the ocean waves, Zelda’s is not the biggest bar in town, but it does pull in some of Santa Cruz’s top-notch talent for concerts.