.Explore Santa Cruz 2021: A Guide to Santa Cruz Arts and Entertainment

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.

Cabrillo Stage 

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. 

secure document shredding

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. 

Motion Pacific 

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.

Felix Kulpa

107 Elm St., Santa Cruz, 408-373-2854

Specializing in offbeat, sometimes quirky but always inventive, art shows. 

First Friday

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.

MichaelAngelo Gallery  

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.

Shen’s Gallery  

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. 

Britannia Arms 

110 Monterey Ave., Capitola, 831-464-2583  

This authentic British pub offers a taste of Dear Old Blighty. Imported beer plus a full menu.  

Callahan’s Pub

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.

The Catalyst

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. 

Henflings Tavern

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.

Kuumbwa Jazz 

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. 

Moe’s Alley 

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,

831-708-2036, parishpublickhouse.com  

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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

music in the park san jose
Good Times E-edition Good Times E-edition