Santa Cruz is the biggest city and the seat of Santa Cruz County in California. It covers an area of fifteen square miles and has a population of fifty-six thousand residents. It is situated about seventy-two miles south of the city of San Francisco on Monterey Bay’s northern edge. This city can trace its history back to the mid-eighteenth century when a Spanish explorer named Gaspar de Portola accidently discovered the area while trying to navigate to Monterey. He went on to name the river San Lorenzo (meaning St. Lawrence) and he called the area Santa Cruz, a name which means holy cross. By the end of the eighteenth century, Father Fermín Lasuen established a mission in the area to convert the Awaswas of Chatu-Mu to Christianity. By the 1820s, the area had fallen into the hands of the Mexican government and over the next two decades, the area received a steady influx of American immigrants. After the Mexican American War, Mexico ceded California to the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1850, California became a state. Sixteen years later, in 1866, Santa Cruz was incorporated as a city.
Today, Santa Cruz is a progressive city whose principal economic activities center around technology, education, agriculture and tourism. The city contains many key educational facilities which include Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School, Pacific Collegiate School, Santa Cruz High School, University of California at Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. Santa Cruz is also home to many key tourist attractions. A popular attraction in the city is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an amusement park that has been owned and operated by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company since 1915. This boardwalk runs along the coast of Monterey Bay to the opening of the San Lorenzo River. At its western edge is a building which contains indoor miniature golf, a video arcade, laser tag arena and a banquet room called the Coconut Grove. Its eastern end contains a Giant Dipper roller coaster, Hurricane, Sea Serpent, the Dipper and the Loof Carousel. The Carousel contains a three hundred and forty-two pipe organ that was constructed in 1894. Throughout the boardwalk are old time carnival games and food vendors.
Another popular attraction is the University of California at Santa Cruz Arboretum. This arboretum was originally a part of the property of Henry Cowell. It started in 1964 and contained over ninety different species of eucalyptus. As time passed, it added to its collection and now contains many different types of South African proteas, conifers and Australian foliage. Key exhibits of the arboretum include Australian Garden, California Garden, South African Garden, Edward D. Landels New Zealand Garden, Eucalyptus Grove, Primitive Flowering Plants, Aroma Garden, Rare Fruit Exhibit, Laurasian Forest, Cactus & Succulent Garden and the South American Garden. The Australian Garden contains two thousand species of Australian plants, which is considered to be the largest collection outside of the Australian continent. It has eucalyptus, callistemon, leptospermum, banksias, waratah, grevilleas and melaleuca. The California Garden contains redwood trees, ponderosa pines, Santa Cruz Cypress, oaks, Santa Lucia fir, California Bays, Douglas Firs, cottonwoods, willows and buckeyes. Other plants located here include Carpenteria californica, Trichostema lanatum, Eriogonum, Malacothamnus fasciculatus, Berberis pinnata, Fremontodendron and Dendromecon. The South African Garden contains Leucadendron argenteum, Cape heaths and Leucospermum. The Mission Santa Cruz is a popular attraction, as well as being a historic landmark. This mission was founded in 1791 on the flood plain of the San Lorenzo River. When the winter rains hit the area, the mission was severely flooded and the priests started to rebuild the mission on a hill over the river. In 1793, the mission was attacked by the Quirosto tribe and burned. In 1857, the mission was completely destroyed by an earthquake that ravaged the area. The following year, a wood church was erected on the original mission property. In 1889, a Gothic church was built on the site.
Another fine attraction in the city is the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. This museum was founded in 1905 and is located in Carnegie Library. In this museum are over sixteen thousand artifacts available for visitors to view. The collection features over fifteen hundred fossils, four thousand shells, seven hundred minerals, eleven hundred animal artifacts, two thousand insects, thirty-seven hundred ethnography objects, thirty-one hundred historical objects, one hundred and fifty surfing related items and five hundred works of art. Permanent exhibits at this museum include Geology of the Santa Cruz Region, Native Peoples: The Ohlone, Marine Life of the Monterey Bay, Wildlife & Habitats of the Santa Cruz Region and the Garden Learning Center.
Other popular attractions in the city of Santa Cruz include Natural Bridges State Park, Stagnaro Fishing Charters & Whale Watching Cruises, Santa Cruz Main Beach, Kiva Retreat House, Wilder Ranch State Park, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, Santa Cruz Wharf, West Cliff Drive, Pacific Garden Mall, Cowell’s Beach, Pasatiempo Golf Club, Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse, Museum of Art & History, Waddell State Beach, Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, Williams-Reynolds House, Pleasure Point Beach, Mission State Park, L. H. Selman Ltd. Glass Gallery and the McPherson Center. The city is also home to a number of fine cafes, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels. Popular restaurants in the city of Santa Cruz include Aldo’s Restaurant, El Palomar Restaurant, Red Restaurant & Bar, Gabriella Cafe, Rosie Mc Cann’s Irish Pub, Cafe Mare Italian Restaurant and the Crow’s Nest Restaurant. Hotels in the city include the Bay Front Inn, Comfort Inn Beach Boardwalk, University of California-Santa Cruz: University Inn and Conference, Hilton Santa Cruz, Coast Santa Cruz Hotel and the Santa Cruz Beach Inn.