Roadschool Trip Planning: Santa Cruz

The experience of roadschooling, as a full-time RV family, down the California coast was amazing. One of our favorite stops was Santa Cruz! Whether you’re roadschooling, traveling through California in an RV or just looking for a weekend getaway with the kids, here are some great tips for your visit including my favorite places to stay, some great restaurants and fun family activities.

RV Parks and Kid-Friendly Hotels 

I’ve stayed at a ton of places in the area and without a doubt, my favorite hotel is the Beach Street Inn. I think I’ve stayed in maybe six of their rooms, which are all slightly different. My favorite is the beachfront suite with two murphy beds in the living room and a queen in a separate room. This suite also has a fully equipped kitchen. My second favorite room is the two room suite near the pool. You don’t get the great views or the balcony, but it’s super spacious, has the kitchen and is closer to the pool, office, etc.

There is also a great little breakfast place, The Picnic Basket, right below the inn. A must visit if you stay here!

Traveling through in an RV, we chose to stay outside of downtown Santa Cruz. We found a great spot up in the mountains called Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort. It was a 20 minute drive to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, but that wasn’t a problem for us since we have a tow car.

Visiting santa cruz california Roadschool RV travel places to stay weekend with kids kid friendly trip to Santa Cruz

Kid-Friendly Restaurants and Cafes

As mentioned above, there is a great little cafe, The Picnic Basket, right near the Boardwalk. For lunch or dinner out, I always try to make it to this amazing mediterranean restaurant, Lailai in downtown. It’s so good.

Petty Cab from Boardwalk to Downtown

One of our favorite things to do is take a petty cab from The Boardwalk to Downtown Santa Cruz. The kids love it and after running in the waves and riding rides all day it’s a welcome break!

Once we got downtown, we had to visit my favorite bookstore of all time, The Bookshop. They have the absolute best children’s books and the staff is really knowledgable and helpful. We love this place!

We always have to pop in to the great shops they have there. We leave fully outfitted in surfer gear and the kids can always use some new Vans.

The Boardwalk!

Yes, we love the Boardwalk. Our favorite rides? The Cave Adventure Train, Ghostbusters, the log ride and it’s so relaxing sitting in the sun while the kids go round and round on boats and jeeps and trucks. Those are the best! We generally get season passes if we plan to go more than once. We sometimes just opt for two season passes for the kids. Each comes with a free day pass that Sam and I can use, so it works out pretty well.

IMG_6679Visiting santa cruz california Roadschool RV travel places to stay weekend with kids kid friendly trip to Santa Cruz

The Beach

Don’t forget your beach toys! But never fear, if you don’t have them, all of the shops on the boardwalk sell them. We love to bring big buckets and shovels and dig massive holes! This can take hours so plan ahead!


Roaring Camp

The trip wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the Roaring Camp Railroad! This old steam train offers a shorter trip (about 1 hour roundtrip) into the mountains and back, and a longer trip (2-3 hours) through downtown Santa Cruz. The longer trip will drop you off at the boardwalk and you can take it back. With the kids we opt for the mountain ride which is the perfect length for us and gives us great views through the gorgeous redwoods.


Roadschooling was a blast and we are actually gearing up to do another year of full-time RV travel. If you’re traveling down the California Coast, you should also check out our favorite things to do in Pismo and San Luis Obispo. It’s about four hours south of Santa Cruz and another favorite stop of ours. Want to see more of our trip? Check out our Facebook video and see what it was all about.



Leave a Reply