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Only In Santa Cruz

Thu, Feb 28, 2019

6 Free Things to Do in Downtown Santa Cruz on a Friday Night

There are some things you can count on in this life: one of them is our weekly Friday night craft workshop series, Make Nights.

It’s guaranteed creative fun for all-ages and all-experience-levels– but it’s only a few hours long.

Enter: this list of free things you can do Downtown before, after, or– if you’re feeling ambitious– before and after your Make Night experience.

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1. Go Historic House Hunting

Just a few blocks from the main drag of Pacific Avenue, there are dozens of historic homes that are fun to gawk at (and fun to imagine living in...and then less fun when you realize you never will.

Many of these homes are marked by an ovalesque blue plaque. These beacons of antiquity are given to historically significant locations in town as part of the MAH’s annual Historic Landmark Awards.

There are tons of houses all over Downtown, but these gems are most highly concentrated on Walnut Avenue. Stroll down this tree-lined street and see how many you can spot. (Hint: there are thirteen, and one of them is Santa Cruz High.)

2. Watch an Epic Pizza Dance Outside of Kianti's

Sometimes it feels like Santa Cruz has a secret spring somewhere that makes everyone here a little more creative than everywhere else. Everybody’s a performer, a musician, a dancer.

Kianti’s pizza and pasta bar is no exception. If you stand on the corner of Pacific and Cathcart at approximately 6:30 or 8:30 pm every Friday night, you will soon see a whirling spectacle of pizza spinners, excitable servers, and kitchen staff boogying down. There’s even a light show, y’all. It is the real deal. (Obviously, the best seats are inside over a steaming pizza.)

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3. People (and Music) Watch in Abbott Square

We might be biased, but one of the best places to kick back for free on a Friday night is Abbott Square plaza just outside the MAH. Every Friday night, the spacious plaza is filled with local tunes that make it the perfect spot to pull up a chair, people watch, and enjoy music and fun under the stars.

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4. Become a Lagoon-a-tic at Neary Lagoon

You don’t realize how great it is that you can look at wood ducks for free just fifteen minutes from Downtown until you’re reading a list like this, but then you do read a list like this and you’re probably like “Wow, how great it is that I can look at wood ducks for free just fifteen minutes from Downtown.”

Neary Lagoon is a hidden jewel of a watershed tucked away at the end of Blackburn Street. Stroll over floating boardwalks, marvel at the gigantic shadows of fish just beneath the water’s surface, and try to be the first one to spot a baby duck. No promises, but we hear that seeing baby ducks brings good luck for 1,000 years.

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5. Get a Tiny Coffee at Trader Joe's, Feel Like a God

Need a quick pick-me-up? You can always turn to the samples station at the back of Trader Joe’s. They always have regular and decaf coffee available with dairy and non-dairy creamer options to boot.

Plus, the coffee is served in a paper cup so tiny that you can also feel like a hulking, caffeinated giant. Which, if we’re being honest, is when we feel best.

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6. Delight in Free Art (and Occasional Snacks) at First Friday

Every first Friday of the month, Downtown briefly transforms into an artistic utopia. You can stroll from end-to-end of Pacific Avenue enjoying Santa Cruz County’s best visual works. Everywhere from salons to adult pleasure shops hang art on the walls, throw open their doors, and, bonus points, occasionally provide snacks and drinks to anyone passing by.

This event is put together by the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, and is not to be missed.

Check Out an Upcoming Event

Save the date for one of our Friday night Make Events.