Santa Cruz County is blessed to have some of the best weather conditions in California, making everyday an outdoor adventure day. With kids, sometimes finding a safe and enjoyable place to let loose is a top concern for every parent. Although there are a few parks that we definitely avoid, (our daughter found a needle on the path – luckily we caught her before she picked it up!), there are many more that offer the peace and serenity you are looking for to have an amazing day with the family. In no particular order, here are our top 5 favorite parks to bring the kids and have a nice picnic in the outdoor sun!
1. Skypark in Scotts Valley
Whenever we talk about taking the kids out for an afternoon picnic, Skypark in Scotts Valley is a dominant headline in our planning. It offers everything we look for in a place to play with the kids. Skypark has tons of amenities for almost any activity you can possibly think of. A huge grass field, multiple kids playgrounds, bocce ball courts, tennis courts, picnic tables, flat paved walking trails and nice shade oaks for the parents. Skypark is the crown jewel for ideal parks. It is always filled with other kids and families and the Scotts Valley Police Department conducts regular routine patrols of the parking lot. Bring the soccer ball, basketball, football and frisbee and find yourself plenty of room to stretch your legs. After lunch at Skypark go grab a cold drink at one of the local ice cream or smoothie shops nearby.
2. Glenwood Preserve in Scotts Valley
One of the newest parks in Scotts Valley, and quickly gaining popularity for good reasons, is Glenwood Preserve. If you are looking for a park that is close in yet feels far away and is a great place to let the kids see some nature then this may be the perfect place. Glenwood Preserve offers different length walking options which is nice for the little ones. The trails are nicely maintained and the views are spectacular. If the kids like ducks, turtles, rabbits, and cows they will enjoy the trails at Glenwood Preserve.
3. Hidden Beach in Aptos
When we hear, “lets go to the beach,” there are many options but our new favorite beach park is Hidden Beach in Aptos. On any summer day all the popular beaches are peppered with families and party goers looking for their oasis in the sand. Even though Hidden Beach is not immune to the crowds there is always a spot to unfold your beach chairs, prop up your umbrella and have a cold drink and a sandwich while watching the kids build sand castles. The parking is limited so getting here early is a good idea.
4. Anna Jean Cummings Park in Soquel
This 95 acre park next to Soquel High School is another family favorite. The upper part of Anna Jean Cummings Park has a nice paved walking path around the huge grass fields, which is perfect for strider bikes and kids still learning biking techniques. We always like to bring a kite as it seems there is always a nice breeze blowing across the huge fields. Once the kite excitement wears off there is the huge play structure with every obstacle a kid loves. After eating our picnic lunch and before we head back home we always stop and get an ice cream cone to top off our afternoon.
5. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton
My family is frequent visitors to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park so every year we purchase the State Park Annual Pass and we definitely put the pass to use. Henry Cowell, as it’s more commonly called, makes our favorite list for endless reasons, but probably the best part for a young family is Redwood Loop Trail. This loop is nice and flat, wide enough for multiple families to pass, fenced and takes you past some of the most significant coastal redwood trees in the world. If the loop trail is not enough you can always access Pipeline Trail, a paved path that follows the San Lorenzo River and cuts up to one of the most beautiful lookout spots in the Santa Cruz Mountains, overlooking the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Pacific Ocean. The visitor center is always a welcome sight after our family outing as they have cold drinks, snacks and ice cream for the drive home.
Stay inspired to hit the road and experience more family-friendly adventures with our Roadside Secrets Pacific Coast Highway Wall Map – San Francisco to Big Sur. It’s hand-drawn and full of adventure, making it the perfectly unique way to show your love for this incredible region.