If you’re looking for a destination for a day trip to Santa Cruz, check out the westside of town, specifically the area around the Swift Street Courtyard. 

The area has been a shopping and dining mecca for nearly 20 years, but new restaurants, shops and breweries keep popping up in its old industrial buildings. It’s Santa Cruz’s version of Fourth Street in Berkeley, and a lot different than Surf City’s downtown or boardwalk areas. 

It’s a good place to stop after a visit to nearby Natural Bridges State Beach or the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. The ocean is only half mile away. West Cliff Drive on the oceanfront is a good strolling destination before or after eating on the westside.   

University of California, Santa Cruz’s Seymour Marine Discovery Center is just a mile and a half from Swift Street Courtyard. (UC Santa Cruz Newscenter) 

Start your visit to this neighborhood by turning off Highway 1 at Swift Street or Fair Avenue. Cross over the nearby railroad tracks and find on-street parking, or prepare to pay in the Courtyard’s lot. Everything in the square block bounded by Ingalls Street is worth exploring. 

The Courtyard was once a Bird’s Eye Frozen Foods factory.  Some of its businesses have come and gone since the pandemic. For example, 11th Hour Coffee replaced the retail storefront for Kelly’s Bakery.   

Some of Santa Cruz’s most interesting restaurants and drinking spots are in the area. Most have outdoor dining areas, making the scene even livelier. Humble Sea Brewing Co. behind the Courtyard is one of the most popular. A block away, coffee drinkers sit in front of Verve Coffee Roasting at 1010 Fair Ave. 

Humble Sea Brewing Co., with plenty of outdoor space, is a popular Santa Cruz destination. (Larry Sokoloff)  

Bantam, a pizza restaurant started by a Chez Panisse alum, is in the same building, serving dinner five nights a week. A bacon pizza with Brussels sprouts, strocciotella, trugole and chili oil, costs $23. Or try a stinging nettles pizza with hen of the woods mushrooms for $22. There are also non-pizza options like fried chicken or chicken liver toast on the menu.   

If that isn’t enough in the department of well-known food names, Manresa Bread just opened on Ingalls. It’s a spinoff of the famed Los Gatos restaurant, following on the success of other Manresa bakery locations in Santa Clara County. 

There’s a branch of Manresa Bread, a spinoff of the revered Los Gatos restaurant Manresa, in Swift Street Courtyard. (Larry Sokoloff) 

In between there are art galleries, New Leaf Community Markets (a local supermarket that’s comparable to Whole Foods), and a candy and ice cream store (Marini’s candies.) There’s a marijuana dispensary called 3 Bros at 1100B Fair Ave., which shares space with a food truck selling shrimp tacos.   

If you’re in the mood for some wine tasting, they’ve got that covered. MJA Vineyards is next door to Manresa, and there are other tasting rooms on this block for the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard and Bonny Doon Vineyard. 

Another way to enjoy your day here is to take a yoga class at Santa Cruz Yoga and then stop by the Santa Cruz Brewing Company for a beverage and lunch after class. Both are in the Swift Street Courtyard. 

MJA Vineyards is among the places offering wine tasting in Swift Street Courtyard. (Larry Sokoloff)