Not only is Santa Cruz a haven for surfers, it has become a Mecca for art lovers. It is not exactly known why so many artists flock to Santa Cruz, but one thing is certain -- there are more artists, musicians, historians and cultural event organizers in Santa Cruz County than almost anywhere else in the world. Residents can find a reason at the drop of a hat to put on an art fair, a music festival, a historical re-enactment or an ethnic celebration.
The city features a unique array of quaint shops and restaurants coupled with a multitude of cultural and recreational activities, including sailing, fishing, golf, tennis, hiking and much more. Santa Cruz is home to the vibrant Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the world's largest protected ocean habitat.
With the redwoods on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, Santa Cruz County is an eclectic mix of winding country roads, charming mountain towns, an historic narrow-gauge railroad, old Victorian neighborhoods, colorful seaside villages, a beachside amusement park, rolling agricultural fields, dramatic coastal bluffs and 29 miles of sunny beaches.
Cultural amenities include the Santa Cruz County Symphony, the Cabrillo Music Festival, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, the McPherson Museum of Art and History, the University of California Performing Arts Center and the Henry J. Mello Performing Arts Center.
Santa Cruz County enjoys a strong local economy that is driven by vibrant high technology, agriculture, tourism and the local school system. Santa Cruz is home to The University of California, Santa Cruz, which opened in 1965 and has since been recognized by U.S. News and World Report for being one of the best campuses in the country, for its commitment to undergraduate teaching and for its excellent research productivity. The university has an enrollment of more than 14,000 students and offers undergraduate and graduate programs. Cabrillo Community College is also nearby.
Santa Cruz also boasts an impressive public and private school system. Eleven different school districts serve Santa Cruz County and provide students with quality education.
The area known today as Santa Cruz was first discovered in 1769 by Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola. When Portola reached the area, he came across a beautiful flowing river, which he named San Lorenzo after Saint Lawrence and the rolling hills above the river he named Santa Cruz, which means holy cross.
In 1791, Father Fermin de Lasuen established a mission at Santa Cruz, the twelfth mission to be founded in California. The area known today as East Santa Cruz became the location of the first village called Villa de Branciforte. It was founded by the Spanish as one of three civil settlements or pueblos in California. San Jose and Los Angeles became the other pueblos. As time passed, Villa de Branciforte became part of the Mission Santa Cruz community across the river.
Santa Cruz is the largest of four incorporated cities within Santa Cruz County. Watsonville is the second largest with a population of 44,265, Scott's Valley has 11,385, and Capitola is home to 10,033 residents. The county was established in 1850 as one of the twenty-seven original counties. The early 1900s brought about great prosperity as the economy started booming thanks to the logging, lime processing, agriculture, and commercial fishing industries. With a year round mild climate and incredible scenic beauty, Santa Cruz soon became a well-known resort community. By 1866, Santa Cruz became an incorporated town under the laws of the State of California. It wasn't until 1876 that Santa Cruz received its first charter as a city.
A high standard of living, quality schools and great community pride are just a few of the elements that make Santa Cruz one of California's most desirable places to live.