Each month, thousands of enthusiastic art-goers flock to downtown Santa Cruz to check out the art, music, wine, and food at First Friday.
Founded in 2003, the event started as a small guided art tour to help promote local artists.
Since then, however, it has exploded into a city-wide block party and social event that has completely transformed the local arts scene and revitalized the community.
Cashing In On The Crowds
Each month, approximately 80 venues including local businesses and art galleries team up with over 100 local artists for First Friday. The businesses throw their doors open in a low key, casual manner, which is pretty much the opposite of your typical stuffy gallery crawl. Each venue chooses and sponsors one or more artist, who then can showcase his or her work.
Venues include cafés and restaurants like Hoffman’s and salons, spas, and yoga studios like Nourish. Vinocruz offers wine tasting to go with the art, while Mission Hill Creamery and Buttercup Cakes are popular as art-lovers can stop off for tasty treats as they mingle in the crowds. Even the sex shop Pure Pleasure participates in First Friday, rounding out the wide array of businesses that support the local arts scene in Santa Cruz.
Many shops that are not hosting artists for First Friday cash in on the crowds and stay open late during the art walk. The result is a vibrant shopping and social scene late into the evening, helping to boost the local economy.
Santa Cruz Party Vibe
Amidst the throngs of partying people, the atmosphere is decidedly festive. Local musicians and bands sprinkle themselves throughout the city at different venues so that enthusiastic art-goers are never far from some bluegrass or jazz. Mix in a bit of wine and beer, and Santa Cruz locals know how to get the party started.
Adding to the weird and wild vibe, street performers, caricature drawers, face painters, and palm readers all make an appearance. First Friday definitely has a bit more hustle and bustle than a normal, laid-back night out in Santa Cruz. It’s this momentum and energy that keeps thousands coming back each month to experience all that First Friday has to offer.
From Farm To Truck
First Friday wouldn’t be complete without Santa Cruz street food. Each month, several food trucks hit the streets, bringing farm fresh food to the people. While the rotation changes, local trucks including Low N Slow, Cruz N Gourmet, and The Truck Stop often make an appearance.
The Truck Stop offers “inspired street food,” focusing on sourcing fresh, local, organic food at affordable prices. Their menu appears to focus on tacos, since honesty, who doesn’t love tacos? Hanging with the sustainable Santa Cruz vibe, The Truck Stop is near zero-waste, and what little food waste they have, they compost it at local gardens.
First Friday has become the premier community, artistic, and social event in Santa Cruz each month, giving hundreds of artists the opportunity to connect with the public. Embodying the distinct community spirit in Santa Cruz, this ever-growing event draws thousands out to the streets to experience the best that Santa Cruz has to offer. And it doesn’t disappoint.