My #SantaCruzLife: Dead Central, Savory Churros, and a Serenading Salamander


Rain boots, flip flops, lather, rinse, repeat. The extreme weather conditions of late are keeping me on my toes from one day to the next, but the rainbows in between are the best!

Luckily, Santa Cruz is full of adventures, rain or shine, so get out and explore—eat somewhere new, get in touch with nature, remember the Dead—and bring an umbrella just in case.

In this edition of My #SantaCruzLife, I’m talking about churros…AGAIN, but I’ll also take you to two must visit places in Santa Cruz, the Grateful Dead Archive at UCSC and the Nature & History Center at Rancho del Oso.

Santa Cruz Food Lounge


It’s at the clock tower end of Downtown, by the Goodwill, where India Joze used to be, across from Luma Yoga…this is me describing where Santa Cruz Food Lounge is located when asked.

Once you discover the Food Lounge, you’ll be stoked at the dining and entertaining possibilities to add to your night on the town.

Recent events include Moroccan Magic Night, bar takeovers by special guest bartenders, the ever-popular food pop ups, and every second Friday of the month there is an Artisan Food Market.

It’s here that my husband and I recently discovered savory churros served hot and steamy by Tanglewood, the Food Lounge’s newest tenant.

I’ve sent you to Watsonville for the best authentic sweet churros on the planet and now I’m telling you to get down to the Food Lounge for the Cheddar Cheese and Crispy Bacon Churro featuring Tart ’n’ Spicy Tomato Jelly from Friend in Cheeses Jam Co!

Our server let us know the plan is to update the menu with a new savory churro every couple of weeks. That’ll keep me coming back for another quick bite.

What: Santa Cruz Food Lounge
Where: 1001 Center St., Downtown Santa Cruz
When: 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm Wednesday – Saturday

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hughes at Tanglewood

Dead Central


Whether you’re a music aficionado, true Deadhead, or just a fan of Cherry Garcia ice cream, everyone should visit the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz.

I recently visited for the first time and, having no idea what to expect, was pleasantly surprised to see the memorabilia-filled gallery nicknamed “Dead Central.”

The Grateful Dead Archive, located on the main floor of McHenry Library, documents the music, career, and history of the band through a vast collection of photos, artwork, press clippings, posters, letters, backstage passes, and more.

There’s a lot to take in—themed exhibitions display only sections of the archive at a time—so it helps to know the archive has some pretty amazing hours. It’s open during library business hours which are 8 a.m. to midnight on many days of the week!

Add an early morning, all day, or late night tour of the exhibit to your Santa Cruz bucket list.

For added oral history and Deadhead spirit, stop by A Brighter World, the DIY Tie Dye shop in Downtown Santa Cruz. There you’ll meet owner and Deadhead Jeremy Carlson, a colorful guy with a big smile who always has a story to share.

What: Grateful Dead Archive
Where: McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz
When: Open during library business hours
Admission: Free, especially if you ride your bike or take the bus. Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase a parking permit.
Also worth checking out: The Grateful Dead Archive Online

Rancho del Oso

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Last weekend, I took advantage of the rainy weather to attend Salamander Saturday, a mostly indoor annual event at Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center.

Talk about family-friendly! Salamander Saturday was filled with crafts for the kids, face painting, a newt scavenger hunt, live amphibians to observe, a serenading salamander playing guitar, and a short hike to find the rockstar critters of the day.

We found a newt, but we also learned that all newts are salamanders.

Herpetologist Amy Patten gave a fascinating-for-all-ages lecture and was on-hand to answer questions. She then let us gather ‘round as she fed a banana slug to a Giant Salamander, much to our (gag) delight!

You can see the complete Salamander Saturday photo album on Facebook here.

Rancho del Oso is located 17 miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1 and makes up the coastal section of Big Basin Redwood State Park. It’s also one of 7 stops for a perfect family road trip up the coast.

More reasons to get Rancho del Oso on your radar include Snake Park Saturdays every 2nd Saturday of the month, the Wildflower Festival in spring, and special walks for birders and nature wanderers.

What: Rancho del Oso Nature & History Center
Where: Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz
When: Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm; also open Memorial and Labor Day

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About Christine Candelaria

Christine Candelaria is a local mom of four who enjoys sharing her Santa Cruz adventures. You can follow her #santacruzlife on Instagram at @theaumsmama.