Photograph by Jenn Ireland
Play's the Thing: Celeste Alexander hangs onto her daughters Violette, 2, and Scarlett Luna, 5, while playing on a slide at Ocean View Park--this year's winner for best neighborhood park.
People & Places
Best Broke HangoutMain Beach
Living on the world-famous California coast, it's easy to take for granted the natural scenery that most of the country has to book a flight to see. So next time Santa Cruz's high rent has your wallet seeming puny, grab a towel and head to Main Beach for a free reminder of how lucky you are. (CC)
109 Beach St., Santa Cruz.
Best Corporate CitizenTrader Joe's
Not only does TJ's pay many of its part-time employees full benefits and boast a CEO admired by 80 percent of its workers, but it contributes every remainder item it has, including dented packages, to the Homeless Services Center 365 days a year. TJ's contribution makes up a significant portion of the Homeless Center's meals. Now there's a model of good community citizenship. (PW)
700 Front St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.0140.
Best Drum CircleFarmers Market
It doesn't have the most drums, and it certainly doesn't have the most skilled drummers, but love it or hate it, the weekly drum circle that forms downtown next to the farmers market every Wednesday gives invaluable insight as to why this town is still gets to call itself "weird." (CC)
Lincoln and Cedar streets, Santa Cruz
Best Marine MammalStelephant Colbert the Elephant Seal
Naming anything after Stephen Colbert is a pretty good way to get mentioned on his show. But when the The Colbert Report host got a look at the huge and blubbery elephant seal named after him by UC-Santa Cruz researchers, all he could ask was, "What hideous beast ate my seal?" So here's to you, Stelephant, you're still beautiful in our eyes. (CC)
Aņo Nuevo State Reserve, New Years Creek Road, Pescadero. 650.879.0227
Best Mode of TransportationBicycle
There's no doubt Santa Cruz is a cycling city. With endless bike lanes, countless bike shops and thousands of bicycles on the streets at any given time, if you don't ride one of these earth-saving, calorie-burning wonder machines at least once a week in this town, you can hardly call yourself a local. (CC)
Best Public RestroomBookshop Santa Cruz
This landmark shop has supplied local patrons for more than four decades with their favorite page-turners, as well as a rare, downtown luxury: clean, functioning restroom facilities. By sacrificing the extra time and money, the courteous owners are providing regulars, visiting tourists and literature junkies from all over with a place to answer Nature's call. Now that's a civilizing force. (JN)
1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.0900
Best Use of Taxpayer DollarsBicycle Bridge
The $2.3 million taxpayers ponied up for the bicycle bridge connecting Felker Street with the River Street shopping center was a bargain. Not only does it make life safer for cyclists headed downtown or to the Westside from Ocean Street, it's another important piece in the puzzle that is a beloved San Lorenzo riverfront. (TH)
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