A summery summary of UC Santa Cruz attractions

McHenry Library is a great place to catch up on your summer reading with its hushed reading rooms and sylvan views.
The Seymour Discovery Center is a great way to learn about the denizens of the Monterey Bay, from sea stars to octopi and elephant seals.

In the academic off-season, when most students clear out, UC Santa Cruz remains open for the curious, the desk-bound, the restless, and the hungry. On-campus attractions, quiet libraries, and hushed gardens, along with a state-of-the-art gym with epic views of the Monterey Bay, beckon visitors through the summer months, while the wooded campus invites exploration.

Here is a sample itinerary, should you choose to accept it, guiding you towards a few hotspots on campus, some of them close to campus, and, in one case, not so close to campus.

Magical mystery tour

Feel like driving up here and exploring the place on your own? Go ahead and do so.  (see below for information on visitor parking.) But if you just so happen to have an Android or iPhone, consider downloading the app that will help you find your way. And if you’d like an insider perspective, the Office of Admissions offers campus tours year-round on weekdays. Reservations are required, and tours fill early. The approximately two-hour tour program starts at the Office of Admissions, located at the Cook House, near the campus's main entrance at Bay and High streets. The easiest way to schedule a tour is online. For additional information, call (831) 459-4118.

Paintings and veggies

Once you arrive on campus, why not start your visit off with something artistic and organic? Stop by the Barn Theater near the base of campus and take a look at the remarkable barn signs of Jim Urban, who has painted meticulously rendered pictures and logos on the side of the barn. From a distance you will swear you are looking at a billboard, but there is nothing in the way digital or photographic trickery here. Urban paints his striking images the hard way: by standing on ladders, using industrial Kelly-Moore paints to make vivid artwork.

After admiring the barn art, and if your visit happens to fall on a Tuesday or Friday between noon and 6 p.m., stop by the locally famous UC Santa Cruz Farm & Gardens Market Cart in the parking lot for a great selection of organically grown items, which may include strawberries, blueberries, avocados, salad mix, rainbow chard, and red kale, along with cucumbers, scallions, arugula, Asian greens, Chinese sprouting broccoli, purple mustard, and Meyer lemons. Spring flower bouquets and lavender bunches are also available.

 A place to learn in the redwoods

When you’ve had your fill of veggies, head up the hill to the McHenry and Science & Engineering libraries house 1.3 million bound volumes, access to more than 12,000 periodicals, newspapers and special materials, along with special materials such as manuscripts, maps, and slides.

Most library resources are available to the public; borrowing privileges are available with a contribution to the Friends of UCSC Library or by joining the Alumni Association. Special Collections at McHenry Library contains rare, valuable and often fragile materials that do not circulate but can be viewed by appointment. For library hours visit the library website.

And these days, if your loud, rumbling stomach gets in the way of browsing the periodicals, you can stop and get a bite to eat at the Global Village Café. Located in the foyer of McHenry Library, the Global Village has indoor seating for 68, and a menu that includes salads, sandwiches, and desserts.

Staying fit and having fun in the summertime

The views from UCSC’s athletic training facilities and full-service gym are so stunning, you will forget how tired and sweaty you are. Whether you're running a lap on the bouncy half-mile outdoor track, or trying out some newfangled cardio machine in the facility formerly known as the Wellness Center, you will lose yourself in the scenery.

The UCSC OPERS Wellness program has changed its name to UCSC FitLife, but its facilities will continue to provide the same great recreational and fitness opportunities. By purchasing a facility usage membership card, or paying a day-use fee, community members have access to UCSC's recreation facilities, which include tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts; a wellness center; running track and playing fields, and a swimming pool. Enrollment is available online. Prices vary. For more information, call (831) 459-2531. Alumni Association members receive discounts on cards and day-use fees.

Learning from the natural world

The famous Arboretum awaits you this summer, offering a world-class collection from flora around the globe, but during your visit to UCSC, don't overlook other beautiful areas, including The Farm as well as the Alan Chadwick Garden.

Visitors to the UCSC Arboretum may stroll through its exotic gardens, go on a tour, or take part in scheduled events. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children, and free on the first Tuesday of each month. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Norrie's Gift & Garden Shop, which sells plants, pottery, jewelry and more, is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Arboretum is located on Empire Grade between the campus's main and west entrances. Visit arboretum.ucsc.edu or call 427-2998 for more information.

The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems manages two locations: the 25-acre Farm near the main entrance to campus and the 2-acre Alan Chadwick Garden across McLaughlin Drive from Stevenson College.

Both the Farm and the Alan Chadwick Garden are open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a self-guided tour brochure available at the Farm entrance. Groups may sign up for docent-led tours. Visitors will see first-hand how to build fertile soil and control pests, recycle yard and kitchen waste, conserve water and encourage biodiversity. Special events and classes are scheduled throughout the summer. For more information, visit the CASFS website or call (831) 459-3240.

Denizens of the deep

When you’re finished with your on-campus tour, check out a nearby westside Santa Cruz attraction. Visitors can view one of the largest whale skeletons displayed worldwide, touch living sea stars and hermit crabs, and enjoy spectacular views of the Monterey Bay at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, part of a UCSC marine research laboratory. Aquaria and exhibits feature the everyday tools of ocean exploration and focus on research done by scientists on site and around the world. The center is 10-minute car ride away from the UCSC campus.

Skillful docents answer questions and lead tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. The center will be open every day in July and August from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of holidays, including July 4th. Admission ranges from $6-$8. The Seymour Center is located at the west end of Delaware Avenue in Santa Cruz. For more information, call (831) 459-3800 or visit the website.

Looking at the heavens

Once visitors have exhausted the possibilities on and near campus, they should hit the road for breathtaking views of the night skies, and soul-stirring concerts in a working observatory. The Lick Observatory is located atop Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose and about 60 miles from campus. The visitor’s center and gift shop are open Thursday-Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. year round. The public is invited to view exhibits in the main observatory building, built in 1888.

Enjoy an informal talk about the observatory history while taking a look at the Great Lick Refractor in the 36-inch telescope dome. These talks begin at the gift shop and are held at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30. No registration or ticket purchase is necessary. Each talk is 15 minutes long and is free of charge.

Visitors also are invited to take a short walk to the Shane Dome to view the 120-inch reflector from the Visitors' Gallery. Displays explain the Shane reflector, one of the major telescopes used to discover planets outside our solar system. Special events also are scheduled, including the annual and always popular Music of the Spheres Concert Series in June, July, and August.  Do yourself a favor and plan well ahead; the concerts sell out quickly. Visitors should carry warm clothing and allow one hour to drive from San Jose. For more information, call (408) 274-5061.