A summery summary of UC Santa Cruz attractions

Summer is a good time to explore opportunities available at UC Santa Cruz, from touring the iconic Quarry Amphitheater to gazing at the heavens

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Whale bones beckon visitors at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center.
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Lick Observatory is a popular summer attraction that is worth a day trip from Santa Cruz.

Perhaps you love browsing the hushed corridors of an art museum, or maybe you prefer pumping iron while staring down at the beautiful Monterey Bay.

Maybe you like to while away your afternoons getting cozy with a friendly shark or staring up at some glowing planets through a powerful microscope.

Wherever your interests lie, UC Santa Cruz will inspire you and help you while away the long summertime days when most of the students have headed elsewhere. With smaller crowds, the campus will feel like yours alone.

Following are a few suggestions for ways to explore and enjoy UC Santa Cruz over the summer.

Tour the Quarry

UC Santa Cruz’s beloved Quarry Amphitheater was once a prime gathering spot, concert venue, and activity space. Then it fell into disrepair and was closed off from public use starting in 2006.

But the Quarry Amphitheater is proving that campus landmarks can return to their old glory; currently the subject of an ambitious fundraising effort, and targeted for retrofitting and improvement, the Quarry will come back better than ever. This summer is your chance to find out why Slugs and other Santa Cruzans love this place so much and are excited for its return. Forty-minute walking tours are scheduled for the summer months. Tours depart at noon on June 16, July 21, August 18, September 15, and October 20.

McHenry and Science and Engineering libraries

In the summer months, the libraries of UC Santa Cruz are quiet and uncrowded. Both McHenry and the Science & Engineering libraries are open to the public and are designed in a way that will make you feel like you’re dwelling among the nearby redwoods, which rise up over the many windows, even while you are catching up on your Great Books or reading the latest bestseller in a tranquil room.

In the summer session, McHenry Library and the Science & Engineering Library are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer session. Please note the Grateful Dead Exhibit is open during regular library hours. The library will be closed on Independence Day.

Art al fresco

 If you want to enjoy art while sunbathing and taking in views of interesting exotic plants, UC Santa Cruz has a brilliant solution for you. The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum is displaying sculptures from area artists in a series of three temporary exhibits that opened to the public on June 1. The first exhibit in the series is a partnership with Susana Arias, one of the curators of Sierra Azul Nursery & Garden’s delightful sculpture exhibits in Watsonville.

But if you prefer your art indoors, head over to the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, where the annual Irwin Scholarship Award exhibition showcases a collection of the most promising undergraduate artists at UC Santa Cruz. The William Hyde and Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship Fund was established in 1986 and generates annual merit scholarships to further the education of selected UC Santa Cruz art students. The 2016 award recipients are Jairo Banuelos, Haley Belenis, Thomas Fallis, Andrea Furtado, Jesse Huynh, Jordan Krauss, Erick Medel, Sarah Ploenzke, Caetano Santos, Rachel Smith, Luigi Villanueva, and Chloe Yantis. The exhibit runs through June 11.

Fitness center

 UC Santa Cruz’s gym can’t be beat in terms of its ridiculously beautiful setting, overlooking a meadow and a hillside that swoops down toward the ocean. If you are antsy and eager to burn off some calories, you will be glad to know the facility is open during the summer months with the exception of holidays. Just be warned: working out here will spoil you!

The UC Santa Cruz FitLife program is also available for non-students. By buying a facility usage membership card, or paying a day-use fee, community members have access to its recreation facilities, which include tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts; the wellness center; running track and playing fields; and a swimming pool. Enrollment is available online. Prices vary. For more information, call (831) 459-2531.

On-campus dining

Discerning gourmets will be in for a pleasant surprise when they visit the UC Santa Cruz campus, where are a crop of new offerings will tempt hungry customers. Café Ivéta, a sister restaurant to the ever-popular Café Ivéta on the westside of Santa Cruz, is open this summer, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with options such as organic egg dishes, fresh salads, gourmet sandwiches, grass-fed burgers, fresh-cut fries, ahi tuna tacos, brisket banh mi, and more.

Another relatively new presence is Café Brasil, which now manages the Global Village Café, with a menu based on Café Brasil’s “Amazon Juices” concept in Capitola, with a strong emphasis on juices, acai bowls, hot sandwiches, salads, and rice bowls. Check listings for hours. Or if you are feeling insufficiently perky, you can now hit one of the three PERK coffee bars in three locations: Earth & Marine Sciences, Baskin Engineering, and the Physical Sciences building.

Or if you are feeling insufficiently perky, you can visit the PERK coffee bars in the Physical Sciences building, open Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm during Summer Session. You can also get great coffee and grab-and-go food at the Terra Fresca Coffee Bar at University Center, which will be open during Summer Session, starting June 20th.

Most on-campus cafes and coffee shops will be closed during the summer, including Banana Joe’s, College Eight Café, Oakes Cafe, Owl's Nest, Terra Fresca Restaurant, and Cowell Coffee Shop. 

UCSC Dining will be serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner at select dining halls starting Sunday, June 19th through Friday, August 26th, with service 7 days/week. Take a look at the online summer dining schedule for more specifics, and keep in mind that hours are subject to change. To get up to date schedules for these dining options, visit the UCSC Dining calendar page.

Market cart

If you’re on the lookout for fresh veggies or wish to surprise a loved one with some home-grown floral displays, drive on up (or jump on your cruiser bike) to the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden’s market cart at the corner of Bay and High streets at the base of the UC Santa Cruz campus. Staring on June 7, and running through Friday, November 4, the cart is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 12 noon–6 p.m., and features fresh, organic produce and flowers grown at the campus Farm & Garden. For more information, call (831) 459-3240 or email casfs@ucsc.edu. Read more about the Farm & Garden’s produce sales options.

Mysteries of the deep

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is a brief drive away from the main campus, but it’s worth the trip. The center allows you to delve into the Monterey Bay without donning a wetsuit and getting kelp stuck in your hair. You can sign up for one of the daily behind-the-scenes tours or just browse the aquaria and exhibits.

The center is a popular UC Santa Cruz satellite where hard-working marine researchers are exploring the mysteries of the deep. The volunteers will be eager to assist you, whether your little one wants to find out what it is like to pet a sea star, or whether you want to figure out where the clever resident octopus is hiding out inside its tank. You can also gape at some real live shark eggs and find out about the people who are working to protect the bay.

 And of course, no visit to the center would be complete without a selfie in front of “Ms. Blue,” a blue whale skeleton so gigantic, you will find it hard to believe your eyes. And if you happen to have a little one, they will not let you leave before they get a chance to pet a swell shark, a gentle creature that got its name because it can swell up with water.

If your child wishes to hold or pet one of these creatures, make sure to ask a volunteer for assistance at the swell shark tank.

The center is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday throughout June. The center will be open seven days a week in July and August from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, and $6 for students, seniors, and youth from 3 to 16. Children 2 and younger, members, and UC Santa Cruz undergraduates get iin for free. For visitor information, call (831) 459-3800.

Lick Observatory

If you would rather look up toward the heavens than gaze down at the ocean’s depths, head out to the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, a state-of-the-art research facility for astronomers.

The observatory is only 20 miles or so from downtown San Jose, but when you take the serpentine Mt. Hamilton Road, which climbs to an elevation of 4,200 feet, you’ll feel like you are worlds away.

The Gift Shop & Visitor Center is open Thursday through Sunday from 12 noon-5 p.m.. year-round. Lick Observatory is also home to the ever-popular Music of the Spheres series, but keep in mind that these events sell out very quickly. You can also take in a free talk inside the famous dome of the 36-inch Great Refractor every day at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.

Guests are permitted to visit Lick Observatory at night by buying a ticket to the Summer Series from June through September. (But kindly refrain from visiting the observatory at night without a ticket to one of its scheduled evening programs.)

For more information on the observatory, contact the Lick Observatory Guides Office/Gift Shop at (408) 274-5061 or giftshop@ucolick.org.