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Local Life

Santa Cruz is a lively hub of culture and recreation, benefiting from its spectacular setting between the redwood forests and miles of scenic beaches.

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Santa Cruz, CA

75 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles southwest of San Jose, Santa Cruz is a medium-sized (population 56,000) town with its own vibrant personality. Since UC Santa Cruz was established here in 1965 on the site of the former Cowell Ranch, the university and the town have influenced each other to create its current diverse population of artisans, scientists and scholars, outdoor enthusiasts, students, and computer industry professionals.


Enjoying a moderate climate with 300 sunny days a year and low humidity, Santa Cruz is also a popular vacation destination. Travelers come from all over the world to enjoy the county’s 29 miles of beaches, ringed by mountains covered with redwood trees; picturesque seaside vistas; and the laid-back ambience of the town that has been nicknamed “Surf City.”

On a clear day, the eastern side of campus offers stunning views of the city of Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay.


Santa Cruz has a prominent cycling community, and many parts of the UCSC campus are connected via an extensive network of bikeways and walking paths. There is an extensive Bike Program operated by UCSC with bike rentals, shuttles, maintenance and parking.  


As well, the Santa Cruz city Metro bus system is free to registered students with an active student identification card.

The UCSC Arboretum has gardens with plants from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, as well as California natives, cactus and succulents, and a world conifer collection.

The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems maintains a 25 -acre working farm located on the slopes of west side of campus. Fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, herbs, berries, and other crops are used to study organic methods of sustainable agriculture. Similar work is done at the four-acre Alan Chadwick Garden just below Merrill College. Produce is sold at the main campus entrance late spring through early fall on Tuesdays and Fridays. Both facilities are open year-round 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and welcome visitors.

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory is major research facility for UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of Marine Sciences, and is located three miles from campus at 100 Shaffer Road at the west end of Delaware Avenue in Santa Cruz. Visitors can learn about marine life in Monterey Bay and the Pacific through aquaria, exhibits, and touch tanks. On view is the skeleton of an 87-foot blue whale, the largest blue whale skeleton on display in the world.

Students and faculty at UC Santa Cruz are able to utilize the UC Natural Reserves system - "classrooms without walls." Several nearby Reserves offer different ecosystems and a diverse array of flora and fauna, providing excellent field study sites for researchers, experiential class visits, and open spaces to inspire and excite academics of every stripe.

Natural Sciences
Performing & Visual Arts

UC Santa Cruz sponsors numerous public theater, dance, and musical performances throughout the academic year in venues both on and off campus. 


There are two primary art galleries on campus: the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery at Porter College, and the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery at Cowell College. Open during the academic year, both schedule exhibitions of work by contemporary artists and important collections of historic interest. 



Visit the Arts Division calendar for current and future shows and exhibits.

Sports & Athletics

UC Santa Cruz offers a full range of recreation and athletics programs, including NCAA Division III collegiate teams, athletics clubs, intramural leagues, and a recreation program that has been called one of the best in the world by Outside magazine. As an NCAA Division III institution, UC Santa Cruz does not offer athletic scholarships. 


Recreation and sports facilities maintained by OPERS include an Olympic-sized pool, grass-covered playing fields, a jogging track, fitness center with sweeping views of Monterey Bay, tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts, and boating facilities.

Recreational sports include backpacking, badminton, dancing, table tennis, various martial arts, and volleyball.

Graduate Student Commons

The goal of the Graduate Student Commons (GSC) is to bring all graduate students together in a sense of community. 


Located adjacent to the Bay Tree Bookstore, the GSC offers graduate students a place to stop between classes where they may check email, hold office hours, attend or hold a meeting, or join a homework study group.


Several community events are held throughout the year, and you can follow the GSC calendar of events online.

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