SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Whether you love or loathe them, Brussels sprouts are the reason for an upcoming celebration at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
For sprout lovers, it's your chance to eat the tiny cabbages in all sorts of novel ways--sprout pizza, tempura sprouts, sprout tostadas, corn sprouts, sprout ice cream and even sprout water taffy.
Those who detest the little green vegetables can also have some revenge during the annual Brussels Sprouts Festival Oct. 14-15 at the seaside amusement park. Dart-a-Sprout and Shoot-Out-a-Sprout will be featured at game booths, and there will be sprout tossing and sprout putting contests.
The festival began in 1981 as a reminder that Santa Cruz County grows more than 90% of the nation's Brussels sprouts. Last year that was 80 million pounds, according to the Northern California Sprout Growers Assn.
Even without its sprouts, Santa Cruz is worth a visit any time of year.
Also Runs on Weekends
A favorite destination for 82 years and last of the West Coast's beachside amusement parks, the boardwalk is open on weekends in the off-season. Its two best-known rides are national historic landmarks, a carrousel of hand-carved horses that began whirling in 1911 and the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster erected in 1924.
Park hours on Saturday and Sunday are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to Oct. 22, then from 12 to 5 p.m.; closed Dec. 23 and 24. The boardwalk's Casino Arcade of electronic and old-fashioned games is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For information, including details of the sprout festival, call (408) 423-5590.
Downtown you'll find vintage games as part of an exhibit called "Never a Dull Moment," which chronicles the early days of the boardwalk. It's at the Santa Cruz County Historical Museum in the 1882 Octagon building at Cooper and Front streets until Oct. 27. Hours are 12 to 5 p.m. daily except Mondays.
At the opposite end of Cooper Street, visit another historic edifice, the 1894 Cooper House. This former courthouse hosts shops and restaurants such as the popular Crepe Place.
Main Street Jumps
The building also faces Pacific Avenue, downtown's revitalized main street that's known as the Pacific Garden Mall. Stroll half a dozen blocks north and south to survey its varied stores and eateries. A favorite for Mexican food is El Palomar and Jose's Cantina in the once-grand Palomar Hotel at No. 1344.
Get a brochure describing four historic walking tours of the town at the newly relocated Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council, 701 Front St. (at Soquel Avenue). Or call toll-free (800) 833-3494. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
On the Mission Hill tour you'll see a half-size replica of Mission Santa Cruz, founded in 1791. The original buildings were destroyed by earthquakes in 1857, and 84 years later the smaller copy was built opposite Mission Plaza Municipal Park.
Adjacent School Street leads to a mission-era adobe, one of the last original Spanish military buildings in California. It's undergoing renovation as a state historic park.
Deep in the redwood and fir trees north of town is the Mystery Spot, a perplexing place that's attracted visitors since 1940. Some skeptics may dismiss it as an old-time tourist trap, but pay the $3 admission (children $1.50) and enjoy yourself.
Life magazine and other publications have featured the strange site, where the laws of gravity appear to be broken and visual perception seems double-crossed. During a half-hour guided tour into the hilly woods you'll see a ball roll uphill and people changing height when they change positions.
Such mysteries occur within a diameter of 150 feet. Explanations include magnetic force from a buried meteorite and carbon dioxide gases seeping from a fissure in the earth. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
If you think it's time for a drink after trying to figure out the Mystery Spot, try the locally made beer of Santa Cruz Brewery served at its Front Street Pub, 516 Front St. Or sample the vintages at Storrs Winery, the city's newest winery.
One-time Hollywood resident Stephen Storrs and his wife Pamela founded their small winery last year in a former sash mill at 303 Potrero St. The couple's first releases were Riesling and Chardonnay, which you can taste any day from noon to 5 p.m.
Wine lovers should consider the inaugural Vintage Holiday hosted by Santa Cruz County wineries and bed-and-breakfast inns Oct. 18 and 19. You'll harvest grapes in a vineyard, taste wines at Storrs and four other wineries and share two meet-the-winemaker dinners.
Also included in the $325 per person holiday are two nights' lodging with breakfast, a wine-tasting reception and picnic luncheon. For details and reservations, call Helen King, innkeeper at the Babbling Brook Inn, (408) 427-2437.