15 Best Things to Do in Watsonville, CA

Watsonville, CA
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Watsonville is a city in Santa Cruz County, California, located in the Pajaro Valley.

The Costanoans, an ancient Indian group, lived at Watsonville for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.

The Pajaro Dunes were an excellent place for this tribe to reside since the area was rich and great for growing their crops and livestock.

When the Portolá expedition arrived in 1769, it was the first time Europeans had seen the area.

Soldiers on the mission reported seeing a giant bird near a wide river

The Rio del Pajaro or River of the Bird, which bears the story's name, still exists today.

The Pajaro River, which once ran through the city, now serves as a dividing line between Santa Cruz County and the neighboring county of Monterey.

The California Gold Rush of 1848 significantly increased immigration to the state.

The city was planned in 1852 by Judge John H. Watson together with D. S. Gregory.

On March 30, 1868, Watsonville became a town and named after Judge Watson.

Around 1889, officials recognized the community as the City of Watsonville.

While the agricultural business is the city's biggest draw, it also boasts of the great weather, an abundance of outdoor activities, and a convenient location in the greater Monterey Bay area.

Because of this, it has access to the ocean, mountains, and major cities like San Francisco.

What activities can you enjoy in this city?

Read on to find out the 15 best things to do in Watsonville.

Enjoy the Outdoor Activities at Pinto Lake County Park

A Bird in Pinto Lake County Park
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Watsonville's Pinto Lake County Park, a 183-acre regional park, features a big lake with a public fishing pier and different recreational activities.

Soccer grounds, a baseball field, and a disc golf course are all accessible for community use.

Young visitors can enjoy the playgrounds, while walkers and joggers' natural paths around the lake are regularly open.

A Bird in Pinto Lake County Park
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On weekends and holidays, guests may hire two big picnic pavilions.

A small group picnic area is open to the public daily.

Among the city's other highlights is the Turtle Dove public art project, a collaboration between area artist Robert Castro and Job Training Partnership Act participants.

Explore the Region's History at Pajaro Valley Historical Association

The Parajo Valley Historical Association aims to preserve and promote the history of Watsonville, with a primary focus on the history of the whole Monterey Bay region.

Located in the historic Bockius-Orr House, which was erected in 1870 and is part of the National Register of Historic Places, the museum exhibits a variety of historical items.

Tours of the home are accessible on specific days of the week, and you will be able to visit various exhibits dedicated to the history of the region.

The displays change regularly, but some of the artifacts you'll see include military attire, ancient home items, papers, and photographs.

The exhibits change regularly.

Pick Apples and Berries at Gizdich Ranch

Viktor John Gizdich, a Croatian immigrant to the U.S., established the Gizdich Ranch near Watsonville in 1937 as an animal farm and apple orchard.

This pick-your-own fruit company has operated on the farm since the 1960s, and today it is run by fourth-generation family members.

It is accessible to visitors throughout the week but only during business hours.

Feel free to explore the faculty's orchards and pick apples and berries at your own pace.

Pre-picked fruits are also available for purchase from the orchards' vendors.

The Eata Nita Pie Shop offers over 16 different pies, including festive and sugar-free pies, throughout the year and during the holidays.

In addition to ice cream flavored with Olallie hybrid berries, the store sells homemade jams, apple juice, and apple crisp.

Learn About Sustainable Farming at Live Earth Farm

This farm is a non-profit farm education program based in Watsonville, a thriving organic CSA farm covering 150 acres in the Pajaro Valley.

Farm Watsonville's mission is to educate and empower the local community about sustainable food and agricultural techniques to make better food choices.

Field trips that align with the Common Core curriculum requirements are available for students and families.

On the first Friday of every month from March till October, it hosts an event promoting good eating habits in children by introducing them to nature at a younger age.

Children's farm camps and overnight immersion activities for students are also available as additional programs.

Enjoy a Sunny Day at Sunset State Beach

View of Sunset State Beach
Maria Keays, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When the weather is nice, locals and visitors alike go to Sunset State Beach in Watsonville.

Sand beach that extends for more than a mile along Monterey Bay, next to the state park of Manresa.

Only powerful swimmers should get into the sea because of rip currents, but there is enough more to do and see here.

Striped bass, sardines, and perch may all be found in plenty along the beach if you want to fish.

Catch the sight of snowy plovers building their nests on the sand.

There are picnic places along a cliff that offer spectacular views of the surrounding region.

You may also set up a tent if you want to remain the night.

Additionally, you may join the guided hikes during the warmer months.

Go the Extreme at Skydive Surfcity Santa Cruz

There are several places to go skydiving in California, and Watsonville's premier skydiving service company is one.

Aside from that, it's a top-tier skydiving company in California.

The organization prioritizes safety while providing once-in-a-lifetime experiences for novice and expert divers alike.

For the first-timers, they use tandem jumps, which pair them with experienced, well-trained instructors. Views of Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, and Half Moon Bay will greet you as you land.

If you want to contribute your skydiving memories in the form of photos or videos, you may do so as well.

Hike at Mt. Madonna County Park

Santa Cruz Mountains' redwood forest is one of Santa Clara County's most magnificent outdoor recreational locations.

The park in Gilroy, California, provides hikers and equestrian riders over a 14-mile trail and a self-guided nature route that stretches one mile that explores the ruins of Henry Miller's former summer house.

In its stables, guests may go on horseback trail rides and practice archery on an extensive archery range.

Campers can stay in tents or RVs for the night and reserve yurt spots in advance.

During the summer, the amphitheater hosts concerts and other events, and the visitor center houses an exhibit on the geology and cultural history of the region.

Swing Your Club at Spring Hills Golf Course

For players of all skill levels, this Watsonville golf course offers an ideal setting in the foothills of the majestic Santa Cruz Mountains.

The staff is helpful and pleasant and maintains this 18-hole, par-71 course properly.

The course includes streams, high tee boxes, and undulating hills, which will indeed challenge you.

It also features a clubhouse with refreshments and beverages and a driving range.

Check Out the Agricultural History Project Center and Museum

The Agricultural History Project Center and Museum, located in Watsonville, California, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Central California Coast's agricultural history and educating tourists about agriculture's relationship to the economy and ethnic cultures.

The exhibits, spread across four buildings and 20,000 square feet, recreate the everyday experience in the farm and ranch throughout the region from the 19th to the 20th century while highlighting farming techniques and cultures unique to the area.

It also features organized exhibits with artifacts in the shed, as well as a California-style barn.

Visiting the museum, formed in 1986 and first opened its doors in 2004, is free and accessible to the visitors every second Saturday of the month during the afternoon hours.

Small groups can also visit by appointment from Tuesday through Saturday.

Catch Different Festivities at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds

View of a Sign in Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds
Phorenon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Each year, Santa Cruz County Fair, a five-day event in mid-September that brings rides, 4H events, games, and wonderful fair food vendors, takes place in the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds has been hosting the fair since 1885, back when it only featured agricultural displays.

More than a century later, it is now home to more than 30 horse shows involving international rodeo championships.

A concert hall hosts famous worldwide pop and rock groups like Joan Jett and Whitesnake at the fairgrounds.

Additionally, you may rent the historical 1870s Rodgers House to cater to your private events, such as weddings and birthdays.

Visit the Historic Home at Castro Adobe State Historic Park

Fans of the California missions will not want you to miss this historical gem located in the tranquil, pastoral Larkin Valley.

The adobe structure, one of only four in Santa Cruz, and its tranquil gardens, completed in 1850, was the festive residence of Juan Jose Castro.

Each month, they open their doors to the public to allow them to explore the property, observe the remodeling, and take note of the home's unique characteristics.

The home features ancient graffiti that dates back generations and a smoke-tinted Mexican cocina.

Visit their website for information on upcoming events and the current open status.

Shop Unique Glassware at Annieglass

Annieglass' first main piece was Roman Antique, a thick glass plate with a 24-karat gold-painted rim.

In 1983, Annie brought this to an expo and amazed the country's primary merchants with this completely new style in tableware that was also unexpectedly dishwasher-safe.

Today, this glass is a widely reproduced industry classic, available in upscale department stores like Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus, as well as specialty boutiques around the country.

Many prestigious establishments, including the Bellagio, the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Waldorf Astoria, use Annieglass.

Visit the Annieglass factory, one of Santa Cruz County's most unusual tourist attractions.

The production facility in Watsonville, established in 1983, has produced over 200 items a day for delivery to the finest retailers, resorts, chefs, and websites in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

In addition to local artists, jewelry, and home décor, their Watsonville retail location carries the most extensive collection of Annieglass.

Sip Watsonville's Homegrown Martinelli's

That charming, apple-shaped juice bottle was a childhood favorite thanks to Martinelli's of Watsonville in California.

After 150 years, the celebrations came to a close in 2018.

When Stephen Martinelli bottled and fermented his older brother Louis' apples in the Pajaro Valley in 1868, the two Swiss brothers saw their business take flight.

Previously, Stephen worked in France, where he made champagne.

In 1890, the recipe bagged a gold medal at the California State Fair for uniqueness and ease of execution.

Visit their sleek, contemporary shop to find a broad range of sparkling and ciders to suit your tastes.

The city of Watsonville named a whole street after Martinelli's, recognizing the homegrown brand.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Have a Fun Family Day at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

View of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
GagliardiPhotography / Shutterstock.com

Adjacent to the wharf is this boardwalk.

In a vibrant beachfront location, this boardwalk has been entertaining people of all ages for more than a century with its array of fascinating attractions and a variety of activities.

There are many different carnival rides to choose from, some of which are historically significant.

View of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
randy andy / Shutterstock.com

Here, you may find amusements such as an arcade, a mini-golf course, laser tag, and a bowling alley may, amongst other things.

Weekly activities such as live music performances, movie evenings, and Karaoke nights are also available throughout the week.

View of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
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Stroll Along Santa Cruz Wharf

View of Santa Cruz Wharf
Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

An additional notable monument in the city of Santa Cruz is the Santa Cruz Wharf, about 30 minutes away from Watsonville.

What’s fantastic about it is that it is the west coast's longest pier.

If you're looking for sea lions or want to get a glimpse of one of the spectacular sunsets that the region is famous for, this is one of the best spots to go.

A Bird in Santa Cruz Wharf
Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock.com

While at the pier, you may take a boat trip, shop at its fish market, or wander about and take in the scenery and atmosphere.

A seafood restaurant is also available, and for dessert, you may visit Marini's confectionery shop, which specializes in handcrafted, locally sourced confections.

Final Thoughts

Watsonville's natural splendor will have you drawn there naturally.

The city's farms, beaches, and diverse environment combined with the pleasant climate will make your getaway a pleasure!

When you visit Watsonville, you may take advantage of the chance to buy local vegetables and bring them back with you.

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