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A day in…the Santa Cruz Mountains & Soquel Cove!

The Santa Cruz Mountains are dappled with houses among wooded forest. This is what I picture Marin County, thirty years ago before it was turned over by tech yuppies looking for a rustic home. The “Mountain Folk” as my friend who lives there adoringly calls herself and her neighbors, are friendly and remind you of a bygone era of early California settlers. The Santa Cruz Mountains are great to slow down and enjoy the serene nature that California has to offer. One hour and a half south of San Francisco, this is a great day trip retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

If you like exploring the bay area in day trips, check out my “A Day in” itineraries for Carmel, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Mission District.

Getting there: Continue on 17 from Los Gatos, CA then continue onto Summit Road and a right onto Soquel San Jose Rd. 

Start your morning by getting a coffee and a homemade treat from the female owned Casalegno’s Country Store (3 Laurel Glen Rd, Soquel, CA 95073). It has been around since 1929 and is a great stop for a coffee on your drive through the redwoods of Soquel en route to… 

Spend a few hours hiking the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park (Aptos Creek Rd, Aptos, CA 95003) which offers over 40 miles of hiking trails through 10,223 acres of wildlife. There are so many variations and amount of time you could spend here, you can check out more information here. With so much land, expect to not see many crowds. 

The iconic Capitola Venetian.

After hiking, drive down to Capitola Village and get a well deserved brunch from Zelda’s (203 Esplanade, Capitola, CA) which overlooks the brightly colored guest suites of the Capitola Venetian  and Soquel Canal. Spend an hour looking around the small downtown area. There is a beautiful and brief (10 minute) pedestrian walk along the Soquel Creek.

For those who prefer a leisurely day you could end here, but for those who would like a little more adventure, you can check out some the Wine Trail. MJA Winery Tasting Room, Wargin Winery (5015 Soquel Dr, Soquel, CA 95073), and Alfaro Vineyard Winery (420 Hames Rd, Watsonville, CA 95076) will not disappoint.

MJA Winery Tasting Room

Cap your wine off with some BBQ from the family-owned and delicious Aptos St BBQ (8059 Aptos St, Aptos, CA 95003), they often have live Blues Music playing. Try the tri-tip and my personal favorite, pulled pork sandwich! Those who want brisket, beware that it sells out quickly. Cheers to a relaxing day in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

A huge thank you to Lolo and Ivan for showing me around their beautiful town!

A day in…Andover, MA.

The urbane, classic New England town is located about 25 miles north of Boston via route 93.   It is home to one of the most prestigious and oldest prep schools in the country, Phillips Academy, colloquially known as “Andover” to its preppy student body. The downtown sidewalks are lined with historic brick buildings and fitted with gas lights. The neighborhoods consist of clapboard colonial houses interwoven with large well-groomed federalists homes and Victorians with wrap-around verandas. 

Andover is sometimes called the “Birthplace of America,” as Samuel Francis Smith wrote the patriotic song, “America,” while attending the Andover Theological Seminary. This Essex County town was originally settled by Cochichawicke Native Americans. Early European settlers incorporated the area in 1646 as Andover for the town in England that most of the settlers were from. Early prosperous industries included powder milling, paper manufacturing, and woolen mills. Now the town mostly serves as an affluent bedroom community. 

Here is your day trip itinerary to Andover, MA to capture the heart of the New England spirit.

For those looking for some exercise and fresh air, kick-off your Andover adventure by walking around Ward Reservoir, Harold Parker State Forest, Deer Jump Reservation or Pomps Pond. For those who prefer two wheels, saddle up for a bike ride on the Bay Circuit Trail, which runs through Andover. 

Enjoy a coffee at one of the local coffee shops. I prefer Ultimate Perk (96 Main St), which has both great iced and hot coffee.  Windowshop the boutiques featuring quaint homegoods and preppy apparel. Stroll through some of the neighborhood streets to take in the artisanry on the beautiful homes surrounding the downtown and campus areas. 

Take some time to stroll the 700 rolling acres of Phillips Academy,, which was opened in 1778 by Samuel Phillips. Two U.S. presidents, five Nobel Prize laureates and six Medal of Honor recipients call Phillips Academy their alma mater. The grounds have the feel of a college campus, rather than a a high school that educates 14-18 year olds. Enjoy a late afternoon at the Addison Gallery of American Art, which is located on campus. The gallery has frequent rotations and may warrant a few hours of your time. 

The Andover Inn hosted Jackie Onassis and sometimes Caroline Kennedy on various occasions when they would visit JFK Jr. in school in the late 70’s. 

End your day with fine dining at Samuel’s (4 Chapel Ave) at The Andover Inn, on the campus of Phillips Academy. The restaurant has recently been renovated and is far sleeker while maintaining  its original grace. Samuel’s serves seasonal ingredients of mostly New England food. I highly recommend the clam chowder for a starter!

For those looking for a night cap, the new Oakland Iron Brewing Company (18 Red Spring Road), is located in a refurbished Riverbend Mill. They have an outdoor beer garden and celebrate a family friendly “Oktoberfest” every fall. The exposed brick and high ceilings harken back to its former use as a cotton, wool, linen, and most recently a textile mill, before its renovation preparing for the production of barley, hops and yeast. Cheers to a day in Andover!

If you enjoyed exploring Andover, you may enjoy A Day in Cambridge.