Watsonville Hotel Area Guide

A variety of options await visitors to Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley. Choose from an early morning bird watching excursion, an afternoon at a u-pick farm or museum, a sunset stroll on an expansive beach or attending a signature festival. Strawberry fields and apple orchards provide a gorgeous backdrop for this scenic destination.

The Wetlands of Watsonville Nature Center displays a diversity of wildlife habitats, including the Pajaro River, the Watsonville Sloughs and Pinto Lake. Over 200 species of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds live in and migrate through the wetlands, making it and ideal place to watch for feathered creatures, or enjoy one of the many trails winding through the area. Nearby, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve is one of California's last undisturbed coastal wetlands. The annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival each September is a captivating way to take in the sights.

Another kind of bird watching takes place during the Watsonville Fly-In. The largest air show in Northern California, the Fly-In features vintage planes and restored World War II war birds in an airborne extravaganza during Labor Day Weekend.

The streets of downtown Watsonville are lined with Victorian buildings, 1880s storefronts, and the town's centerpiece, the Watsonville Plaza, which serves as a gathering place for celebrations and festivals. A few blocks away, the Henry J. Mello Center boasts the finest acoustics in the county. The Pajaro Valley Arts Galley features rotating exhibits, while the Pajaro Valley Historical Museum retraces the region's past.

In southern Santa Cruz County, Manresa and Sunset State Beaches are often uninhabited, and are perfect for sunset walks along the water's edge. Watsonville's unique landscape is rich with options for fun and exploration.

Most people stop by for a hit of farm-town flavor on their way along the coast between Santa Cruz and Monterey, but the more dramatic approach is over winding Hecker Pass Road/State 152 from Gilroy.

Among the piles of local produce at the Friday farmers' market (empanadas, tamales, and churros are cooked on the spot)!

For murals—13 new ones show off Watsonville's agricultural roots. Our fave: the mammoth apple and strawberry produce labels on Union Street, near East Beach.

Joggers, cyclists, dog owners, and birders are loving the 6 miles of new scenic paths along the 800 acres of preserved wetlands that start in the heart of town. Take any of the 29 trail entrances, and you're in another (watery) world. At 1:30 on Sunday afternoons, free docent-led walks leave from the Nature Center behind Ramsay Park. 30 Harkins Slough Rd.

You have to cruise through acres of strawberry fields to find Sunset State Beach. No wonder so many miss the longest stretch of open sand in the area. Climb to the top of the glider port for a 3½-mile panorama of waterfront homes, bottlenose dolphins, and—if you time it right—an unforgettable pink to reddish sunset.

For many families, summer means one thing: a trip to pick strawberries at Gizdich Ranch. Fill baskets you brought with as many berries as you can handle, then pay by the pound. Afterward, down a slice of freshly made mile-high strawberry pie at the picnic tables outside the farmhouse. Don't leave until you've tried the famous slushie: half-frozen juice from apples grown right here.

Specialized offers Whale Spotting, Wine Tasting (by Helicopter!), Helicopter Tours, airplane and helicopter flight instruction and more! Located at the Watsonville Municipal Airport.
  
 
 
Thursday September 21, 2017