Santa Cruz is generally an expensive place to live (at least in terms of housing prices), but "with a little help from our friends", we can share and enjoy the city without spending much money. And remember, if you use free services but have some dough, spread the love and good karma to keep services free to the people who need them most.
- Food Not Bombs shares free vegan meals every Saturday at 4pm in front of the Santa Cruz downtown Post Office
- Click Here to see Metroactive's Homeless Dining Guide
- Though Dumpster Diving may be illegal, many grocery stores and bakeries throw out lots of food on a regular basis.
- Trader Joe's typically gives out free samples of a selected food item (changes day-to-day) and small cups of coffee.
- Costco gives out various free samples. It also puts out free muffins and coffee during first hour of operation. You need a Costco card to get in, but that can easily be bypassed.
- The Santa Cruz Farmers' Market, as well as many other farmers markets, give out free samples of tasty local produce.
Every Tuesday is Local night everywhere in Santa Cruz. Some deals:
- A) Rockers pizza $1 cheese, $2 pepperoni at The Catalyst.
- B) All you can eat Pizza at Upper Crust Pizza & Pasta on Mission Street.
- C) Dollar Banana pancakes over at the Harbor Cafe Tuesday mornings.
- D) There is a hidden Pacific Cookie Company warehouse that sells cheap cookies (6 for a dollar). It's located behind the plaza off of River Street.
- E) Pleasure Pizza (4000 Portola Dr) has $1 cheese pizza on Tuesdays.
Wednesday night deals:
- A) All you can eat Pasta at Upper Crust Pizza & Pasta on Mission Street
- B) Joe's Pizza and Subs (1207 Pacific Ave) has $2 cheese pizza on Wednesdays
All You Can Eat Buffets:
- A) May's Sushi (1800 Soquel Ave) has AYCE sushi under $22 for lunch and under $25 for dinner 7 days a week
- B) Real Thai Kitchen (1632 Seabright Ave) has an AYCE buffet from 11am-3pm Monday through Friday
- C) Ocean City Buffet (431 Front Street) has an AYCE lunch and dinner buffet 7 days a week. Prices change after 4pm.
- D) Sitar Indian Cuisine (1133 Pacific Ave) has an AYCE vegetarian buffet 7 days a week for under $12
- E) Maharaja (270 Soquel Ave) has an AYCE lunch buffet from 11:30am-3pm
- F) Bangkok West (2505 Cabrillo College Dr #4) in Aptos has an AYCE Thai lunch buffet from 11a-2:30p Monday through Friday
- G) Miyako Sushi (1820 41st Ave #G) in Capitola has an AYCE lunch buffet from 11a-2:30p Monday through Friday
- H) Round Table Pizza (2690 41st Ave) in Capitola has an AYCE lunch buffet from 11a-1:30p Monday through Friday
- Felton Presbyterian Church (Felton) offers a free community dinner every third Wednesday of the month, free soup every Tuesday at noon, and a $3 lunch Wednesdays at noon
- Saints Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church (Ben Lomond) offers a free community dinner on the last Sunday of the month
- The Circle Church (Santa Cruz) offers a free community dinner every Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m.
- Dining for Women offers monthly potluck dinners at various dates/locations throughout Santa Cruz County
Computers for Public Use
- Santa Cruz Public Library At the central branch, computer use is free if you have a library card. If you don't have one, it costs $1 for 20 minutes of internet time.
- McHenry Library on the UCSC campus has computers on the entry-level floor which do not require a username or password, and school policy is to let all members of the public use them for free.
- SubRosa has two computers available to the public.
- Ultramat Laundromat and snack bar
Free Wifi Hot Spots
See: Wireless Internet for a comprehensive listing.
- Guerilla Drive-In Shows free movies every other Friday.
- Santa Cruz Public Library has loads of free DVDs and movies to borrow.
For a more complete listing of museums, see the Museums & Attractions page.
- Bigfoot Discovery Museum (Felton) No entry fee, donations requested.
- Surfing Museum No entry fee, donations requested.
- The first Friday of each month, admission to many downtown art galleries, as well as the Museum of Art and History, is free to the public.
- The first Tuesday of each month, admission to the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at the Long Marine Laboratory is free.
- The first Tuesday of each month, admission to the UCSC Arboretum is free (9am-5pm).
- The Aptos History Museum Located at the corner of Soquel and State Park Dr. It is always Free to enter and has tourist Information for Santa Cruz County
- UC Santa Cruz holds many musical and theatrical events which are open to the public for free.
- FREE TWILIGHT CONCERTS IN CAPITOLA all summer every Wednesday evening from 6-8pm at the Bandstand by the seawall with room to dance, or bring a picnic dinner and sit on the beach or grass.
Parks and Outdoors
- Parks and Open Spaces
- Surf Spots Body surfing is always free and so is watching surfers surf, and if you have a board yourself....
Sports and Exercise
- 24 Hour Fitness on Soquel Avenue (near the intersection of Soquel, Morrissey blvd. and Water st.) offers a free ten day trial membership without obligation to buy. Visit http://www.24hourfitness.com and print out the coupon and present it at the front desk.
- The Santa Cruz Hostel in the Beach Hill area rents bunks for $28 per bed, per night for adults (this option is for NON-Santa Cruz County residents only). They are closed to guests & the public from 11am-5pm.
- Camping is a rather expensive option (if you go legal with the State Parks). It runs $35 a night for car camping. Backpacking is cheaper.
- The Santa Cruz AIDS Project offers free, confidential HIV testing for at-risk individuals. (Your "risk" is assessed at your appointment, and is based on if you have experienced or have been exposed to any of the risk factors they look at.)
- Planned Parenthood offers free and low-cost reproductive and primary care. You can apply for FamilyPACT funding for free reproductive care, birth control and contraception and you can also use private insurance or Medi Cal.
Clothing, Furniture, and Material Goods
- Santa Cruz County Freecycle A network of people in the Santa Cruz area which operates through a "gift economy" ethic, offering, requesting and receiving goods with absolutely no strings attached or money involved. Also visit freecycle.org.
- Craigslist Free Listings: Santa Cruz
- Keep your eyes out for "free boxes" around town, especially around the times when leases tend to expire (Mid-June and the end of August)
- You wouldn't believe the stuff people throw away.
- Santa Cruz Free Skool usually hosts a free-for-all exchange day about once per quarter. Check their current calendar to find out where and when.
- You can receive a free 2.5 gallon used oil container for recycling your used oil and filters by calling (831) 420-5220. You can place the container next to your regular curbside recycling bins for pickup.
- Sometimes you may be able to get free automobile fluids at the Second Chance Store (see the Home Improvement/Gardening section below)
- The Second Chance Store at the Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Center occurs every Saturday from 7:30am to 3:30 pm. Here you can receive (and donate) free usable household products that have been donated for disposal, even though they are still usable. Common items include house paint, adhesives, stains, cleaning supplies, garden/auto products, caulk and aerosol products.
- The Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce has free, high quality maps available at the Museum of Art and History.
Misc. Cheap Stuff
Also see: Saving Money on Textbooks
- Santa Cruz County Head Start "A comprehensive child development program for children birth to five years of age and their families", including many free programs for low income families with children and children with disabilities.
- Santa Cruz Adult School Offers some free classes (such as GED preparation, computer skills, English as a Second Language, etc.); other classes offered for a fee.
- Watsonville/Aptos Adult Education Offers some free classes (such as GED preparation, computer skills, English as a Second Language, etc.); other classes offered for a fee.
- Santa Cruz Free Skool
- SubRosa has a collection of radical books, as well as a posting area for local radical events and actions.
- Hitchhiking in Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz METRO Not free, but cheaper than driving.
- Walking is free and fun! The city puts out a variety of self-guided walking tour brochures to teach people about the history of Santa Cruz.
- At the Santa Cruz downtown information center, you can pick up a brochure with walking tour instructions to view the downtown public art. You can also pick up the other walking tour brochures there as well.
Also see: Walking
- The Bike Church A tool cooperative and do-it-yourself repair facility for bicycles.
- FREE access to cycling routes throughout the county are available on the Santa Cruz County Cycle Club web site at: http://www.santacruzcycling.org Look under the 'rides' menu for the 'Rides Library'. You can download the routes with route sheets and maps.
Also see: Cycling
Birthday Freebies and Perks
- Video Video will give you a free video rental during the month of your birthday.
- On your 21st birthday, many local Bars and Nightclubs will give you a free drink. Frequently people will go barhopping to all the local places and be drunk for free by the end of the night.
Programs and Deals for Minors (Under age 18)
- See Santa Cruz County Head Start
Minors are admitted at no cost at the following places:
- Museum of Natural History
- Museum of Art and History (ages 12 and under)
Programs and Deals for Teens (12-19)
- Santa Cruz Teen Center offers teens recreational activities such as basketball, pool tables, Wii, X-Box 360, outdoor activities, foosball, movies, internet, and music. The Teen Center also sponsors dances, band nights, special events, day and overnight trips, sports, and outdoor events in addition to daily activities.
Programs and Deals for Seniors
- The City of Santa Cruz program Downtown Seniors offers low cost classes and resources, as well as free blood pressure screenings.Check the current Parks and Recreation Guide at http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/ for time and location.
- The City of Santa Cruz offers a free self-defense class for women age 60 and above at no cost. Check the current Parks and Recreation Guide at http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/ for time and location.
- Ask for the senior discount at Dharmas Organic vegetarian restaurant to save an additional 10% Order the small burrito and it is less than $6 for a full meal with salad. Or go to their web site and subscribe for FREE to their weekly email List for a discount coupon of $5 off a $25 purchase. http://www.dharmasrestaurant.com
Programs and Deals for Students
- For UCSC freebies and deals, see Getting the Most of Your UCSC Student Fees
- For Cabrillo Community College freebies and deals, see Getting the Most of Your Cabrillo Student Fees
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- The Homeless resource listings for homeless and other individuals seeking services