Santa Monica’s lesser-known Northerly neighbour, Santa Cruz is the very definition of a lefty’s Utopia in waiting.

What does it look like?

Less iconic than Monica’s pier, the image represented is almost the same – beaches of gold shimmering as brightly as California's infamous Gold Rush 500 years prior are coupled with an amusement park providing unparalleled views across the Pacific Ocean and for Santa Cruz, forests providing an effortless green backdrop to it all.

Home to the protected marine area of Monterey Bay, inhabitants of the seaside residence include the likes of Olympic athletes, recording artists and renowned artists but Santa Cruz remains somewhat unaware instead focusing on progressive movements.

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Why would it be "a lefty's Utopia in waiting?"

Once dubbed “murderville USA,” by then-District Attorney Peter Chang after the discovery of four bodies in 1973, the county at the time was known for its homelessness, property crime and soaring rates of alcoholism and substance abuse.

In response to this, it also became the home of the Resource Centre for Nonviolence in 1976 which to this day aims to “make the practice of nonviolence a means of affecting personal change and creating a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

The city itself seems to have adopted this relaxed attitude in the years following the opening of the centre and became one of the first in the country to legalise marijuana in 1992. Six years later it declared itself a nuclear-free zone and in more recent history, the Santa Cruz City Council became the first City Council in America to denounce the Iraq War.

Although if social activism isn't what you're planning for this Winter season, you may perhaps like to take some time away from the boardwalk's surfing, amusements and tanning and visit some of the other attractions in the area.

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What are some of the main attractions in the area?

Santa Cruz's more casual points of interest include The Mystery Spot located in the redwood forests where you can experience a strange phenomenon which appears to defy gravity and makes it extremely difficult to not be at your prime Britishness saying "sorry" every two seconds. If the very mention of such a place makes you nauseous, you may prefer a steam train through the forests, where you can also view America's very own Ben Lomond which was named by John Burns, a Scot who settled on the west side of the ridge in 1851.

What are some issues it has encountered in the past?

However it's not all about tourist spots and societal change, the 41km county has also previously suffered from its coastal location, with 20% of its area consisting of water. It was hit by ocean surges caused by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which left Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor an estimated $10 million worth of damage, with an additional $4 million worth of damage caused to the boats that were docked there at the time.

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It had already suffered from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that killed three people.

Though I spent my last night in Santa Cruz at a quaint restaurant which seemed somewhat out of touch with reality, complete an Instagram-worthy mix of fairy lights, greenery and fireplaces. An Italian spot, the food has the power to transport you from Santa Cruz to Santa Margherita Ligure. In the background, music universal to all tastes played whilst everyone ate, drank and calmly debated the night away - an area that is indeed a future Utopia for lefties. #SantaCruz #CalifornianChristmas #Wanderlust