Many (most?) of the visitors to my web site are folks who don’t actually live in Santa Cruz. Some of them have been to the area once or twice, some of them vacation regularly here. Some of them have children who are going to attend UC Santa Cruz, and some are considering Santa Cruz as a place to spend their retirement years. Whatever draws them here, a common interest is to research the various cities and the neighborhoods that make up Santa Cruz County.
Fortunately, there are a lot of tools these days for checking out Santa Cruz on-line. Although the only way to truly get to know a neighborhood is to come and spend some time in it, if that’s not very practical for you, there are alternatives.
Yelp.com: this is a very cool site. This is a site full of user-generated content about the various things to see and do in any area, including Santa Cruz. It has categories like Arts & Entertainment, Health and Medical, Nightlife, etc. I suggest you type in an address in an area you’re interested in and start here.
Flickr Map: You know about Flickr.com, right? They also have a handy map tool, so you can search for photos tagged as being taken from a certain area, like for example Santa Cruz. If you want to see what an area looks like, this is a great way to do it.
Yahoo Neighborhoods: Yahoo has a pretty interesting neighborhoods tool, which is closely coupled to their real estate section. It gives an overview of a city: population, demographics, weather, jobs, education, etc. It also gives you information on schools, restaurants, and shopping. It doesn’t actually break down various neighborhoods, alas.
Ask City: Venerable ask.com keeps trying to stay relevant, and has a bit of success with it’s Ask City tool. The Ask City tool is pretty cool – you can draw a shape on a map of a given area and ask to find businesses, events, movies, etc. that fall just in that area – good for researching neighborhoods.
Trulia.com: Trulia is far from venerable – they’re one of the new kids on the block. However, they put together a pretty impressive offering. They do focus mostly on real estate, but they have information on schools, for example. They also have an interesting housing price heat map for Santa Cruz county.
Google Maps: Google Maps is a fantastic tool, and they have now built into it a system for reviewing the businesses and other points of interest that you can find on the map. Also worth checking out, perhaps, is the Google Directory. Also, searching Google Images for Santa Cruz can yield some interesting information.
YouTube: This doesn’t really tell you much about neighborhoods, but you might find some interesting nuggets here, as always!