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If you love artichokes, you'll delight in the fact that Watsonville, California, calls itself the artichoke capital of the world. Sitting 23 miles southeast of Santa Cruz, Watsonville is primarily an agricultural community with about 80 percent of its residents involved in farming. Life tends to move at a slow, relaxed pace in this small town just inland of the Monterey Bay. With both Monterey and Santa Cruz within an easy drive, young families often pick Watsonville for its laid-back vibe, reasonable cost of living and convenient commutes.

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Rent Trends

As of October 2017, the average apartment rent in Watsonville, CA is $1,137 for a studio, $1,603 for one bedroom, $1,692 for two bedrooms, and $1,438 for three bedrooms. Apartment rent in Watsonville has increased by 4.3% in the past year.

Beds
Avg Sq Ft
Avg Rent
Studio
271
$1,137
1 BR
606
$1,603
2 BR
492
$1,692
3 BR
877
$1,438
Beds
Avg Sq Ft
Avg Rent

Ratings

66 Walk Score® Somewhat Walkable
30 Transit Score® Some Transit
0 Bike Score® Somewhat Bikeable

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Restaurants

Restaurants in Watsonville tend to cluster along State Route 152, which runs right through the middle of town. Most of the casual eateries in this town serve Mexican food, with a few little breakfast places and seafood restaurants thrown in.

Stop at La Perla del Pacifico on Main Street when you want to visit a Mexican restaurant that serves more than the standard burritos and tacos. This intimate restaurant serving authentic Mexican seafood dishes starts with some of the finest ceviche in the area, then follows it up with cornal de mariscos, shrimp enchiladas and octopus tostada. Try the fried fish for a real treat, and save room for some authentic flan for dessert.

Cowboys Corner Cafe sits on Main Street on the road out of town, beckoning locals to a satisfying breakfast. Feel the joy as a hot, fresh cinnamon roll or banana chocolate muffin melts in your mouth, then choose between a pesto scramble, pork chops or a sourdough burger, all served in large portions. If you love biscuits, make sure to order the biscuits and gravy.

When you don't have time for more than a quick taco, Watsonville has plenty of options for you. Lidia’s Antojitos Oaxaqueños serves up amazing mole, handmade tortillas and other Oaxacan specialties. Stop by the local bus station to find Lidia's, or look for her booth at the local farmers market. Trejos Carnitas also makes corn and flour tortillas by hand, serving up what locals tout as the best carnitas in the county. Brush up your Spanish before you place your order.

If you're looking for nightlife in Watsonville, you'll have to confine yourself to a few local bars. Drop in at The Villager on Lake Avenue for strong drinks accompanied by shuffleboard and country music on the jukebox. The Villager provides a shuttle service to get you home when you shouldn't be driving. Head to the clubhouse at Pacific Golf Centers for inexpensive drinks while you watch the game on big-screen TVs. For live music and a more upscale after-hours scene, head up Highway 1 to Santa Cruz.

History

When Spanish explorers first came to northern California in 1769, they saw their first redwood tree here in Watsonville. The region became part of the Rancho Bolsa del Pajaro land grant, with Watsonville itself founded by John H. Watson in 1852. The arrival of the airplane in the 1930s brought many to the area, with pilots attracted by the flat, smooth ground. Agriculture continues to be the driving force in this region.

Drop by the Agricultural History Project Museum and the Pajaro Valley Historical Association to learn more about Watsonville's history and to check out antique farm implements and machines.

Each September, all of Santa Cruz County flocks to Watsonville for the Santa Cruz County Fair. Enjoy the unique community feel of this fair with its pig races, camel rides, pie-eating contests and kids' talent shows.

Transportation

Watsonville sits at the hub of long-distance public transportation across Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, with buses stopping at the Watsonville Transit Center to take locals to Santa Cruz and Salinas. Because of the spread-out, agricultural nature of the area, however, locals who have cars typically use them for all commuting. State Route 1 runs just to the west of Watsonville to connect you to Santa Cruz or Monterey, and State Route 152 runs inland to hook up with U.S. 101. Drivers have no trouble finding parking anywhere in or around Watsonville.

If you don't have a car, taxis and Uber can be hired by phone. You'll find bike lanes on almost every road in Watsonville, and while distances through most of the area are too great for walking, pedestrians can get many errands done on foot in the small city center.

Cost

The cost of living in Watsonville is only 1 percent higher than that of California as a whole, but 33 percent lower than that of nearby Santa Cruz. When you take the Santa Cruz Metro bus to Santa Cruz, expect to pay $2. However, gasoline prices run about 18 percent higher than the national average.

A one-bedroom apartment in Watsonville costs an average of $967 per month. When you decide to grab a beer in a local bar, expect to pay $4 to %5.

Shopping

Most of Watsonville's major shopping destinations take the form of big-box stores such as Target or Home Depot. Within the quiet streets of this town, however, you can also find a few specialty gems worth a stop.

Queen's Shoes and More definitely provides "more," with an adorable Mommy and Me line of clothes for mothers and daughters, as well as handbags, accessories and dresses. Stop in for personalized service and put together an entire outfit.

Crossroads Books on Main Street features local authors and a terrific children's section. Locals love having their own independent bookstore in town, and the knowledgeable and friendly owner takes good care of her customers.

Nob Hills Foods and Food Maxx take care of most of the food and sundries needs of the local population, but you can also find some intriguing ethnic and specialty markets. Stop at Mi Pueblo Food Center for great local produce, Mexican food ingredients and lip-smacking pan dulce. Yamashita Grocery on Union Street sells Asian ingredients for Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes, as well as fun Japanese candies.

The Watsonville Farmers Market attracts people from all over the county, who consider it one of the best farmers markets anywhere. Most of the farmers selling here feature organic produce, and the prepared foods sold here, including kettle corn, tacos and grilled meats, are terrific as well. With the farms themselves surrounding you as you browse the vendors, you know all the produce must be exceptionally fresh.

Parks

Watsonville features a few small parks that provide locals with the opportunity to participate in organized sports and activities or just find a place to relax. Callaghan Park on Sudden Street has playground equipment for kids to play on, plus basketball courts, tennis courts and a game room. Locals love to take their dogs to play at Pinto Lake County Dog Park or Franich Dog Park. Pinto Lake also features a full RV park with hook-ups. Bring your young skater to Ramsey Skate Park for some practice and showing off.

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