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Historic Downtown Watsonville is an eclectic mix of old and new, with local shop owners and national retailers sharing charming sidewalks, pocket parks, and historic facades. As the heart of the community, this once bustling retail district is on the cusp of a renaissance with untapped potential. With development opportunities and a loyal customer base within reach, the best is yet to come in this growing community.
Watsonville's historic downtown features many Victorian-era buildings designed by renowned architect William Weeks, including stately commercial structures lining Main Street that lend a traditional "Main Street USA" character to the area.
The Victorian buildings and 1880s storefronts lining the streets of downtown Watsonville create a historic ambiance. The town's central gathering place, Watsonville Plaza, hosts lively celebrations and festivals. Just a few blocks from the plaza, the Henry J. Mello Center is renowned for its superior acoustics. Nearby, the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery showcases rotating exhibits, and the Pajaro Valley Historical Museum traces the area's rich history.
Download a copy of the Historic Walking Tour Brochure (PDF). You can also obtain a printed version by visiting the City Offices.
Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley offer visitors a diverse range of attractions and activities. From the Watsonville Municipal Airport, where aircraft adventures await, to the historic downtown with its charming buildings, Watsonville boasts some of the best dining experiences on the Central Coast. Nature lovers can go birdwatching in the morning, pick fruit at a farm in the afternoon, take a sunset stroll on the beach, or attend one of the area's signature festivals. With strawberry fields and apple orchards providing a picturesque backdrop, this scenic destination has something for everyone.
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.
Every Friday afternoon, the lively Watsonville Farmers Market takes place in Downtown Watsonville's City Plaza from 2-7 p.m., offering visitors a cornucopia of locally grown fresh produce, flowers, and prepared foods all year round. Shoppers can browse bountiful selections of fruits, vegetables, and artisanal eats while supporting local farms and food makers in this vibrant community gathering space.
The strawberry fields and apple orchards of the scenic Pajaro Valley, visible from the summit of Mount Madonna, provide a gorgeous backdrop that welcomes visitors to the communities of Corralitos, Freedom, La Selva Beach, Pajaro, Royal Oaks, Pajaro Dunes, and Watsonville. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, from early morning bird watching and afternoon trips to u-pick farms or museums to sunset strolls on the expansive beaches or attending signature festivals.
Take a tour of the Agricultural History Museum, located at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. This museum features restored horse-drawn equipment, interpretive exhibits, and other vintage farm items. Participate in "2nd Saturday on the Farm" events, where agricultural experts highlight daily farm life through interactive activities, arts and crafts, and more.
Marvel at the expansive acres of lush produce as you drive through the region where fertile soil and mild climate yield some of the nation's finest crops. Buy your own fresh produce, flowers, and one-of-a-kind art at the Watsonville Certified Farmer's Market, open every Friday year-round.
Enjoy free cider tastings at the original Martinelli's Company Store and tasting room. Here you can sample complimentary Martinelli's products, purchase items by the case, shop for apparel and merchandise, and learn about Martinelli's company history.
In the southern part of Santa Cruz County, Manresa and Sunset State Beaches are frequently uncrowded, making them ideal for sunset strolls along the water. Meanwhile, Watsonville's distinctive terrain offers abundant opportunities for enjoyment and adventure.
Spend lazy days soaking up the sun on the sandy beaches of the south coast. Manresa State Beach welcomes leashed four-legged friends to enjoy walks, runs, or relaxed days basking in the sunshine. Picnic atop the bluffs at the provided tables for panoramic views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay. Drive past the scenic Pajaro Dunes Resort, a Watsonville strand of beachfront vacation rentals boasting breathtaking vistas and prime wildlife viewing. Manresa State Beach provides ideal wildlife spotting on both land and sea. In early spring, Snowy Plover hatchlings emerge along the sands, observable from a safe distance.
Watsonville offers numerous excellent dining options, which you can explore further on the city's Yelp page.
In 2004, the City of Watsonville established the Nature Center in Ramsay Park through the Department of Public Works & Utilities. The goals were to create a space for community environmental education and wetland exploration, and to serve as a gateway to the city's award-winning trail system. For the past 17 years, the humble trailer in Ramsay Park known as the Watsonville Nature Center has provided a place where community members of all ages can learn about local habitats, get free conservation items, and join guided nature walks. The Center has also been a hub for residents to learn about recycling, composting, water conservation, pollution prevention, conservation rebates, and other environmental topics.
Watsonville is located minutes from beaches, redwood forests, wine and mountain bike tours, whale watching, birding and more. Below is a list of just some of the things you can do in Watsonville.
- A Day in Watsonville
- Area Parks
- Corralitos Wine Trail
- Elkhorn Slough
- Farm Tours
- Gizdich Ranch
- Moss Landing
- Mountain Bike Tours
- Wine Tours
- 150 Things to Do and See in Watsonville
For more information on activities in Santa Cruz County, please visit the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council website.
The Pajaro Valley is a major agricultural hub. If it were its own county, it would rank 5th in California for farm production. The leading crops include strawberries, apples, fresh flowers, cauliflower, broccoli, and artichokes. Watsonville food processors freeze and ship more fruits and vegetables than any other area in the U.S. Over $280 million per year is spent transporting fresh and processed crops worldwide from the Pajaro Valley. Though agriculture and food processing dominate the local economy, other industries like electronics, manufacturing, services, and non-farm distribution centers have been growing in the city, diversifying its economic profile.
Watsonville's main industries are agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. Several major national company headquarters located within the city limits include Driscoll's Strawberries, Martinelli's, California Giant, Monterey Mushrooms, Graniterock, Granite Construction, West Marine, Vendwize, and Fox Racing Shox.
- Pajaro Valley Unified School District consists of 34 schools of which some have received California Distinguished School and Blue Ribbon awards.
- 20 Universities and colleges within a 50 mile drive including UCSC (University of California-Santa Cruz), CSUMB (California State University-Monterey Bay) and SJSU (San Jose State University)
Parks & Facilities
- Arista Park 52 Arista Court Watsonville, CA 95076
- Atri Park 602 Atri Court Watsonville, CA 95076
- Aviation Education Center 60 Aviation Way Watsonville, CA 95076
- Brentwood Park 320 Brentwood Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Bronte Park 615 Bronte Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076
- Callaghan Park 225 Sudden Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Callaghan Park Cultural Center 225 Sudden Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3240 Fax: 831-763-4078
- Cherry Blossom Park 41 Loma Prieta Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076
- City Hall - Main Street Main Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- City Hall – Union Street Union Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- City Plaza Park Main Street and Peck Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Civic Plaza Community Rooms 275 Main Street Fourth Floor Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3240 Fax: 831-763-4078
- Civic Plaza Parking Garage 275 Main Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Cooper Lot Brennan Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Crestview Park Brewington Avenue and Crestview Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Dufor Lot Second Street and Rodriguez Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Emmett Courts Park 37 Sudden Street Behind the Pajaro Valley Watsonville, CA 95076
- Flodberg Park 219 Alvarado Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Franich Park 795 Vista Montana Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Freedom Branch Homework Center 2021 Freedom Blvd Freedom, CA 95019 Watsonville, CA 95076
- Freedom Branch Library 2021 Freedom Blvd Freedom, CA 95019Watsonville, CA 95076
- Hazlewood Park 297 Herman Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076
- Hope Drive Park 75 Hope Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Jefsen Lot East Lake Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Joyce-Mckenzie Park 500 Joyce Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Kearney Park 118 Kearney Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Las Brisas Park 1028 Nueva Vista Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076
- Main Library 275 Main Street, Suite #100Watsonville, CA 95076
- Main Library Meeting Room 275 Main Street, Suite #100Watsonville, CA 95076
- Marinovich Community Center 120 Second Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3240 Fax: 831-763-4078
- Marinovich Lot Union Street and Alexander Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Marinovich Park 118 Second Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Masonic Lot Maple Avenue and Union Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Mello Lot Main Street and Union Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Memorial Park Main Street and Freedom Boulevard Watsonville, CA 95076
- Muzzio Community Center 26 W Front Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3240 Fax: 831-763-4078
- Muzzio Park 26 West Front Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Paseo Plaza Alexander Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Peace Drive Park 62 Peace Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Pinto Lake Park 451 Green Valley Road Watsonville, CA 95076 831-728-6194
- Ramsay Park 1301 Main Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Ramsay Park Family Center 1301 Main Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3240 Fax: 831-763-4078
- Resetar Lot Main Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Rider Lot West Lake Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- River Park 100 E Front Street Watsonville, CA 95076
- Riverside Mini Park 127 Riverside Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Seaview Ranch Park 105 Lighthouse Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Solorio Lot East Fifth Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
- Veterans Memorial Building 215 E Beach Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3240 831-763-4078
- Victorian Park 106 Weeks Drive Watsonville, CA 95076
- Watsonville Youth Center 30 Maple Avenue Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3248 Fax: 831-763-4078
- West Beach Street Parking Garage West Beach Street Watsonville, CA 95076 831-768-3455
First Time Homebuyers
The City of Watsonville offers a First Time Homebuyer Program to help low income households purchase their first home.
Anyone who has not owned or held ownership interest in a home or other real estate within the last three years; and households whose annual projected gross income does not exceed the income limits based on size is eligible. The program is funded from various sources. View the current income limits (PDF) by funding source. Homebuyers must be able to provide at least 3% of the sales price toward the purchase of the home and successfully complete a City-approved homebuyer education class.
- Must be located within the City limits
- Cannot exceed maximum allowable sales price for the area
- Must be on a permanent foundation
- Must be vacant for a minimum of three months or be owner-occupied prior to offer to purchase
- Must be able to pass a housing and lead-based paint inspection
- Loan Terms
Repayment of the loans is deferred for 30 years at 1% simple interest and must be repaid upon the first of the following occurrences:
- Home is sold or transferred
- Borrower ceases to occupy the home as their principal place of residence
- First mortgage loan becomes due and payable
- Home is refinanced with cash out
- 30 years from the loan date
- The amount of assistance is based on the lesser of the following:
- Program funding subsidy limits
- Affordability gap
Prospective homebuyers should start by getting pre-qualified for a first mortgage loan with a lender who is either familiar with or willing to work with the Program. First mortgage loans must be fully amortized over a minimum of 30 years at a fixed interest rate. Once pre-qualified, the homebuyer should start looking for homes within the price range recommended by lender, which should be determined taking into consideration the amount of the first mortgage loan, down payment and our Program limits should you need additional assistance.
After the homebuyer has entered into an agreement to purchase, their lender must contact the Community Development Department, Housing Division to begin the application process. The City will review the application and work with the lender to determine eligibility and complete the transaction.
For more information about the City's Housing Programs, call 831-768-3080 or submit our Contact Us form.
- First Time Homebuyer - English (PDF) updated 10.24.2023
- First Time Homebuyer - Spanish (PDF) updated 10.24.2023
- First Time Homebuyer Guidelines (Revised 7/30/2018) 2023
Watsonville's Affordable Housing Ordinance requires most new housing developments to include units that are affordable to very low to above moderate income households. These units may also be referred to as inclusionary or deed restricted units. The units are restricted to specific income categories based on the requirements of the Ordinance. Prospective buyers may purchase units at or above their projected annual household income based on household size.
All prospective buyers must be approved by the City and agree to abide by various requirements designed to ensure that the unit remain affordable. These requirements include, but may not be limited to the following:
- Unit must be owned and occupied as the buyer's principal place of residence
- Unit cannot be sold for more than the maximum resale limit
- Unit must be sold to an income eligible buyer
Program limits change on an annual basis and may differ depending on project. The City is not involved in the sale of individual units except to approve the prospective buyer(s) once the sales contract has been executed and prior to close of escrow. Additional Information For more information about the City's Housing Programs, call 831-768-3080 or submit our Contact Us form.
Affordable Housing Resources
- Affordable Housing Program - English (PDF) updated 10.24.2023
- Affordable Housing Program - Spanish (PDF) updated 10.24.2023
- Published Affordable Units per AB 987 updated 10/23/2023
- Afford homes for sale 10.24.2023
If you are interested in units for rent, visit the Housing Authority's website for lists of affordable housing.
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