a VirtualTourist member
I have been to Santa Cruz in the past--a couple months ago actually--and while I really enjoyed myself I want to embark on my next visit a little bit more well-prepared. I'm a photographer, and the current theme I am interested in revolves around capturing lesser-known about / forgotten spaces. I don't specifically know what to describe what I'm looking for beyond "unconventional". If you know of any extremely unique or interesting attractions that gravitate far away from tourism, I'd love to know about them.
Not sure what part of Santa Cruz you've visited - but my part is Capitola. If you go there for Labor Day holidays they have a Sand Castle contest. Last time the trophies were little sand castles themselves - the entries exceptional!
The town itself is extremely picturesque, right out of a movie.
Not too sure this qualifies for what you are looking for, but the University of California at Santa Cruz is easily the most beautiful college campus I have ever visited (and I've visited many). It is formerly an 800-acre ranch. Many of the buildings were constructed amid the redwood trees so they blend into the scenery. You may want to check it out. It sits up on the hills just outside Santa Cruz.