According to the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot website, it's "a gravitational anomaly" discovered by surveyors in 1939 opened to the public in 1940. Tour guides claim that gravity and the laws of physics go haywire at the Mystery Spot. They speculate about what might be buried underground.
While touring the Mystery Spot, you'll think your mind is playing tricks on you. Compasses go crazy, and balls roll uphill, people's height seems to change suddenly, and it's common for visitors to get a headache from all of it.
In reality, what you see at the Mystery Spot is more related to optical illusion and a location where no reference points can be seen. For a good explanation of how they're created, see what Sandlot Science says about it.
Nevertheless, people want to see the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. And judging from the cars on the road in Silicon Valley, they all have bumper stickers to prove it. It's fun to suspend disbelief and join in the fun - or to try to keep your wits about you and figure out how it all works.
What People Think of the Mystery Spot
Considering how old-fashioned and corny it is, the Mystery Spot still gets high ratings from online reviewers. They start out saying it's a tourist trap but they like it anyway. The main reason for that seems to be the tour guides, who get high marks from everyone.
Tripadvisor ranks the Mystery Spot high on their list of things to do in Santa Cruz. People can't seem to get enough of taking wacky pictures of their friends appearing to walk on the walls or floating in mid-air.
They also praise the tour guides saying "The guides are fantastic and fun to be with. They give everyone plenty of time to take pictures too!" Most reviews also say waiting for their tour went by fast because they took a short hike on the nearby trail or grabbed a bite to eat at the Snack Shack to pass the time.
People who give low ratings complain about the bad road on the way in. Many of them also showed up without tickets and experienced long waits to get on a tour. Others were just skeptical or bored.
Mystery Spot Tips
- The Mystery Spot sometimes gets so busy they stop letting people in. Even if that doesn't happen, you could arrive and find out you have to wait for hours. Avoid all those hassles and buy tickets online instead, even though you'll have to pay a convenience fee to do it.
- If you ignore the tip above, take cash or a check to pay for your Mystery Spot tickets or be prepared to pay a $2 transaction fee to use your debit card.
- Bring more cash to pay for parking, which is not included in the admission price.
- If you have a larger vehicle, call ahead so they can be sure to find a spot for you.
- Allow more than enough time to get there. Even if you buy tickets ahead, they will sell your spot if you don't show up before you tour starts and make you wait for the next available tour time.
- Bring your lunch and enjoy the picnic and garden area before or after your tour. You can also buy food at the Snack Shack, but it isn't open every day.
- Pets are allowed in the parking lot but not inside the attraction gate. Leave them home or bring someone along who doesn't mind staying behind to keep them company.
- The kids will have to walk or be carried. Strollers are not allowed.
- Wheelchairs are accommodated, but you'll need an assistant or two to help with steep hills.
- Everyone loses cell phone reception at the Mystery Spot and you may need to rely on old-fashioned methods (like a paper map) to navigate in and out.
What You Need to Know About the Mystery Spot
For driving directions, current hours and ticket prices and to buy tickets line, go to the Mystery Spot website.
Allow a little more than an hour for the experience, to get there ahead of time and take the 45-minute guided tour. The best time to visit the Mystery Spot is in the morning on busy days - or during the week.
If you liked the Mystery Spot, you may also like the Mystery Shack at Calico Ghost Town east of Barstow which is is a similar attraction.
In San Jose, the Winchester Mystery House also appeals to people who like odd things.