Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Classic Santa Cruz Boardwalk Brings Out the Kid in Everyone


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park

One of our most beloved family traditions is our annual trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in late August, right before school starts. We spend the day boogie boarding, picnicking, and sunbathing at nearby Seacliff State Beach, and then pull on our sweatshirts, pile in the car, and head to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for an evening of thrill rides, picturesque ocean views, deep-fried treats, and old-fashioned kicks.

With tired feet, sunburned noses, and stomachs slightly queasy from too much cotton candy (or was it one too many spins on the Hurricane?), we trudge to the car at 11 p.m. for the three-hour drive back to Sacramento. It’s always a long day, but never once have we regretted it. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk – known as the “Coney Island of the West” — is a classic California experience that will forever occupy a special place in our hearts.

One of our favorite things about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is that there are so many ways to enjoy it. We’ll list our Top 12, but first let’s get a few questions out of the way.

What Exactly Is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk?

Perhaps we can start by explaining what it is not. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is not Disneyland. And it’s not Six Flags. You get a totally different “vibe” here, as if a leather-jacketed James Dean is right around the corner sipping Coke out of a glass bottle.

What we find particularly appealing about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is that it’s big enough to be exciting but not so big as to overwhelm. It’s just a half-mile long, and very easy to navigate.

Second, this iconic seaside amusement park is the real deal. When people say it’s “historic,” that’s because it is! Two of the park’s nearly three dozen rides and attractions are National Historic Landmarks. The park itself is over 100 years old.

Where is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk?

The park is located in the California coastal city of Santa Cruz between San Francisco and Monterey. The park’s address is 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

What are the Hours?

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and on weekends and holidays in the fall and part of spring. (A limited number of rides are open every day in April and May.) The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is usually closed the first three weeks of December for winter maintenance.

The Boardwalk’s Grand Arcade, the Casino Arcade, and Neptune’s Kingdom Miniature Golf plus the new Boardwalk Bowl are open year-round with the exception of Christmas Day.

Park hours vary depending on the day and time of year. Check the calendar on the website www.beachboardwalk,com for specific opening and closing times. During peak summer season, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is open from 10 or 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily.

Good to know Not all of the rides may be running on certain days. Check the park calendar on the above website to see when limited-operation days are scheduled. Operation of rides is also

How much does the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Cost?

Not a cent – if you just want to take a stroll through the park and see what’s happening. Admission is free, and the park is always open to the public even when rides are closed. Tickets can be purchased for individual rides ($3 to $5 each), or you can get an all-day wristband allowing for unlimited rides for $29.95 plus tax. Another option includes unlimited rides plus attractions (mini golf, bowling, laser tag, etc.) for $36.95. If you just can’t stay away, definitely go for the Endless Summer Season Pass. At $69.95 plus tax, it can be a real bargain!

Here’s something else you should know: On limited-operation days, some rides and areas of the park are closed, so you can expect to get discounts. For example, all-day unlimited-ride wristbands are discounted to $19.95 plus tax when not all of the rides are up and running.

Insider tip Costco members, listen up. You can get a special Costco Two-Pack for $54.99 (tax included). The package includes two Attractions Plus Unlimited Rides tickets.

Now, a word about parking at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. It’s normally $12 when the rides are open; $5 for limited-operation ride days, and free when rides are closed. RV parking costs $25.

on the weather. Call (831) 423-5590 for specific updates.

Where to Stay

Here are two good lodging options within walking distance of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Carousel Motel
Complimentary continental breakfast, free wireless Internet access, Santa Cruz Boardwalk packages; 110 Riverside Ave., Santa Cruz, CA; (831) 425-7090 or (800) 214-7400

Good to know Great for families on a budget!

Sand & Sea Inn
Ocean view from every room, complimentary continental breakfast, free wireless Internet access, suites with hot tubs and private patios overlooking the ocean; 201 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; (831) 427-3400

Good to know A good choice for couples who want to splurge on romance.

Top 12 Ways to Get Your Kicks at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

  1. Attend a FREE Friday-night summer concert featuring your favorite ‘70s, 80s, and early ‘90s Top 40 bands. Can there be anything better than rocking out to Loverboy on the beach? We don’t think so!
  2. Ride the landmark Giant Dipper, a classic wooden roller coaster that’s been a fixture at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk since 1924.
  3. Grab the brass ring on the hand-carved Looff Carousel, which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2011.
  4. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Marini’s saltwater taffy, made at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk since 1915. Or perhaps you’d prefer a deep-fried Twinkie?
  5. Get breathtaking views of the ocean from the Skyglider, Fireball, Logger’s Revenge, Rock-o-Plane, Hurricane, Sea Swings, Giant Dipper, and the historic Ferris Wheel.
  6. Ride (or walk) on the dark side. Venture deep below the Santa Cruz Boardwalk at the Haunted Castle, or take a Fright Walk, the Boardwalk’s only walk-through attraction featuring plenty of scary special effects.
  7. Test your skill at the Casino Arcade, home of the largest selection of video games in the area – more than 300 in all.
  8. Dodge glowing laser beams at the Vault Lazer Maze while trying to beat your friends’ scores.
  9. Visit Neptune’s Kingdom, a nautical-themed entertainment center featuring an 18-hole mini golf course. While you’re there, grab a burger at Barbary Coast Restaurant.
  10. Shop ‘til you drop for nostalgic souvenirs, surf/sun/beach gear, ocean-inspired gifts, jewelry, and apparel. You can even design your own T-shirt!
  11. Show off your skills at Boardwalk Bowl, a state-of-the-art bowling facility, arcade, restaurant, and lounge.
  12. Practice your best “yarrrrggggh” while swinging to and fro on the ever-popular Pirate Ship.

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