Sun, sand, rides and roller coasters — the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a postcard-perfect oceanfront amusement park. The boardwalk was inaugurated in 1907, making it one of California's oldest amusement parks and a historical landmark. Set on stilts above Santa Cruz's Main Beach, the long and thin boardwalk runs parallel to the ocean and is jam-packed with rides, games and vendors selling treats like funnel cake, soft serve ice-cream and cotton candy.
The classic, wooden Giant Dipper is the area's signature roller coaster, a built in 1924. Thrill-seekers will also enjoy the giant drop tower and the log-ride that soaks passengers at the last drop. Other rides include bumper cars, a carousel and a gondola that hangs above the park and boasts unparalleled views of Santa Cruz, with mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Visitors often roam back and forth from the boardwalk onto the beach and into the ocean as they please. Free summer concerts on the beach are held on Friday nights, and free movie screenings on the beach take place on Wednesday nights. Both are summertime favorites among locals.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is located at 400 Beach Street in Santa Cruz. The site is in full operation from Memorial Day (in May) through Labor Day (in September), as well as on most weekends and holidays throughout the year. The boardwalk is closed December 1–25. Opening hours vary by season and day of the week. An all-day ride pass costs $33.95.