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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Visiting Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

© Betsy Malloy 2003
  • Hours: Vary seasonally. Visit their website for current hours
  • Cost: You can walk on the boardwalk for free, but you'll pay for the rides and amusements. They offer several ticket options, ranging from a single ride ticket to an unlimited all-day or season pass.
  • Location: On the waterfront in downtown Santa Cruz, directions below
  • How Long: Allow at least a few hours, up to all day long
  • Best Time to Visit: If you want to avoid crowds, go in spring or fall, but for the maximum fun, summer is the only alternative.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a thriving American seaside amusement parks, one of only about two dozen still in operation and the largest on the West Coast. Opened in 1907, the entire amusement park is a California Historic Landmark and the 1911 Looff Carousel and the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster are registered National Historic Landmarks on their own.

Don't get the wrong idea, though. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is as popular as ever and it was named “Best Seaside Amusement Park” in the 2010 Golden Ticket Awards, an award given by Amusement Today magazine.

Most popular among the 35 Boardwalk rides are the Giant Dipper, considered one of the world’s top wooden roller coasters, the Carousel and Double Shot, a tower ride that offers panoramic views before dropping you 125 feet. Their newest ride, added in 2010 is the Haunted Castle, an amped-up version of the old-fashioned house of horrors lurking in the basement below the Boardwalk itself. You'll also find games and arcades, shopping, restaurants and fast food stands. Free concerts are held on summer Friday nights.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Tips

  • Some rides have height limits and on others, small children (under 34 inches tall) can ride free with a paying chaperon.

  • When you're going to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, think of it like going to the beach. Bring hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, water and so on.

  • Leave Bowser at home unless he's a guide dog. Pets are not allowed on the boardwalk.

  • If you're on a tight budget, bring your own picnic and buy as many tickets as you can afford, then let the kids figure out how to budget their fun.

  • We think the boardwalk is especially pretty at night. Instead of trying to get there before everyone else, go out in early afternoon, stay after sunset and avoid the worst traffic as a bonus.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Review

We rate Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk 3.5 stars out of 4 for its fun vibe and excellent location. We just wish it wasn't so hard to get out there on the weekend.

What do you think of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk?

See what other people just like you think about it. If have seen the weekend traffic jams going toward Santa Cruz on Hwy 17 and the packed parking lots around the boardwalk, you may be as baffled by the results as we are.

Getting to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz California, CA
831-423-5590
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Website

By automobile, take CA Hwy 17 or CA Hwy 1 to Santa Cruz and follow the street signs to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Traffic on Hwy 17 builds up on weekend mornings; get an early start to avoid inching across the summit.

Street parking in the area is scarce, metered and has short time limits. You're better off to just park in the big lots (for a fee) nearby. Think of the parking fee as a substitute for admission and maybe you'll feel better about it.

From downtown San Jose, you can also take the Highway 17 Express bus which connects to Caltrain, making it possible to get all the way to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk from San Francisco.

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