3 Reasons to Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Perched along the sandy shoreline of California’s central coast is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an iconic landmark that has enchanted visitors for over a century! Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is California’s oldest seaside amusement park. Walking along the fun-filled path stretched across the beach, the kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, the sounds of thrill-seekers laughing and shrieking in delight, and the sweet aromas of fried foods mingling with the salty air welcome you to this nostalgic wonderland. With over 40 attractions, 26 carnival games, two arcades, a mini-golf course, laser tag arena, bowling alley, and shopping and dining options galore, there is no shortage of things to do and see here. Several events run throughout the year, from live music to cook-offs to movies on the beach. Its thrilling attractions, tasty treats, and beachside events are all worthwhile reasons to revel in the timeless charm of The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!   

Thrilling Attractions

A plethora of attractions line the mile-long Boardwalk, providing a range from family-friendly to adrenaline-rush rides, depending on your mood. Perhaps the most famous of all 40 attractions at the Boardwalk is also one of the oldest: the Giant Dipper, which has towered over the boardwalk since 1924! Climb aboard the 100-year-old red-and-white wooden roller coaster that delivers speeds up to 46 MPH, providing epic views of Monterey Bay along the way. For thrill-seeking riders, there’s no better feeling than the anticipation during the ascent followed by a heart-pounding plunge and the wind whipping through your hair with each twist and turn. Does it look familiar? Perhaps you’ve seen its signature red-and-white tracks in the vampire-laden cult classic The Lost Boys or Jordan Peele’s Us, cementing its status as a Boardwalk landmark.

Looking for family-friendly fun? Hop on the Looff Carousel, a classic, hand-carved merry-go-round that has been spinning since 1911. This national historic landmark is accompanied by the sounds of three antique band organs and the jingling of brass rings to be grabbed and tossed as the carousel twirls! Another favorite for all ages is the Cave Train, which takes visitors through time to caverns and grottoes filled with cavepeople set in a variety of scenes. This Boardwalk treasure is the reason why you’ll find several cavepeople lounging around the park! 

Tasty Treats

From classic carnival fare to innovative culinary creations, discover plenty of crave-worthy treats at the Boardwalk! The tempting aroma of freshly fried foods wafts from Surf City Grill, a seaside classic where you can sink your teeth into a corn dog – both the meat and vegetarian varieties are served here, a bacon cheeseburger, or a Texas-sized doughnut. Surf City Grill’s must-order item? French-fried artichoke hearts, which highlight the local bounty with a delicious boardwalk flair! This seaside amusement park’s impressive beachside views make it the perfect place to grab a clam chowder bread bowl. Head to the Beachside BBQ for more alfresco options, from the tempting turkey legs to pulled pork sandwiches, and tater tot bowls.

Indulge your sweet tooth with one of the Boardwalk’s delectable dessert possibilities! Savor the wispy texture and sweetness of freshly spun Cotton Candy Clouds, a nostalgic treat for all ages. A Boardwalk must-try is Funnel Cakes: This German breakfast tradition has become a Boardwalk delicacy for any time of day, topped with powdered sugar, strawberries, and even ice cream. The irresistible smell of the fresh-cooked dough will entice you to taste a funnel cake for yourself! For a true seaside classic, don’t miss a chance to stop in at one of the four Marini’s at the Beach locations along the Boardwalk. This candy shop has been serving salt water taffy, caramel corn, fudge, and an assortment of confections on the Boardwalk for over 100 years!   

Hot Rods at the Beach held annually in November | Photo by Jenn Day

Beachside Events

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk shines brightest in the summer season, when the sunshine and beachside views draw crowds from near and far. Throughout the summer months, there is an eclectic array of events to add to the fun: drop in on Wednesdays’ “Dipper Days” for $1 rides on the Giant Dipper, Free Movies on the Beach, and Live Music on the Colonnade each week of summer. With everything from cult classic films to reggae tunes on the summer lineup, The Boardwalk highlights a diverse mix of entertainment that ensures there is something for everyone to enjoy!

The Boardwalk keeps the fun coming all year round with family-friendly festivals, cook-offs, arts and crafts fairs, and more. Bring your appetite along at the Chili Cook-off and the Clam Chowder Cook-Off: try tasty samples of from local chefs, both amateur and professional, as they compete for the title of the Boardwalk’s Best! More merriment ensues at the Fiesta en la Playa, a vibrant celebration of Latino traditions; the Fall Campout’s giant beachside sleepover; Hot Rods at the Beach; and the Boardwalk Winter Wonderland, a festive celebration that highlights the best of the holiday season. These events provide unforgettable experiences, so mark your calendar and get ready to make blissful beachside memories!

Explore all of the nostalgic fun that The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has to offer on your next visit to the California coast. Admission to the Boardwalk is free, with ride tickets and season passes available for purchase. With its thrilling rides, delicious treats, and variety of events to discover, this national historic landmark’s timeless charms are sure to inspire cherished memories for generations to come!