The Santa Cruz Boardwalk

There's something timeless about the old-fashioned Santa Cruz boardwalk, with it's row of funky rides, decadent junk food stands, and low-key, beach bum atmosphere. A true California experience...or maybe, how California used to be.

santa cruz boardwalk entrance
Enter the Boardwalk

It's like going back in time, when amusement parks on the beach were innocent and amateurish, but loads of fun. It's the only seaside amusement park on the West Coast.

santa cruz boardwalk rides
Rides, and More Rides

And bring your bathing suit; the boardwalk has one of the nicest swimming beaches in Northern California.

santa cruz beach
A Perfect Day at the Beach

The Rides

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is not a large amusement park, but it has a decent variety of rides. A sampling:

  • Rollercoaster
  • Water chute ride
  • The usual twirling and spinning rides
  • Free fall tower
  • Bumper cars
  • Spooky inside rides
  • Ferris wheel and carousel
  • Little kid rides
  • Laser tag

...and lots more: mini golf, arcade games, bowling, climbing wall, etc.

haunted castel ride, santa cruz boardwalk
The Haunted Castle

The Giant Dipper

This is an antique (but well-maintained), wooden roller coaster, which opened here in 1924. It's been featured in various films and TV shows over the years, and was named a National Historic Landmark.

Odds and Ends

Laffing Sal (sister of the one at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco) is here, in all her weirdness.

laffing sal, santa cruz boardwalk
Laffing Sal

Junk Food Heaven

Hot dogs, pizza, cotton candy, deep-fried Twinkies, burgers, funnel cakes, sno-cones, Italian ice cream, kettle korn....feeling a little nauseated? It's all good, as long as you don't do it too often.

funnel cakes stand, santa cruz boardwalk
Funnel Cakes!

(Get some fun (temporary) tattoos while you're there, too.)

Getting in the mood: flash mob in Santa Cruz:




Tickets for the Rides

Individual tickets are $3 to $6 per ride; it probably makes more sense to get one of the combo tickets, starting at $31.95 (unlimited rides), if you want to go on lots of them.

santa cruz boardwalk arcade
Santa Cruz Arcade

Hours

Hours vary, depending on the season. Generally speaking, open daily all summer, until 11 p.m. Spring, daily but more limited hours and rides. Winter and fall, weekends 11 a.m. till 7 or 8 p.m. Check their website for details: Boardwalk hours.

Summer Events

Santa Cruz has a couple of cool, free entertainment traditions at the boardwalk in summer (June-August):

  • Rock concerts on Friday nights.
  • Classic movies on an outdoor screen Wednesday nights.

Visiting the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz is about an hour and twenty minutes from San Francisco. The boardwalk is located at 400 Beach Street, and there's a parking lot across the street. Notice the train tracks in front of the boardwalk? See train info below.

Nearby attractions:

The Santa Cruz Mystery Spot:

Weirdness Central. Balls roll uphill and the laws of physics are turned upside down. Located on the outskirts of town. Very cool. More info on the Mystery Spot.

Redwood Forests:

Hike, camp and fish in the nearby redwoods. Closest ones are in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Mt. Hermon Road exit off hwy 17, just after you come over the mountains and before you get to Santa Cruz. We had a great experience camping there amongst the big trees.

Roaring Camp Railroads

This is great fun, highly recommended! Ride the Santa Cruz Beach Train, an old steam engine train, from the mountains in Felton (station is right near the HQ for Henry Cowell State Park, above) down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. 3 hours round trip. Daily in summer, weekends spring and fall. My son loved it when he was little, and so did I. Start at either end.

For a shorter, one hour experience, take the Redwood Forest Steam Train up the mountain into the Big Trees and back. For schedules and fees, see: Steam Trains.

San Francisco to Santa Cruz


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