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

Surf's Up! Do you feel your inner surfer coming out? If you've ever wanted to try surfing, Santa Cruz is a mellow place for beginners to get their feet wet. They have a 3 hour lesson available for those just starting out (they provide all the gear). See surf lessons for more info and booking.

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!

You can 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 Highway 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, or vice versa. 3 hours round trip, start at either end. Daily in summer, weekends spring and fall. My son loved it when he was little, and so did I. See Roaring Camp Railroad.

For a shorter, one hour experience, take the Redwood Forest Steam Train up the mountain on a narrow gauge track, into the Big Trees and across a gorge on a trestle bridge.

This train leaves from Roaring Camp in Felton, near Santa Cruz, off Highway 17.

Note: I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the link below, at no extra cost to you. This helps me provide all the free information I post on this website.

See Redwood Steam Train for more info and booking.

San Francisco to Santa Cruz


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COVID-19 Status: at midnight on Monday, March 16, San Francisco was placed under a "shelter-in-place order.

All residents were ordered to stay home, except for necessary trips to grocery stores and essential medical visits, and solo outdoor activities like hiking.

The city had been gradually reopening of many businesses and activities, but in December, came under a strict, stay-at-home directive, due to a sudden increase in infection and hospitalization rates.

Since then, Covid numbers have dropped significantly.

Big changes coming June 15 (assuming the Covid numbers stay down). California is scheduled to fully reopen, meaning all business sectors will reopen to full or almost full capacity, including concerts, stadium sports and festivals.

Most recently, May 6, 2021, SF has moved to a less restrictive status.

Public transportation options have been cut back. See SF transit for more info.

Cable cars are expected to resume running in the fall; the Powell-Hyde line will be first.

See COVID rules for current SF status.

Mask rules: everyone in SF is required to wear a mask when they are outside and within 30 feet of other people.

Now fully vaccinated people may go without masks outdoors, but must wear masks in indoors settings.

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June 15 mask changes: fully vaccinated people can go without masks indoors as well, with some exceptions like hospitals, schools, nursing homes and on public transit.

SF Curfew has been ended.

What is open? Muir Woods, the Botanic Gardens, Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Garden, Pier 39, SF beaches, Golden Gate Bridge, and Twin Peaks (car access on Portola, main parking lot open) are all open.

Parking lots for SF beaches, Twin Peaks, and the Golden Gate Bridge are open. But the Welcome Center lot and Merchant Road lot at the bridge are closed.

Restaurants can now be open to 50% capacity for indoor and outdoor dining, and many restaurants are open for take-out or delivery.

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Businesses can allow customers inside, on a limited basis (grocery stores 50%).

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Indoor concerts, live theater, and sporting events, may open 50% capacity. Proof of vaccination or negative Covid test will be required. See more info on indoor events.

Some venues are waiting until June 15 because capacity limits don't work for those businesses.

Napa and Sonoma county wineries are open.

For a handy list of what's open or closed in SF, plus info on what's open in other cities and counties of California, see California reopening schedules.

See coronavirus news in the SF Chronicle for details and updates.

See SF closures timeline.

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Also see site and parking lot closures for the National Park Service (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, etc.)

Plus helpful info on which parks and hiking trails are open in the Bay Area.

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