Updated: December 2017
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk:If you live in the Bay Area odds are you have visited the Beach Boardwalk amusement park over in Santa Cruz, California. First, this seaside amusement park is over 100 years old and crowds have flocked here for decades escaping the heat of the Silicon Valley. The uniqueness of the park to me is that it sits right off the Pacific Ocean and there is technically no admission fee. The rides do cost money, but you can literally walk from the beach up a few steps and be in the park. You can play games, eat some food or take on a few rides. There are activities for all ages and one of the main attractions is the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster made of wood. I grew up in the Bay Area and went to Beach Boardwalk many times as a kid and teenager. My recent visit in July 2009 had me taking my family (wife and kids) back for a nostalgic trip. I was expecting a much dated amusement park but to my surprise it still had a modern feel to it. Some of the classic rides hadn't changed much but they have added several new and improved rides to keep up with the times. We visited on a Thursday in the summer and the crowds were minimal.
Park hours are roughly 11AM to 11 PM during the summer months and on Fridays they offer live music in the evenings out on the beach. The musicians include groups like The Smithereens, Loverboy, Eddie Money, Starship, and many more. The music is all sponsored and free to the public to enjoy. Park location - the address is 400 Beach St. in Santa Cruz, California and the park is about 30 minutes from San Jose, just over Hwy 17. For more maps and directions once you get into Santa Cruz, see the directions HERE. For a good Beach Boardwalk map, we suggest viewing the PDF HERE. There were plenty of rides for my younger son (age 4) and daugher (age 8) to get on and enjoy and I was able to do the adult rides. The Giant Dipper, Double Shot, Log Ride, and Wipeout were a few of my favorites. Unlike other amusement parks that require you to pay for an all day pass, Beach Boardwalk is different in that you can purchase tickets that are good for just a few rides if you want (see below for details). Most of the rides required a 48 inch height requirement, although several allowed those under a particular height to ride if they were with an accompanying adult. Besides the traditional rides, you can find entertainment in laser tag, mini golf, and several other attractions. We spent most of the day at the park - arriving at 11AM when they opened and taking off closer to 8 at night. In the afternoon we took a stroll down the beach and let the kids play in the ocean before resuming our day at Beach Boardwalk. Parking is just across the street and a bit steep at $10/car. You can find metered parking along the streets, but you will find yourself going back to feed the meters if you plan on being there most of the day. The official website for the amusement park can be found online at Beachboardwalk.com.