Rock n Roller 17: Santa Cruz Boardwalk

One of my favorite places to go in California is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and Amusement Park. I have been fascinated by this place since I saw it for the first time as the backdrop for one of my favorite movies of all time, The Lost Boys. In the movie a group of vampires stalk potential victims on a boardwalk in the fictional town of Santa Carla. In the opening scenes you see The Giant Dipper roller coaster, a comic book store and all of weirdness, craziness and the oddity that makes Santa Cruz so cool.

I travelled here from the foothills of the Sierra’s after my swift water rescue class. I had injured my leg pretty badly jumping into, yes on purpose, Class IV whitewater rapids and also cracked a rib just the day before. Needless to say I was pretty sore. It was about a three hour drive down to the coast. The last half hour or so you are on a windy, wooded road that takes you through the redwood forest and down into the town of Santa Cruz. Since it was early May there weren’t a lot of tourists here yet and it was a perfect day to visit the boardwalk.

I entered through the arcade. Did you know when this place opened in the beginning of the 20th Century that it had a swimming pool inside? In fact the boardwalk has its roots back back to 1865 when tourists began visiting the area to enjoy the highly touted natural medicine of bathing in salt water.

Soon promoters started opening up concession stands, shops and photos stands and by the turn of the century had dubbed the boardwalk a Coney Island of the West.

In 1924 the Boardwalk’s most popular ride, a wooden coaster called The Giant Dipper opened. It was built by the legendary Looff family who also delivered the merry-go-round way back in 1911. It was built for just $50,000 in 47 days which is a heck of a bargain considering labor and material for merely painting the coaster today costs more that 300 grand. Back then the fare was just 15 cents and today it will cost you a cool seven bucks to ride.

This coaster is one of my favorites. Along with the legendary Cyclone at Coney Island in New York, The Giant Dipper will go down as one of the most memorable coasters in our annual Rock n Roller Coaster tours. It has just enough speed, just enough air time and just enough rock and roll to make it a ride you will not forget. And as my rabid readers know, I love the old woodies and this was one that had to be on the list.

After a ride on The Giant Dipper I headed over and jumped on Undertow which is your classic Mouse-style flat track coaster. Shockwave wasn’t open yet on the day I visited but that’s okay. I grabbed a funnel cake and a Coke then headed across the street to the world famous, Santa Cruz surf shop to buy Michele and I a t-shirt.

I had lunch at a seafood place on the pier and watched the seals and people fishing. It was a great day on the beach and I can definitely see what allure a place like this has to so many people. It is your quintessential California beach town and I am sure it will continue to bring happiness and joy for generations to come.

Up Next: Dollywood

Coasters to date on the tour: 7

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