Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (400 Beach St., 831/423-5590, www.beachboardwalk.com, daily 11 a.m.–close, parking $10), or just “the Boardwalk” as it’s called by the locals, has a rare appeal that beckons to young children, too-cool teenagers, and adults of all ages.
The amusement park rambles along each side of the south end of the Boardwalk; entry is free, but you must buy either per-ride tickets or an unlimited ride wristband. The Great Dipper boasts a history as the oldest wooden roller coaster in the state, still giving riders a thrill after all this time.
The spinner and the Zipper tend to be more fun for kids (or at least folks with hardy inner ears). In summertime, a log ride cools down guests hot from hours of tromping around. The Boardwalk also offers several toddler and little-kid rides.
At the other end of the Boardwalk, avid gamesters choose between the lure of prizes from the traditional midway games and the large arcade. Throw baseballs at things, try your arm at skeeball, or take a pass at classic or newer video games. The traditional carousel actually has a brass ring you (or your children) can try to grab.
After you’ve worn yourself out playing games and riding rides, you can take the stairs down to the broad, sandy beach below the Boardwalk. It’s a great place to flop down and sun yourself, or brave a dip in the cool Pacific surf. Granted, it gets a bit crowded in the summertime. But you’ve got all the services you could ever want right there at the Boardwalk, plus the sand and the water (and the occasional strand of kelp). What could be more perfect?
Looking for something tasty to munch on or a drink to cool you off? You can definitely find it at the Boardwalk. An old-fashioned candy shop sells sweets to the sweet, while the snack stands offer corn dogs, burgers, fries, lemonade, and other generally unhealthy traditional carnival food.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition