ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Updated on August 24, 2017

On the Boardwalk...

Grab some cotton candy and head on down to ride the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is home to Looff Carousel and has been featured in The Lost Boys, Sudden Impact, Dangerous Minds, and The Brotherhood of Justice. The Boardwalk is celebrating over 100 years in operation.

History of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Before the Boardwalk appeared, the land was the sight of a public bathhouse near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River, built by John Leibrandt. More bathhouses followed as visitors flocked to swim in the salt water, as it was praised as a natural medicine.

But where there are people, they have needs. So concession stands and restaurants popped up, followed by photo and souvenir stands. Because Santa Cruz had become so popular, Fred W. Swanton decided it was time the West had its own version of Coney Island.

The spot originally held a casino but it only lasted 22 months; it was completely destroyed by a fire on June 22nd, 1906. Undaunted, Swanton enlisted famed architect William Weeks to draw plans up, this time for a completely new casino with a ballroom, the Plunge indoor swimming pool, a pleasure pier, and the boardwalk.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was opened exactly a year later on June 22nd, 1907. 1200 people attended the ball held for the grand opening.

The Boardwalk hosted its first thrill ride, the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway, in 1908. The coaster was four minutes on a mile of wooden track and cost $35,000 to build.

European woodcarver Charles I.D. Looff delivered the carousel that bears his name to the Boardwalk in 1911. Its original 342-pipe, 1894 Ruth Und Sohn band organ is still in operation.

Arthur Looff, son of Charles, devised the Giant Dipper, which was built to replace the Scenic Railway. It opened in 1924.

Originally, the first Miss California pageants were held on the Boardwalk, starting in 1924. Even though the Great Depression and World War II saw a decline in business and attendance, the casino, newly christened Coconut Grove fared well. It featured dance concerts with big names; among them were Benny Goodman, Lawrence Welk, Artie Shaw.

The 50s and 60s saw renovation and addition. New rides included the Wild Mouse, Autorama, and the Tilt-a-Whirl. Attractions became more popular and the Plunge indoor pool was replaced with a miniature golf course in 1963. Taking advantage of its scenic views, the Boardwalk built the Sky Glider in 1967, which allowed guests to sail overhead on a ski-lift type gondola.

More rides were added in the 70s: the Red Baron, Bumper Cars, Jet Star, and the Round-Up. Logger's Revenge, a water ride that would 55 feet above the Boardwalk, replaced the Wild Mouse.

1981 saw extensive renovation and restoration. The $10 million dollar project saw updates and modernization as well as the completion of the Sun Room, a 6,000 square foot banquet room with a retractable glass ceiling. The Boardwalk added new clothing and gift shops, as well as a candy store. Free summer concerts began in 1988 on the beach bandstand.

But things came to a halt in 1989 when an earthquake damaged an exterior wall of the Plunge building. $5.2 million was sunk into building the Neptune's Kingdom adventure center, with a two-story miniature gold course. The Hurricane coaster replaced the Jet Star in 1992 and three new attractions opened in 1995: the Sector 7 Laser Tag Arena, Venturer Simulator, and Virtual Reality.

In 1994 the Boardwalk took over operation of the Surf Bowl across the street, renovating it and renaming it the Boardwalk Bowl.

How to Get to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

santa cruz beach boardwalk:
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA

get directions

The Looff Carousel

It was 1911 when Danish woodcarver Charles Looff delivered his carousel, complete with 73 horses and two Roman chariots, to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. It featured a 342-pipe Ruth und Sohn band organ built in 1894, the last of its kind, for the music played during rides. The horses featured real horse hair tails and decorative, jeweled trappings. Every horse was unique from head to tail.

The Looff carousel purchased by the Boardwalk only cost $18,000 in 1911.

Since its installation, the carousel has been subject to much wear and tear. The parts of the horses that have worn down with use have been restored and treated with fiberglass for preservation. In 2007, the Boardwalk purchased a rare Wurlitzer 165 Band Organ from San Francisco's Playland, and in 2009 opened a showcase displaying it along side the Ruth und Sohn band organ.

The carousel is one of only a handful that still features a working ring dispenser. Riders on outside horses can grab rings from a dispenser as they spin, then toss them into a large clown's gaping mouth, rewarded by bells and flashing lights.

In today's money, a pair of Looff horses have been valued at even more then the original cost of the completed carousel itself. The skills and artistry required to build carousel horses has nearly disappeared, so the rarity of the carousel's animals increases every year. Several horses have been lost over the years, due to age and damage, but have been replaced by other horses acquired in 1978 from parks in Myrtle Beach, SD, and Belmont Park in San Diego, CA.

The carousel was added to the U.S. State Park Service's National Historic Landmark register in 1987. In 2009 the Boardwalk's Looff carousel turned 98 years young.

The Giant Dipper Rollercoaster

The Giant Dipper was developed by Arthur Loof. He envisioned the giant wooden coaster as a, quote "combination earthquake, balloon ascension, and aeroplane drop."

Some would say he succeeded.

Built in 47 days at a cost of $50,000, it opened as a replacement to the Scenic Coaster on May 17th, 1924. It cost riders 15 cents a ticket.

The coaster station received a makeover in 1976, giving it a more Victorian-style facade. Two new roller coaster trains replaced the old ones in 1984. The Giant Dipper received a cleaning and paint job in 2001 to the tune of $135,000. Four full-time mechanics are employed by the Boardwalk to maintain and check the ride every day it operates.

To date over over 55 million riders have taken a turn on the wooden coaster. It is designated the 5th oldest coaster continuously operating in its original location and was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. National Park Service in June 1987. The Giant Dipper turned 85 years old in 2009.

"Ride" the Giant Dipper!

The Boardwalk Today

The Boardwalk marked the Millennium with the reopening of the remodeled Cave Train, which featured all the elements of the original ride from 1961 as well as modern technology. In 2001 the Boardwalk Bowl opened, featuring 26 lanes.

As of 2009, the newest ride at the Boardwalk is the Sea Swings, a carousel type ride with swings in place of horses. The Boardwalk offers 34 other rides as well as three arcades, 27 games of skill, 36 food vendors, indoor miniature golf, laser tag, and more than 15 gift stores.

Santa Cruz's Boardwalk is a Historic Landmark, open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, most weekends and holidays throughout the year. Admission to the park is free.

Located 35 miles from San Jose, 40 miles north of Monterey, and 70 miles south of San Francisco, take Highway 1 or 17 to Santa Cruz and follow the signs to the beachfront. Take a trip to the Boardwalk and enjoy the sand, sun, and surf!

Movies Filmed at the Boardwalk

Out (1982)
Sudden Impact (1983)
The Sting II (1983)
The Brotherhood of Justice (1986)
Back to the Beach (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Dangerous Minds (1995)
Thrill (1996)

Beach and Boardwalk Memories

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm 54 years old. I was raised in Milpitas CA. and even though I have moved far away I will always remember Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The roller coaster was THE BEST on this earth, and still is.. The Merry Go Round ,,, catching the rings and throwing them into the clowns mouth was "THE BEST". I hope to share this with my Grandchildren.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image


      8 years ago

      As I was going through your list of lens, I seen this one and thought, WOW-the Lost Boys!

      That movie was based in Santa Cruz (giggles) Anyway, I love Broardwalks there is something very special about walking down a boardwalk and looking out to the ocean while standing about it. Great lens MissBat!!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Santa Cruz Boardwalk is an amazing piece of American seaside amusement history. Even though I live on the East Coast, we go there any time we are in California. Here is a link showing the new Haunted Castle robotic characters coming to the Boardwalk this summer, really neat!

    • AppalachianCoun profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! Sounds like a great place! 5*

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Sounds like a fun place to visit with kids.

    • GramaBarb profile image


      9 years ago from Vancouver

      We (whole family) are going to Disneyland in a couple of weeks but Santa Cruz will have to be another trip another time.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Yep, grew up with the Boardwalk, We lived in Campbell then San Jose and went every summer. When I got old enough to drive We would drive ourselves there. Ya, old Hwy 17 over the mountains. The Carousel I remember when they had the occasional brass ring come out of the ring feed to throw at the big clown face. When you nailed his nose, that's when you got the free ride. They also had an aireal tram that went the length of the board walk. My favorite smell was the fresh taffy pulling machine at the taffy store. The warf was cool too. was right there with the Boardwalk. could drive out to the end of it and park. Oh those were the days, truely.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens on a great place. I wrote above from our trip with the kids, but I have been a few other times. I used to live about an hour north in another beach town.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      9 years ago

      Nice lens about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Only been there once but it was fun.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love old carousels!

    • JanieceTobey profile image


      9 years ago

      It sounds wonderful! What weekend are we doing this?!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      9 years ago from Washington KS

      I've never been to Santa Cruz or California but sure did enjoy the visit.

      Good job!!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Love this. I really would like to visit.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      9 years ago

      This lens is so good, relaxing, so real life, I enjoy it immensely



    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What fun! I would love to visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh I would love to ride the The Looff Carousel or even see one of the original horses. How wonderful that it has survived all these years. I found it interesting that in 1978 some of the horses were replaced with some from Myrtle Beach. I might have been on one of the horses that went to the Looff Carousel from Myrtle Beach. That is a very pleasant thought!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)