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Posted by on May 16, 2016 | 107 comments

Santa Cruz Boardwalk in Photos

I am by no means a theme or amusement park fan.

When I was younger, I visited parks in Florida, Texas and California.  To be honest, my experiences were bittersweet.  I did enjoy walking around, seeing the colorful displays and eating the not so healthy fare.

But, I felt like I was going to die in certain rides.  I remember losing my consciousness in one of those machines that throw you from the top and expose you to g forces.  Or, I can think of the time I suffered deep cuts on one of my ears while riding a rollercoaster.

Many times, I tried to have a good time with friends.  Now, I can affirm those attractions are not made for me.

There is always an exception to the rule, right?

When in Santa Cruz, I was curious about the Beach Boardwalk.  This is California’s oldest surviving amusement park and one of the few seaside parks in the West Coast.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

In some way, the Boardwalk symbolizes all the things that make California famous.  In there you have ocean side, under the sun, year round fun.  The beach is right in front of the park.  You have the pier and cliffs to the north and a jetty and a lighthouse to the south.  Restaurants, quiosks and shops are all around. I do not know about you but to me, all those elements sound appealing.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

So, I end up walking around the park on a sunny afternoon.  I didn’t get on the rides or ate anything.  Nothing impressed me either.

But you know what? I smiled a lot.  The energy of those around me was contagious.  You feel good when you see others having fun.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

In summary, I can officially say I visited the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  Summer is around the corner. Cheers to more than a hundred days of ocean side, under the sun fun (in an amusement park or anywhere else)!

Some interesting facts about the Boardwalk:

  • Opened: 1907
  • However, the roots of the Boardwalk go back to 1865 when a public bathhouse was opened close to the mouth of the San Lorenzo River
  • The area gained popularity when the casino was opened
  • The first roller coaster, the Scenic Railway, was opened in 1908 and cost $35,000
  • The Looff Carrousel was opened in 1911 (with hand carved horses and chariots, the original pipe organ is still in use)
  • The Giant Dipper replaced the Scenic Railway coaster in 1924. The Dipper is still standing and has been rode by 60 million people
  • The place was restored in the ‘80s and badly damaged in a 1989 earthquake
  • Admission to the park is free
  • Season passes, all-day ride wristbands, single ride tickets, group rates, exclusive ride rentals, and corporate events are available
  • Number of rides: 35
  • Number of roller coaster: 3
  • Number of water rides: 1
  • The site is a National Historical Landmark and a California Historic Landmark
  • The site also contains a laser tag area, video arcade, mini golf, banquet room and conference center
  • Combine a visit to the Boardwalk with a visit to the pier

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California

Do you like amusement parks?  What do you think about the Boardwalk?  Friends from abroad I welcome your comments about this American icon.




    • Thanks Jim! I actually went to Santa Cruz about a year ago. I was even surprised by the colors when I was editing the photos.

  1. Hi Ruth! I’m quite the opposite – I love theme parks (especially rollercoasters) and have been to at least one Six Flags (in New Jersey) and Knott’s Berry Farm near LA. However, I think I’ve outgrown them now… When I was in California I really wanted to go to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk because it’s so famous. But I read that the rides are nothing to write home about, so I decided to go with Knott’s instead, given my time constraints.

    I really like these pictures though. It all looks so bright and cheery (as a theme park should)!
    Michelle – michwanderlust recently posted..Hong Kong: Even More Good FoodMy Profile

    • Hello Michelle, I think Knott’s was a better option if you are into the rides. If you have the opportunity, you have to check the Six Flags in Valencia (north of Los Angeles). For what I have heard, the rides int here are heart attack inducing.

    • Great this one surprised you! Have to admit we have good stuff in California.

  2. Not a fan of amusement parks either! The last time I rode a rollercoaster was 1997 and the last time I even went to a park was 2006!! The boardwalk looks fun to explore, especially on a nice day (not to hot though)!
    Anna recently posted..Exploring hidden AthensMy Profile

    • Wow! That has been a long time. I do not even remember when was my last ride but it had to be more than 10 years ago. I visited in spring, so, the weather was nice.

    • Santa Cruz has a great vibe. I felt like the locals were obsessed with their city. I saw tons of people wearing jackets, sweatshirts and caps with the Santa Cruz letters.

  3. Hello, the boardwalk shots are so colorful. It looks like a fun time whether you ride on the amusement rides or just people watch.
    Happy Tuesday, enjoy your day and the week ahead!
    Eileen recently posted..Swan Harbor FarmsMy Profile

    • You are right! It was fun to do some people watching. Plus, there were some really excited kids running around. It was nice to see them having a great time.

  4. Very nice pics. I have blogged about Santa Cruz tons. It is a great place to go. I love going over to the pier and watching the sea lions. I am so lucky that it is a 45 minute drive from me.
    Patrick Weseman recently posted..Welcome to SparksMy Profile

    • May I ask where do you live? I barely scratched the surface of Santa Cruz County. Have to go back. The area has so much to check out.

    • We are in the same boat then. I didn’t have the opportunity to try the food because I had lunch before walking to the place.

  5. I am not an amusement park type of gal. I do like going, but only to walk around, eat, shop or browse and take photos. I hate the rides.

    We visited the Beach Boardwalk one winter day when it was closed (technically), we just walked around the empty place, watch people with metal detector scan the beach and walked to the pier and had the most amazing lobster bisque.

    • It would be nice to walk around when nobody is there. I think the details will pop out more on a situation like this. I was a bit disappointed with the food int he city. Maybe you should give me some recommendations.

  6. im not an amusement park fan at all. I hate rollercoasters and things like that. but id LOVE to go to Santa Cruz because of The Lost Boys!! The closest I’ve gotten is Monterey – which was beautiful :0) #citytripping

    • You have to go one day then. The Monterey area is wonderful. In fact, it is difficult to chose what places to visit around the coast. I feel like I want to see every town.

    • Thanks Valerie! I am glad you liked the pictures.

  7. The boardwalk looks like a really fun place to hang out. I love your colourful pictures – I can see why you ended up smiling a lot. I used to love going on fairground rides when I was younger but I think the novelty wears off a bit and it just becomes a bit frightening! Thanks for sharing on #citytripping

    • I have no problem walking around and looking at everything that is around me. I am just not attracted tot he rides. I think the bad experiences have traumatized me.

  8. my first encounter with boardwalks was in San Diego, and it was such a great concept to me (as someone from the midwest). San Diego’s also had an amusement park but nothing quite like this!
    carrie recently posted..Cemetery Tour in New OrleansMy Profile

    • I have never been to Belmont Park in San Diego. I really want to check it out. It is one of those few places I have not visited in the city (not sure why).

  9. Ruth, I’m not an amusement park person, either. However, I would love to go for the photo op! The bright colors, lights, action rides, crowds, … would be fabulous to capture. I have not been to boardwalk with rides, either. Now, that would be super cool and tons more exciting since it would be a new experience. Your photo essay is filled lots of the elements I’d love to photograph and I appreciate you sharing the thrill with the #WW gang!

    Another look at Wiseman’s View
    Cathy Kennedy recently posted..Another look at Wiseman’s View #WWMy Profile

    • Thanks Csthy! I have no doubt this is a photographers dream. You have all the elements I have shown in here to photograph, plus, you have other views from the beach and the pier.

  10. So bright and lively! Nice shots.

    • Thanks! Appreciate your words!

  11. We will be in that area in the fall – and like you, I think a wander around will be plenty for me. I love the photos with the skyride in them – so colorful!

    • Well, it be nice to stop by the boardwalk. However, places like the West End Drive, Natural Bridges State Beach and Downtown offer much more. Those would be great if you are looking for photo ops.

  12. I used to love theme parks as a kid, although always the bigger ones rather than funfairs. I think I’ve grown out of it (or I find my adrenaline thrills another way) but the colours and the energy and the sheer fun of this sound a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. #citytripping
    Cathy (MummyTravels) recently posted..Discovering Sunken Cities: Egypt’s lost worldsMy Profile

    • In my case, my parents never took me to fairs or rides when I was a kid. When I got on first ride during my teens, I felt like my stomach was getting out of m body. I guess I never got used to that kind of adrenaline.

  13. I share your lack of enthusiasm for amusement park rides! Anything beyond a merry-go-round (and even then I liked the stationary horses) threw me into childhood terrors. Loved the life you caught in your photos though and long live these places for those who love them!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..Greece ~ Getting “Stoned” at The Stone House on the HillMy Profile

    • Right! It comes down to those childhood / adolescence terrors. When I was growing up, the temporal fairs had the sketchiest characters operating the machines. It gives me chills to think about those.

  14. I love how bright and colourful this one is. I love amusement parks because of the happy atmosphere and because the roller coasters really cleanse you. 😀

    • I wish I was one of those who ride roller coasters with their hands up. But, you got to see my terror face when that thing is going down.

  15. I am not an amusement or theme park lover either, but I think it would be fun to see the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. I almost made it there this spring on a Pacific Coast trip, but due to time constraints had to bypass.
    Donna recently posted..Dry Creek Inn: Tuscan Style Hotel in HealdsburgMy Profile

    • So many things to see and not a lot of time. Hope you can stop by on another trip. Pacific Coast trips are the best!

  16. There’s a stuffed unicorn for every child I think. I love parks like Universal and Disney. But swirly rides at smaller parks just make me sick. Now. Oh, to be young again. Great photos. They make the park look pretty appealing.

    • I think I would prefer Disney and Universal better than places like the Boardwalk. The thing is that those big parks have gotten so expensive that it would be painful to pay to enter.

  17. The last amusement park I visited was the Disney world in Paris. My kids enjoyed and I too enjoyed watching them enjoy. I know they will be thrilled to be at this amusement park too. It is tugging my heart too to get there soon. 🙂
    Lovely and lively colorful pics.
    Indrani recently posted..Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, SpainMy Profile

    • I am sure your kids would love this place. Most kids were getting the unlimited rides bracelet. They were going to spend the entire day bouncing around.

  18. Hi Ruth – I love the Santa Cruz Boardwalk – it really is the epitome of California! But when I took my girls there a couple years ago, they were much more interested in the beach. Just laying in the sand was their favorite ride! To be honest, my favorite spot was the ice cream parlor. That’s my kind of fun under the sun! Thanks for sharing – and bringing back some fun memories!
    RobRob @TravelLatte(.net) recently posted..Ubergeddon – What happens in Austin should stay in AustinMy Profile

    • Well Rob, at least you didn’t have to spend money to keep the girls occupied. I think I would like to go out with your girls ;0)

  19. I’m no fan of fast rides either, but would enjoy walking around and watching the fun. Your words make the scene sound very attractive and the photographs gave a good representation of what to expect. I particularly liked the sideways ride shot with the blue sky behind and I was interested in seeing the houses on the cliff too. I like that entry to the park is free!
    budget jan recently posted..Montenegrin Beach Holiday Budva StyleMy Profile

    • The thing is that the park is located in a very beautiful area. That is a something that cannot be denied. You have the sand, sea, pier, cliffs, jetty and even a lighthouse close. That is why people insist these is one of California’s more iconic places.

  20. This place reminds me of Coney Island in New York being along the seaside on a boardwalk and also having a large pier out to sea. I’m not really a fan of amusement parks either. They are way too touristy for my tastes. Here on the Gold Coast where I live there are at least six theme parks which I have only visited when my kids were little. 🙂

    • Actually, the Boardwalk have been called “The Coney Island of the West.” I have been to New York several times but not to Coney Island. It would be nice to visit.

  21. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of an American Boardwalk although I’ve not yet visited one I did enjoy walking around the Beach Boardwalk with you today.

    • Great Maggie! Glad you got a good idea of how it is from the photos.

    • Well, I guess it is still cold during those months. We visited during the Memorial Day Weekend. So, that is why it was so crowded.

    • At least, I can say the place looks colorful, clean and full of life. I can see that staff takes good care of it.

  22. I love the red and white stripes of the boardwalk! But amusement rides don’t really amuse me much. My mind always sabotages any potential enjoyment with “worst case scenario” situations. Oh, well. I do enjoy soaking up some sunshine on the boardwalk, though! Thanks for linking up with us at #TravelTuesday!
    Katrina recently posted..Hey, Americans! Get Traveling!My Profile

    • I am a bit pessimistic in these cases too. I do not want to mention the things I have seen in amusement parks but, yes, worst case scenario can be interpreted in many ways (depends on the person).

  23. I feel the same way you do about amusement parks, I never liked the rides and I always got sick on them instead of enjoying them. After seeing your colorful photos of the boardwalk, I might go to see the festivities, although I still don’t think I’d like the rides.
    Brooke of Passport Couture recently posted..Lessons from Living in a Small TownMy Profile

    • Most rides looked benign in here but who knows how they really feel. Getting sick is not fun, specially when you are on vacation.

  24. Very beautiful photos, Ruth! I am not a great fan of the amusement parks, but I like the atmosphere. I also like the food. Your post reminded me how much fun we had hanging out in these places when our son was small. Thank you for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • I agree you will look at these places from a different perspective when yo are with kids. I have been to the county fairs with my friends and their kids and that is something else.

  25. Several years ago, Ethan and I had visited here during the off-season so it was not very crowded and not all the rides were going. But we did ride a few, including the Looff Carousel which is quite unusual with the brass ring dispenser and you can try to toss things in the center. An active carousel ride and a National Historical Landmark! We also did a water ride I think and maybe a roller coaster, we had fun and I love it is free to go in and you can just pay for any rides as you wish and walk right onto the beach before or after. ~ Jessica
    Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats recently posted..Inspiration for Your Travel Themed Wedding or Destination Wedding + Giveaway!My Profile

    • The Carousel was made in Europe and it bears the name of its maker. I think it a very original piece.

  26. OMG, Ruth, you’ve gotten pretty banged up at amusement parks! I’m not a fan either. I’ve been fooled too many times by the seemingly ‘tame’ looking rides that end up turning me upside down or hurtling me at high speed down precipitous drops. I don’t call that fun but like you, I don’t mind watching others.
    This amusement park reminds me of Coney Island in Brooklyn. It opened round the same time, it’s near the beach, it’s free and is a popular destination in the summer.
    Marcia recently posted..Flux Art Fair, HarlemMy Profile

    • I am starting to think my experiences have been unusual but I bet some people have worst stories. I would like to visit Coney Island one day.

  27. To be honest – I love theme parks and I was the one who went with the kids to all of them which were in reach. Santa Cruz Boardwalk looks like fun to me, too. #TPThursday

    • I see you are one of the brave ones! Good for you. You will need to visit some here in California.

    • Thanks Noemi! I hope I do not have a nasty encounter with a ride anytime soon.

    • I know! But, at least, management knows how to keep the business alive. Because of that we have a historical place in a beautiful location.

  28. The last amusement park I visited was the Disney world in Paris. My kids enjoyed and I too enjoyed watching them enjoy. I know they will be thrilled to be at this amusement park too. It is tugging my heart too to get there soon. 🙂

    • Disneyland is cute. I can spend a day walking and seeing all the pretty stores. We have The World of Harry Potter in Hollywood. That would be interesting to visit.

  29. Hi Ruth. I agree that being around lots of people who are having fun is contagious. Really not a big fan of the rides. However, I do love looking at them they.Some of them are just so colorful. I also like the pier here. If I was in California, I would definitely visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Thanks for co-hosting Travel Photo Thursday this week! #TPThursday
    Nancie recently posted..Korea: Buddha’s Birthday Tour Seoul Part 1My Profile

    • Hello Nancie! The good thing is that Santa Cruz has tons of places to see. You can stop by the Boardwalk and then move on to other nice places.

    • Dean, I totally get you! I am sure I can gather together a big crowd of people who doesn’t like rides.

  30. I have to admit I don’t like the rides much either Ruth, but the atmosphere is normally infectious.

    I have to admit when I visited this area some years back it was kinda sad and dingy. It now looks so colourful and bright – so nice to see that they have revamped one of the last remaining seaside amusement parks
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted..Things To Do at Amaze’n Margaret RiverMy Profile

    • Interesting! For what I read, they did modifications like 10 years ago. Not sure if you visited before that.

  31. In a lot of these older amusement parks the rides look fairly ancient, too, and don’t inspire confidence. All these rides look pretty modern. Not that I would ride any of them. Like you i’m happiest with my feet on the ground. I might try the carousel.
    eileen g recently posted..5 Fabulous Finger Lakes Activities With KidsMy Profile

    • I think they make a effort to clean their rides in a neat condition. Some of them are even historic landmarks.

  32. I’m not a big amusement park fan either, but I visited Santa Cruz boardwalk with my daughter in late November or early December last year and it was very different from what you described. Most things were closed, but we strolled along the boardwalk anyway. It was quite spooky, like a ghost town. Those cable cars overhead, for example, were empty and not moving and swaying a bit in the breeze. Nobody was around apart from us and a few people visiting a few indoor attractions that were still open. What a contrast to your photos!

    • I am not sure why they advertise that the park never closes. I think they refer to the indoor areas. Several people have commented visiting in the off season and seeing only a few people. It makes sense because I know Northern California is super cold during winter.

  33. I’m not a fan of amusement parks, either. I quite liked them when I was younger, but then I had some back operations and I’m not allowed to go on any rides any more. I’m not actually too sad about it – all that queueing is too much and I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown more worried about safety concerns! Wandering around eating and enjoying the sun sounds much better to me 🙂
    Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad recently posted..Walk with me around OiaMy Profile

    • You are right about the lines. That is one of the things I hate the most about parks like this. An hour long wait for one ride is kind of crazy.

    • Thanks! That is why I enjoyed the visit.

  34. Lovely photos as always, Ruth. I like the idea of just wandering around too, just soaking in the atmosphere. It feels like a slice of nostalgia for the boardwalks of the past. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Yes, it is one of the few places in the California Coast where you can still get a glimpse of the past, of when certain towns started to attract visitors during summer.

  35. I don’t think I’ve ever been a fan either since I cricked my neck on a helter skelter as a child and bruised my back on a rollercoaster. Like you, I can appreciate the fun it gives to other people and you’ve captured the spirit of that in your colourful photos.
    Trish @ Mum’s Gone To recently posted..Fine dining: Noel Corston at NC@EX34My Profile

    • Wow! And I thought I had bad experiences!

    • It would be great to take a group of photographers to the place and then, compare the shoots. I am sure everybody sees it from a different angle.

  36. The Santa Cruz boardwalk brings back memories! I lived and worked in Santa Cruz one summer in college, and the last thing I did before leaving was go for a ride on the roller coaster – and like you, I am NOT a roller coaster person, but did it anyway with my friends for one last CA thrill :).
    Corey with fifi + hop recently posted..What – And Who – Are Fifi + Hop?My Profile

    • I guess that makes sense. I imagine that was a summer full of fun.

  37. I’ve wanted to ride the Dipper for the longest time. I’ve been a coaster enthusiast since I was a kid…and it would be nice to visit Santa Cruz. I’ve heard great things about the city.
    Sadie recently posted..Photo Friday: Red Rocks of SedonaMy Profile

    • The city is nice. There are a lot of places to visit and a lot of places to mingle with the locals.

    • Ting,I can see how this is a paradise for a kid. Rides, prizes and tons of sugar!

  38. I like the Boardwalk, but it definitely depends on the time and the weather. Memorial Day seems like a crazy busy time, I’m surprised you still enjoyed it. I’m a roller coaster lover, but I’m old, too, and the Giant Dipper broke my back the last time I rode it 😉 Have you been to California’s Great America in Santa Clara? Big fun! Thanks for sharing these colorful pics!
    I spent my day in SF yesterday.

    • Unfortunately, I am not that familiar with Northern California. I would like to go there more often and discover more places. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Yes, it is an interesting place to check out. Tons of fun of adults and children.

  39. Hello, ruth, I am also an amusement park fan and now I am working in an amusement park equipment manufacturer and supplier. All kind of amusement rides are very cool. I can experience great fun I have never experienced before. On the rides, I am really relax myself.
    Cherry recently posted..What to Consider When Investing in Building an Amusement Park?My Profile


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