California's Oldest Amusement Park Is On The Boardwalk Of This Popular Beach

Spending a day on this Northern California boardwalk is like taking a step back in time. Hosting visitors since 1907, the historic destination offers a variety of rides for the young and the young at heart. Visitors can play arcade games, laser tag, mini golf, and bowling, try their luck at carnival stalls, and even master a laser maze challenge. And all this entertainment sits in front of the big and beautiful Santa Cruz Main Beach.

The perfect day trip from San Francisco, tourists flock to Santa Cruz, California, to lounge on the sand, splash in the surf, and explore the Boardwalk. When beachgoers get hungry, they're in for a real treat. Offering everything from smoothies and soft-serve ice cream cones to corn dogs and turkey legs, the Boardwalk offers more thanĀ 40 eateries to choose from.

An added appeal is the Santa Cruz Wharf, which extends a half mile into the bay and offers stunning views of the beach and boardwalk. The wooden pier is over 100 years old, and has some fun gift shops and great restaurants. But the most unique attraction is the resident sea lions who often frequent the prime real estate.

Visitors have plenty of rides to choose from

One of the reasons the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is such a special place for so many is because of its rich history. It's the oldest amusement park in California and has been beloved for generations. In fact, the entire Boardwalk is a California Historic Landmark, and two rides in particular, the Giant Dipper and the Looff Carousel, have been classified as National Historic Landmarks.

The Giant Dipper is a wooden roller coaster, and its red-and-white tracks are a landmark in Santa Cruz. The thrill ride offers fantastic beach views from its summit and lots of twists, turns, and of course, dips. Other popular thrill rides on the Boardwalk include the spinning Shockwave, the Double Shot tower drop, and the aerodynamic Cliff Hanger.

The hand-carved Looff Carousel is a treasured merry-go-round frequented by children and adults alike. More popular family-friendly rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk include the Sky Glider, which runs above the Boardwalk and parallel to the beach, and Logger's Revenge, the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. A big splash awaits riders on the log's final drop!

Things to know before visiting

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the best old-school boardwalks in America, but there are a few things to know that might just make a visit even more special. The Boardwalk and the main beach are free but expect to pay for rides. There's a variety of ways thrill seekers can do this. Depending on budgets and plans, unlimited ride passes and single-ride tickets are available. Also, make sure to check the Boardwalk schedule first. While the beach and the Boardwalk are open even when the rides are closed, the ride schedule depends on the day of the week and the time of the year.

Any Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk trip inevitably includes some time at the beach. For visitors looking to store wet bathing suits, sand toys, and oversized beach towels, consider renting a locker in the Casino Arcade. Large and small lockers are available and may help visitors feel a little less weighed down while exploring the magic of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.