Thrills to No End - Page 2

With its mix of fresh, over-the-top rides and perennial crowd-pleasers, homey Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk continues to amaze
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The beach is alive with sunbathers, 1950s.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Kids horse around at the Fun House's Spinning Barrel, 1951.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Wild Mouse, now just a memory.

“Oh, remember this! Remember that!” Poletti called out to her companions when she visited three years ago. “There are a lot of things that are the same, but there are some new things too,” she says.

The Dipper still looks much as it did when it was built in 1924. The Cave Train still takes riders past Flintstones-inspired creatures that were sculpted in the early 1960s.

“It was kind of goofy,” Poletti says of the Cave Train. “It was kind of fun.”

Still is.

And it’s nostalgic, for parents and grandparents at least, to watch their young ones ride the bouncy, smiley Sea Dragons as they bob and whiz round and round. “Up and down! Up and down! Pull it back and forth,” one dad urged his daughter on a recent visit, wanting her to get maximum action out of the ride.

“A seaside amusement park! Saltwater taffy, caramel apples. It’s just an environment you don’t find most places anymore,” says Cindy Chesta, membership coordinator for the National Amusement Park Historical Association, which has a list of some 1,000 amusement parks in the country that have gone belly-up.

The 1960s and 1970s saw several other parks close along the California coast, including Pacific Ocean Park, Santa Monica, in 1967; San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach, 1972; and The Pike in Long Beach, 1979.

Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the Boardwalk is the simple fact that the place still exists.

No, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk may not have roller coasters that hit speeds of 150 miles per hour, like the Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi, or a Cinderella Castle like the one at Walt Disney World.

But the Boardwalk also doesn’t charge $90 for a one-day ticket, as do many ‘theme parks’—they’re what have supplanted most ‘amusement parks.’

“You can just go in free,” Chesta says, “and people watch, and that’s a lot of fun.” And all-day ride-as-often-as-you-want passes can be had for $30.

But what really makes the Boardwalk special is, it just feels homey.