With Memorial Day weekend behind us, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk summer season has officially begun. And while our parents’ generation may fondly reminisce about the crowds, rides and bouts of childhood rebellion that took place at this local landmark, it seems that many UC Santa Cruz students have dismissed it as a congested tourist trap. However, the Boardwalk has lots of new and exciting features to discover as the summer months approach. This is your guide to the bustling and jubilant atmosphere that can be found this summer on Beach Street, for both tourists and natives alike.
1. You can ride a historic landmark. The Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Looff Carousel, built in 1924 and 1911 respectively, were declared historic landmarks in 1987. A letter from then-president Ronald Reagan, written June 2, 1987, is posted on the back wall of the second floor of Neptune’s Kingdom to prove it. The Giant Dipper’s 85th birthday celebration will be held June 13, with an accompanying fireworks show that night.
2. You can support a local green business. Despite the common perception of theme parks, the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, the company that owns the majority of the Boardwalk area, was honored with both a State Ecotourism Award and many California Waste Reduction Awards. The company has also won a few local and regional recycling awards.
3. You can see a free concert. A large constructed stage overlooking the ocean holds two shows every Friday night, June 19 through September 4. Enjoy acts like Eddie Money and Santana’s original lead singer, Gregg Rolie, while sinking your toes in the sand.
4. Planning a picnic? A sunny beach deck is available and open to the public, with lines of festive blue and pink picnic tables aboard a wooden deck. It’s a perfect spot to feast and watch the ocean waves and festivities without getting sand in your sandwich.
5. Vegetarians are welcome. The boardwalk offers numerous (edible) vegetarian options, unlike many theme parks. You can get a garden burger at the Barbary Coast Restaurant or a veggie fajita pita at World Grill, just to name a few.
6. The less health-conscious can seize the opportunity to indulge in rare fried foods. The Boardwalk offers hard-to-find options such as deep-fried Twinkies and cheesecake, and the somewhat healthier deep-fried artichoke hearts.
7. Planning a shotgun wedding? The Boardwalk offers a ballroom in Neptune’s Kingdom, where many lovers have tied the knot. The Cocoanut Grove can also hold wedding receptions and is equipped with a kitchen that accommodates up to a thousand guests.
8. You can learn to appreciate tourists. Being caught in a tourist’s snapshot can actually be refreshing and a reminder to be grateful that you live somewhere worthy of countless visitors. Plus, you can show off your knowledge of Santa Cruz when they ask the way to downtown.
9. Interesting entertainers abound. Lining up the walk across the beach are festive acts to inspire a quirky atmosphere. From a man with two parrots on his shoulders and a one-man band, to a sidewalk artist shaping roses and animals out of balloons, there’s sure to be an act to enjoy.
10. Pirate-themed miniature golf offers a fantastic escape. Be sure to adjust your eyes when entering Neptune’s Kingdom to view the glittering volcano in the midst of an oceanic mural on the wall. A realistic mechanical pirate climbing up a rope that reaches the ceiling welcomes you to a mini-golf adventure.