After we realized that we needed to wait for the sun before hitting the beach we decided to start with Santa Cruz’s famous boardwalk. The boardwalk was founded in 1907 and is the oldest amusement park in California*. Its everything you imagine in a boardwalk: rides, roller coasters, arcade games and fun boardwalk food.
When buying the tickets we discovered a helpful feature. All the rides had various height limits, a minimum height requirement to ride, a height range to ride with a chaperon, and the kiddie rides had a height maximum requirement. All the height requirements were listed for each ride right at the ticket booth, and they had a ruler with the major height cut offs so we could figure out right up front what rides the kids could ride. This is useful because we now knew what rides my son could ride and figure out what area to concentrate on. While the rides were spread out throughout the boardwalk, several kiddie rides were grouped together. This was nice because we stayed in one general area and both my kids could walk from ride to ride. My son just grazed the 42″ mark at the ticket booth so we made our way to the area we wanted to tackle.
My son soon spotted all the rides that looked like trains and was thrilled. He was so excited about every piece of the experience, even giving the tickets to the attendant. At the kiddie rides the attendants were great, helping him into the seat, securing the seat belt and teaching him how to ring the bell, honk the horn or fly the plane. They even noticed I was holding back my daughter and encouraged me to let her ride, offering to stop if she got scared or tried to stand up mid ride. Watching my children get so excited over the rides made me feel like a kid again and brought back warm memories of boardwalks and carnivals of my childhood in NJ.
The one minor annoyance was the inconsistency in the ruler for height measurement at the ticket booth and at the rides. Each ride had a ruler with clear green (OK to ride), yellow (needs a chaperon) and red (can’t ride) zones. As I mentioned above, at the ticket booth my son measured right almost exactly at 42 inch line which put him in the green or yellow zone for most rides. One of the first rides we went to was advertised as 42-48 inches OK with chaperon. However once we got to the front of the line, they measured him against the ride’s ruler and he was a good 3 inches below the 42 inch line putting him in the red zone. I know he’s right on the border of 42 inches but this was clearly way off. I tried to argue but they still would not let him ride which made him really disappointed. While there were plenty of rides he could ride, this inconsistency frustrated me.
While we did not make it, it’s worth noting that the boardwalk is home to a famous 1911 Looff carousel. The Looff family were famous carousel producers and this is one of only five remaining in the US*. Unfortunately when we came around to riding it, the kids were tired and were ready for a nap. However the beautiful old horses looked inviting and I know we will make it a point to go next time.
The afternoon treat of corn dogs was the perfect boardwalk food to end our day. I foresee many memories made here in the future and look forward to what we discover on our next trip.
- Cost: (Updated 2023) Each ticket cost $1 and rides generally are 5-8 tickets. Most kiddie rides are 5. All riders have to pay. There are bundled packages
- $50+tax For 55 points or $100 for 115 points on the MyBoardwalk card
- $39.95 – $69.95 + tax For an All Day Ride wristband which provides unlimited rides for one person (More inexpensive if you purchase online a day or more ahead of time).
- $89.95 – $139.95 + tax For a 2023 Summer Season Pass which entitled the holder to unlimited rides all season plus some extra goodies depending on the package you purchase.
- Parking: (Updated 2023) Street parking is available but is metered and can be scarce on a busy day. There is an all day lot near the boardwalk for $20 that’s walking distance to Main and Cowell beach, the boardwalk attractions and the Municipal pier.