Train tracks in Santa Cruz, California, USA.


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Top choice in Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been an Americana classic like few others for over a century. Now as in 1907 when the amusement park first opened, the smell of cotton candy mixes with the salt air, the scene punctuated by the squeals of kids hanging upside down on carnival rides.

Some of the amusement park's best-beloved attractions are nearly as old as the Boardwalk itself, and have earned a place on the registry of National History Landmarks. Famous thrills include the Giant Dipper, a 1924 wooden roller coaster, and a 1911 Looff carousel – Looff being a master carver who worked out of Rhode Island known for an incredibly ornate, iconic style, with only ten surviving examples in the United States. There are also arcade games, Neptune's Kingdom (a former casino turned family entertainment center), bowling, and miniature golf.

During summer, catch free movies on Wednesdays, and Friday-night concerts by rock veterans you may have thought already dead – or perhaps undead, if you're a fan of the 1987 vampire cult classic The Lost Boys, which was filmed at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and throughout the area. That's not the only movie that's shot here – you'll see glimpses of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in 1971's Harold and Maude, 1983's Sudden Impact, and 2019's Us staring Lupita Nyong’o. 

Visiting the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is open from 11AM - 6PM on weekdays and 11AM to 9PM and 8PM on Saturdays and Sundays, respectively. Wristbands for an unlimited ride day pass run $39.95-44.95 depending on if you're attending at peak or off peak times. Season passes are $84.95. Cashless MyBoardwalk cards can be filled and refilled and used on arcade and midway games and other attractions, as well as some eateries including Barbary Coast, Surf City Grill and Cruzin' Crêpes.

The beach can be reached via Highway 17 or scenic Highway 1. All-day parking costs $10 on weekdays and $20 on weekends. The nearest lodging to the boardwalk includes the Carousel Beach Inn and Sea & Sand Inn

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

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