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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Insider's Guide

Hankering for some summer fun? Pack a picnic, slap on the sunblock, grab your beach bag and head South. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a West Coast Coney Island if you will, a place that’s kinda lost in time, but totally manageable. Get started early if you plan to take full advantage of the day pass or better yet, stay overnight at a beach-side motel and make a real summer adventure out of it.

The rides are open most weekdays from 11:00 am – 11:00 pm and on weekends 10:00 am -10:00 pm or 11:00 pm. If you plan ahead, ticket packages are slightly cheaper at Costco or online.

Below are two deals we uncovered:

Mondays and Tuesdays after 5:00 pm: 1907 Nights

Enjoy old time prices! Rides, Pepsi Drinks, Hot Dogs, and Cotton Candy are just $1.00 each!

Wednesdays & Thursdays after 5:00 pm: Pepsi Nights
Bring a Pepsi can to exchange for unlimited rides for only $9.95+tax!

You can park on the street if you’d like to hoof it a few blocks, or parking nearby costs about $12.

Once you make it to the boardwalk, get ready for rides, swimming, lots of sugary treats and maybe a skeeball game or two. There are a number of little kid rides including a carousel, mini roller coaster and a small train. Bigger kids, those over 48 inches tall, can pick and choose from the milder, more pleasant rides to the scarier more thrill seeking attractions. What the amusement park lacks in 21st century modern rides, it makes up for with old time charm!

If you want to take the kiddos on a pleasant ride, take a spin on the sky glider, which offers a view of the the whole boardwalk and beach and a lovely breeze to cool you off. If your kids hate to wait in line (who doesn’t?) try going during the week when the lines are short and your little ones can repeat rides without waiting too long.

In addition to the amusement rides, the boardwalk offers an old school indoor mini-golf course, bowling alley, laser tag shopping, arcade games and much more. There is so much to see and do that a quick look at the park map would greatly help your family narrow down your plan of attack!

A midday break for lunch is a must. A picnic on the beach is a must as your little ones are sure to want to enjoy some time in the sand. Be sure to bring your bathing suits, towels, sunscreen and hats because the surf is mellow and the temperature cold but bearable. If you ease your way in you can really enjoy swimming or body surfing. Bring a boogie board for an even better experience! If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot a sea lion in the surf!

After catching some rays, take your little ones to enjoy a free circus performance on the beach. Each year it’s a different troupe and they all offer fantastic kid-friendly entertainment. This year performances run Sundays – Thursdays, July 10 – August 18. There are two free shows daily on Mondays through Thursdays at noon & 3:00 pm and Sundays noon & 6:00 pm. The shows are enchanting and even better that the performances occur right on the beach!

There are other events this summer that are all worth taking in including free movies, concerts and races. Make a trip to the boardwalk an annual summer family adventure and try something new each year.

If you are looking for a great place to chow down after a day at the beach boardwalk check out Betty’s Burgers in downtown Santa Cruz. The burgers, shakes and fried foods are to die for and the kids menu is a great deal. You can drive back home with bellies full, sandy toes and great summer memories.

- Darya Mead

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