The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been entertaining generations of Californians for decades since it was founded in 1907. Easily its most famous ride is the Giant Dipper, a legendary wooden roller coaster with amazing views of the beach and a fascinating history!
Arthur Looff built the Giant Dipper in just 47 days for $50,000, with the goal of creating a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension, and aeroplane drop.” It opened in 1924 when rides were only 15 cents each! Now it’ll cost you 7 dollars to take this historic coaster for a spin. To date, 66 million riders have done so.
The Giant Dipper reaches a height of 70 feet on its main hill, and a speed of up to 46 miles per hour on the half-mile track. The 2-minute ride is just as thrilling as it was nearly a century ago, thanks to its 4 full-time mechanics, who conduct inspections every 2 hours. As a result, the roller coaster has upheld a stellar maintenance record throughout its history.
Few changes have been made since the Giant Dipper’s inception. In 1976 it received a Victorian-style façade, and in 1984 it replaced its old trains. But rest assured, riders can enjoy exactly the same twists, turns and drops as their early-20th-century counterparts!
You may have seen the Giant Dipper make a cameo in numerous Hollywood movies throughout the years, including Sudden Impact (1983), The Lost Boys (1987), Dangerous Minds (1995), Bumblebee (2018), and Us (2019). The iconic red-and-white tracks can be seen in countless other commercials, TV shows, and films.
Before the Giant Dipper took its place, the Boardwalk was home to the L.A. Scenic Railway, a somewhat tamer precursor to the modern roller coaster that was considered quite the thrill ride in its day. At 25 mph, it positively outstripped most automobiles’ top speeds of just 10 mph.
The family-operated Boardwalk is 114 years old, making it the oldest amusement park in California. The property itself is a California Historic Landmark, and both the Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Looff Carousel have national landmark status.
The Looff Carousel arrived at the Boardwalk in 1911. This 100-year-old carousel has 73 unique horses all hand-carved by the same master carver, making it a “pure” carousel of which there are only 6 remaining in the US. It also has a brass ring dispenser, from which riders on the outside horses can try to grab the rings and toss them into a large clown’s mouth.
There is no admission fee to enter the Boardwalk! Rather, visitors may buy wristbands for unlimited rides or simply pay for individual tickets as they go. The amusement park overlooks a popular beach, where it’s not unusual to see otters, dolphins, and other sea animals in the water! While you’re at it, check out Marini’s Candies, a taffy place that has gone viral on TikTok.
You can find the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk at 400 Beach Street in Santa Cruz, California.
Featured image: Photosounds via Shutterstock