This column regularly features new rides and events at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and California’s Great America; meanwhile the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk keeps chugging along as what is arguably the finest seaside amusement park in the nation. But while there was nothing new to report last year, things are different in 2017 since no park is going to ignore its One Hundred and Tenth year in operation!

For this milestone, the Boardwalk is currently undertaking a construction project said to be 10 years in the making. When it’s all finished, there will be a sparkling new entrance along with some new rides and attractions (There is a difference between the two in Santa Cruz. The Boardwalk is admission free, and one can pay for individual rides and attractions. However, while all rides are included with an all day wristband, attractions always require an upcharge). So with MiceChat’s well known love of construction photos, let’s see how things are looking during this exciting year. (All concept art courtesy Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk)

Two new rides are on tap. Shockwave is a Zamperla Mega Disk’O ride, and will be placed adjacent to the Undertow spinning coaster. This requires expanding that upper area of the Boardwalk. The other ride, Typhoon, is a smaller version of a similar ride with the same name that previously graced these shores. The resurrection means that once again there are two rides for those wanting to be upside down.

Those are both fairly standard twirl and hurl affairs, but the new, or at least revamped attractions are more appealing. The Vault is an expanded laser maze, so you can pretend to be Archer trying to infiltrate Odin’s security system. Meanwhile, the popular Fright Walk will be expanding below the Boardwalk. The season pass coupon book usually has a 2 for 1 Fright Walk offer that expires before Halloween when it sounds most appealing. However, since it won’t reopen until summer, that offer will be good through the end of December this year. And if laser mazes increase appetites, then there will be Cruzin’ Crepes to give you the energy to reach the Dole Whip stand, where there is never a wait in Santa Cruz. When all is said and done, it will look like this.

Meanwhile, it currently looks like this.

The Boardwalk hosted the 36th Annual Clam Chowder Cookoff Feb 25 & 26, and alert readers will notice that is two dates. Yep, one of the Central Coast’s premier events has become so popular that one day isn’t sufficient. This was welcome news, because the Boardwalk was starting to resemble Main Street USA during a fireworks show during the tasting. Need convincing? Then compare the two photos below; the bottom one is from 2015.


Now while there was room to walk without skipping down to the beach, there were still big lines for popular booths, especially for previous winners. It is also still true that some will be unprepared and exhaust their supply within an hour. This was the first year I’ve witnessed contestants so anxious to win that they were not only giving away tastes without collecting tickets during the second hour, but ultimately started giving tickets back as well (wish I could have given my vote, but I pegged them runners up).

With the event now divided into amateurs on Saturday and pros on Sunday, it also meant far fewer booths were needed for either day. So what used to be a cluster of 8-10 chowder kitchens is now blissfully clear.

And though there was the inevitable $1 price increase for tasting kits, they now include 6 tickets instead of 5. Obviously the impact of a construction project factored into the decision to expand to two days, but based on my experience it was a success that should be repeated.

The series of storms that have descended upon California have created a mecca for driftwood aficionados. Structures of varying sizes were evident, although one was later commandeered as an impromptu smoking section .

Finally, there has been great news with the Cave Train Adventure, the dark ride journey into the Boardwalk’s prehistoric past. The last time your humble narrator wrote of the Cave Train, the spinning “time tunnel” (think about the section of the Universal tram tour that goes to Yesterland) had been removed, there were audio issues and a disconcerting number of malfunctioning effects. Last year the cave was spruced up to a level that would make Wilma Flintstone proud. The tunnel has been restored along with a general brightening of the first part of the ride, a new narration sets the scene as the train enters the cave, and everything has been working on recent rides. There are only two dark rides in these parts, both in Santa Cruz, and it’s good to see them both at their best again.

We will return to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk when the new entrance has been completed, and I will also have a complete guide to enjoying the annual summer concert series later in the year. So a bit to anticipate, but that will be another Day By The (Monterey) Bay.

Big changes at the 110 year old Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, are you ready to celebrate?Click To TweetSave