Somehow forgot to post this!
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Sunday May 10th, 2009
Weather: Sunny, warm
Crowds: Heavy on the midway, but manageable waits
With my folks out visiting from New York, we spent Mother's Day by request in Santa Cruz. The great thing about the Boardwalk is you can take it exactly as you please. If you want to spend a whole day on rides, they've got an unlimited wristband for that. If you only want to hit a ride or two, you can just buy the number of tickets you need. We ended up somewhere in the middle, getting a discounted sheet of tickets, thought we only got on a couple rides. There's a LOT
After picking up some flowers and a card for mom, we met my parents for breakfast and were on the road to Santa Cruz by 9:45am or so. We were pleased to find nothing more than moderate volume on the highway over the mountain and made it to the main parking lot by 10:30am. The $10 is a little more than I like to spend for it here, we're usually able to find a metered spot for less, though they're usually further way. We'd be taking a couple trips to the car, so proximity was worth the small increase. Besides, those who park in the lot get a sheet of coupons, some of which are actually worth using.
With 30 minutes before the rides opened and the ocean fog burning off, we grabbed our blanket and books and headed to the beach. As far as beaches go, it's not the nicest in the world, or even in the area, but being located directly between the boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Wharf makes it more than popular. to do around here.
We set up on the sand and spent a couple hours enjoying the warm sun and the cool breeze. Even with temperatures in the 60ís, it got pretty toasty. Not toasty enough to warrant going in the water, but still pretty warm. I did put my feet in, as I always do. Going to the ocean is still a novelty to me, and Iím not going to take it for granted anytime soon.
It was time to grab lunch, so we dropped off the gear at the car, and headed out to the wharf to scout out the restaurant choices. We ended up with the first one we came to, but it was more that satisfactory. Nothing better than seafood at the beach, everything was super fresh. After the meal we spent more than a few minutes watching the piles and piles of sea lions on the docks. Sea World this is not, these are wild animals, though we werenít more than a few feet away from them as they laid out in the sun. Itís quite the life theyíve got, and is a must-see, but still a frustrating reminder that I had to go to work the next day.
Working our way back towards the boardwalk, we took a stop inside the old natatorium, which is now a huge indoor arcade, bar, and mini-golf course. Actually, itís one of the best such courses Iíve played: well themed, pretty challenging, and impressively squeezed into the space. Itís definitely worth the $5 per person, and that coupon saved us $4 on our foursome. Score.
After hitting the links, we decided it was finally time for some rides. We grabbed a 60-ticket sheet for $40 (each ride is 3-6 tickets, so thatís about $4 a ride for the major rides). Itís not the cheapest place unless you go for the unlimited deal, but itís not transferable, so the $5 discount on the sheet was better than nothing.
This place is known for having packed midways but short lines, and that was pretty much the case for us. On the way to the Giant Dipper, the marquee attraction, we hit the bumper cars. Very fun, though sadly the ďone wayĒ variety. Stupid insurance companies. Easily worth the one-cycle wait. Next up was of course the Dipper. Unfortunately it was running only one train, so the wait was almost 20 minuets despite being just inside the station. We ended up in the middle of the train (last ones into the station, which they keep empty), but still found a thrilling and surprisingly smooth classic wooden twister. Itís hard to believe this thing would be turning 85 in a week!
As it turned out, that would be it for the day, as far as rides go. We had dinner reservations at a nice restaurant in the next town over, and we needed some time to change beforehand. It was a quick drive down the road, and we enjoyed a terrific meal in an impressive scene that is typical of much of the California coast.
We were headed back to San Jose by 8:30pm, and with the good bit of traffic and stupid drivers, took a bit over an hour for the ride home. Not what we were hoping for, but still considerably better than some nightmare return trips weíve taken in the past.
Itís somewhat surprising to think we only went on two rides, but thatís how great this place is. There are so many terrific diversions when making a visit - the beach, the wharf, the arcades, bowling, laser tag, concerts Ė Iím beginning to find that no two visits are alike, and that says a lot about a place thatís been in business for over 100 years. When I was young and in the ďSix Flags or bustĒ coaster years, I was a little underwhelmed but this place. Today, Iím beginning to appreciate truly how special it is, and why it has such a devoted following. It may not be on your list of must-visit parksÖbut it should be.