Santa Cruz Beach

A deserted amusement park on a beach boardwalk possesses its own kind of eerie beauty, especially under a bright California sun in winter. We thought we’d share what it’s like.

Santa Cruz Christmas TrainA few days before Christmas we had occasion to travel to Santa Cruz to ride the Christmas Train with our family. (Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their bag of goodies were along for the ride, but they didn’t let the adults have any candy, so the night was less than optimal. For us, at least.)

The train left from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. A fully functioning beach boardwalk and amusement park are pretty unique in the United States these days, especially in Northern California, but the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the best.

The Monterey BayThe city surrounding it, Santa Cruz, is only about an hour away from SSCS, on the northern shore of the Monterey Bay (Monterey, the city, is on the southern cusp, as shown in the map at left).

Santa Cruz is definitely more youth-oriented than Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and SSCS’s other neighbors (we used to joke when we lived in Pacific Grove that at 45 years of age we were considered a juvenile delinquent). One reason Santa Cruz skews young is that it’s home to the University of California at Santa Cruz. The city’s youthful (and more general) identity also derives from its surfing culture, and everything that goes along with that (we’ll let your imagination run wild as to what that might entail).

Someday we’ll spend more time in the town itself, take a ton of photos, and write a multi-part post about it, but for now we’re going to concentrate on the Boardwalk, because that’s where we spent a few hours walking around killing time and taking photos before the Christmas Train departed. (Actually, if you want to get a good feel for Santa Cruz—vampires notwithstanding—check out the movie, The Lost Boys. It was filmed there.)

The beach boardwalk proper consists of an amusement park and a huge arcade known as Neptune’s Kingdom. It was winter so the amusement park was closed, but both stories of Neptune’s Kingdom were packed with fun seekers of all ages. (We wish we could have had a chance to take a better picture of its facade, which is quite impressive, but the Christmas train had already pulled in, so we had to take the following photo from an angle. Maybe next time…)

Neptune's Kingdom

The building is massive. Besides the countless games that are inside, they’ve managed to fit a pool hall in there, along with a laser tag course and this, Buccaneer Bay Mini Golf:

Pirate's Cove Mini-Golf

Walk out the back of Neptune’s Kingdom through one of its several quick service food stands, and you find yourself in a large covered part of the boardwalk looking out on the Monterey Bay through a colonnade. It’s a pretty nice view:

Looking Out at Monterey Bay

If you stand here and look to your left, you’re gazing in the general direction of the amusement park. Notice the storefronts on the left:

Boardwalk Collonade

If you look to the right, there’s more arcade action and more shops selling clothes and “food”, like these chocolate covered bacon strips:

Chocolate-Covered Bacon

The sight of that “food” chased us off down in the direction of the amusement park, and although the rides were closed (gated off, actually) there were still some pretty interesting things to see:

Beach Boardwalk

It was kind of weird being down there with no one else around, and not just because we thought we saw movement in the shadows out of the corner of our eyes (darn you, Lost Boys!). For example, there was this fellow (by the way, these characters are all over the place, each one of them different, all seated on benches):

Boardwalk CavemanSome of the buildings were quite interesting, too. Look at this detail on the face of the Haunted Castle:

Boardwalk Gargoyles

Towering over it all is the Giant Dipper, one of the most popular wooden coasters in the world. Built in 1924, it is a national historic landmark that never fails to deliver its share of creaky, high speed fun to riders.

Giant Dipper

Well, that’s about it for this post. Like we said, we didn’t really have a blog planned when we shot these pictures, we just happened to be waiting for a train. We can tell you that the next planned post about local color is going to cover one of our favorite places in the world, the Big Sur Coast.

SSCS is unique in a lot of ways, and being close to all these great attractions is just one example of what makes us memorable. Judging from the response we get, you like these kind of features in addition to our industry-related content, and if it helps keep SSCS and its great solutions top of mind, we’ll gladly keep writing them.

In the meantime, here’s wishing you and yours a great and very successful 2016. The best is yet to come, and you can watch it unfold each week on this blog. Happy New Year!

We’ll leave you with this picture of the Santa Cruz pier as sundown approaches. It may be a little blurry because we took it from a moving train.

Santa Cruz Pier