Skip to main content
In depth

Amusement Parks: The Santa Cruz Beach Broadwalk – a Potted History

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an amusement park located in Santa Cruz in northern California. 

The amusement park was founded in 1907 and is the oldest surviving park in California. Along with Pacific Park in Santa Monica, it is also the only other surviving amusement park in California to be located on the beachfront.

The idea for the amusement park was conceived by a local businessman called Fred Swanton whose aim was to design an amusement park for the West Coast on similar lines to the one at Coney Island on the East Coast. In 1904, he introduced the original casino but less than 2 years later, the building burned down after a fire broke out in the kitchen. However, rebuilding work started shortly afterwards and by 1907, a new boardwalk, pier and casino were in place.

In 1911, an amusement park pioneer and woodcarver named Charles Looff designed the Looff Carousel and his son, Arthur, designed a wooden roller coaster called the Giant Dipper, 13 years later. These would both go on to become of great significance to the history of amusement parks in general.

Today, both the Giant Dipper and Looff Carousel are still operational at the amusement park. In fact, the Giant Dipper is one of the most visible landmarks of the Santa Cruz area. As for the carousel, today its original organ with its 342 pipes built back in 1894 is still intact and fully functional. Both of these artefacts at the amusement park are on the United States National Register of Historic Places and, combined, they were declared a National Historic Landmark. The amusement park itself is also a California State Historic Landmark. Charles Looff sold the amusement park to Laurence Canfield in the early 1950s and it was taken over in 2007 by Laurence’s son, Charles.

The amusement park is teemed with nostalgia but likes to keep up with today’s modern trends too. Its latest attraction, the Vault, is a Laser maze which tests your agility and balance by having to negotiate the maze without touching the laser beams.

The boardwalk itself also contains Cocoanut Grove which operates as a conference centre, performing arts venue and banqueting suite. Back in the 1930s and 40s at the amusement park, it hosted some of America’s most famous big band acts but these days, it is more typically used for weddings, corporate events and other social events and celebrations.

See also:
Amusement Parks: Wild Rivers – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Raging Waters San Dimas – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Pixieland Park – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: The Balboa Fun Zone – a Potted History

Search for something

More from this author

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update