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CA Historic Marker: Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member 50sumtin
N 36° 57.819 W 122° 01.000
10S E 587535 N 4091291
Quick Description: A local landmark since 1907, this boardwalk was one of the first amusement parks in California. It is now the only oceanside amusement park operating on the West Coast.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 9/2/2006 7:51:56 PM
Waymark Code: WMP7H
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member Marky
Views: 27

Long Description:
NO. 983 SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK - A local landmark since 1907, this boardwalk was one of the first amusement parks in California. It is now the only oceanside amusement park operating on the West Coast. The boardwalk is the site of two rare attractions, the 1911 carousel and the 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster. Both were manufactured by members of the Looff family, some of the nation's earliest and most prominent makers of amusement rides.
Location: 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz


In 2006 the Boardwalk’s classic Looff carousel turns 95 years old. Built in 1911, the carousel is a National Historic Monument, taking visitors of all ages on a memory-making, roundabout journey of color, lights, and sound.

The carousel features one of the few remaining ring machines in the country. Riders on the outside horses can grab a steel ring and try to throw it into a clown’s mouth. Then watch the clown react with flashing lights and special sound effects when a ring hits its target!

During opening weekend in 2006, the Boardwalk celebrated the carousel's 95th birthday with "The Return of the Brass Ring," offering carousel riders a chance to find souvenir brass rings.

The original 342-pipe German band organ plays a delightful, early twentieth century musical accompaniment for the ride.


The Giant Dipper roller coaster, complete with its landmark red and white structure, spectacular view of the Monterey Bay, and speedy successive dips and fan curves, keeps new and old generations coming back for more.

In fact, in 2002 this classic “woodie” hosted its 50 millionth rider since first built by Arthur Looff in 1924.

Looff’s love of amusement rides may have been hereditary. In 1911, his father, Charles I.D. Looff, delivered a new merry-go-round with hand-carved horses to the Boardwalk. The family’s ride legacies made history in June of 1987 when both the Giant Dipper and the antique carousel were designated National Historic Landmarks by the U.S. National Park Service.

According to Arthur Looff, he created the Giant Dipper envisioning a giant wooden coaster that would be, in his words, a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension, and aeroplane drop.”

The thrill ride, with speeds up to 55 MPH, proved to be all that and more. Before the Giant Dipper’s arrival, a visitor’s Boardwalk experience was limited to the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway’s hills and valleys, tame by more modern standards.

The Giant Dipper was built in just 47 days at a cost of $50,000. Compare that to its $135,000 structural paint job in 2001. Labor and materials for merely cleaning and painting the Giant Dipper these days comes to well over $200,000!

It also now costs a little more to ride the classic coaster compared to May 17, 1924, when the Giant Dipper opened to the public. The fare then was 15 cents; today it’s $3.60 for a one-ride ticket.

One major characteristic that hasn’t changed, however, is the Giant Dipper’s excellent maintenance record.

Four full-time Boardwalk mechanics are permanently assigned to maintain and check the ride each operating day.

Approximately every two hours while the Giant Dipper is operating, these mechanics walk and inspect the half-mile track; they also work on the trains and replace portions of the structure and track annually. In addition, outside inspectors also check the Giant Dipper, including the use of such high-tech equipment as ultrasound to scan parts of the ride.

The Giant Dipper does look slightly different than in its youth. In 1976 the coaster station received a Victorian-style facade and structural paint job. Two new roller coaster trains, built by Morgan Manufacturing of Scotts Valley, replaced the old ones in 1984. The new trains were designed with the sleek-nosed “woodie” look of classic roller coaster cars.

The Giant Dipper also has become a media star. Its familiar red-and-white tracks can be seen in television commercials and videos for Mitsubishi Automobiles, the Ford Motor Company, Levi’s, Coors Light, the National Association of Credit Unions, Sony, U.S. Air, MTV, and many others.

Major motion pictures featuring the Giant Dipper include “Sting II,” “The Lost Boys,” “Dangerous Minds,” and Clint Eastwood’s “Sudden Impact,” as well as television productions such as the 1996 NBC movie, “Thrill,” starring Antonio Sabato, Jr.

The Giant Dipper’s unique thrills and setting inspire excitement in all types of people. At past birthday celebrations the coaster received congratulations from VIPs, coaster experts, and such celebrities as veteran rider Vincent Price.

Legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen often expressed his fond regard for the Dipper. Caen, whose 1997 death was widely mourned, once wrote, “...the great roller coaster arose amid screams above the golden strand of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk ... a tooth-loosener, eyeball-popper, and one long shriek.”

Those unique thrills continue in 2006 as the Giant Dipper keeps coasting along in its starring role at the West Coast’s only major seaside amusement park.

Marker Number: 983.00


County: Santa Cruz

Has Official CA Plaque: no

Marker Dedication Date: 5/26/1989

At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, of course!

Website: [Web Link]

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