The Boardwalk is our local California groove daydream of Coney Island, with the giant wooden roller coaster, legendary surf babes, and pop concerts in the sand.
Seeing Nancy Sinatra in white go-go boots singing in front of a crowd of sunburned drag queens a few years ago was one of the best Boardwalk memories of my life.
This place has been running since 1915. My grandparents had memories of playing here! The 1911 Looff Carousel with its original 342-pipe organ, and the Giant Dipper are still beloved attractions. Plus, the family that owns the Boardwalk just bought Laughing Sal, the Playland icon, who you can watch in the Ducky-video below.
Many of you will end up in Santa Cruz at some point in your life, if you have not already settled here. It's an all-ages, all-types affair where people really DO get along and have a bloody good time at it!
1. Surf City Grill for the french-fried artichokes and the heart-melting photographs of the Miss California beauty pageant winners who used to compete on the beach from the 20s to the 50s.
2. The summer free concerts, Friday nights. This year I'm going to go see The Family Stone (everyone except Sly, and my god, they're awesome), The Fixx, The English Beat, and then my old-school Boardwalk favorite, Herman and the Hermits. Peter Noone can work you into a debauched frenzy like no one else.
3. The totally homegrown salsa dance party that happens every Sunday afternoon on the sidewalk leading to the arcade. Someone brings a boombox and cranks it.
4. The oldtimey stuff in the Casino Arcade. They have all the modern games and thrills, but I like the weird antiques: peep show boxes, 60s sports-car postcards, and the Western Dress-Up photo parlor where you can look Drop-Deadwood in minutes.
5. I have been known to go a little crazy in the Pirate Store. Ducky got a "Release Your Booty" hat on our latest trip.
6. The Boardwalk is cheap. Go nuts on $20! One of the best things about this place is that it isn't a gated community. This is not like Disneyland or Six Flags. Online, they have a zillion coupons for things like half-price deep-fried Twinkies— and you could easily share one of them with five people. There are also "locals nights," usually Monday or Tuesday, where everything is 1900s prices. You have to call about that, though.
7. Step down a flight of wooden stairs, and you are on the most beautiful white sandy beach. Bring your blanket, park it, leave it. Yes, it is legal to sunbathe naked on our beaches. But you can't smoke. So you have to have your clambake back in the car.
8. Best Ride to Voyeurize Other People Being Terrified: The Double Shot
9. Best Ride for Sissies Like Me Who Want to Have Fun Anyway: Loggers' Revenge
10. So Lame It's Funny: The Cave Train. Built in 1961, it's perfect for cranky babies, making out in the dark, and cooling off.
Dress for success for your Boardwalk visit— and by that I mean as if you were cruising for a good time.
As far as I'm concerned, the hottest ride there is people-watching. Young and old, fat and scrawny, are all working it. Your neon platforms, gold chains, hot pants, leathers, titty shirts, filthy bikinis, and offensive belt buckles are all WELCOME here. Do not wash the sand off.
Photos by Ducky: The Funland sign, Christine at Hodgie's with 1920s beauty pageant winner, Susie and Ducky in mirror at Carousel.