- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif., is about 75 miles south of San Francisco; go to www.beachboardwalk.com or phone 831/423-5590. Admission to the boardwalk area is free; all-day unlimited ride wristband is $28.95. Rides open daily at 11 a.m. through August and also are open most weekends and holidays year-round.

Top three rides:

{bullet} Giant Dipper. Constructed in 1924 in 47 days, this wooden beauty of a roller coaster is the signature ride of Santa Cruz. The tension mounts as cranking chains pull the tiny cars 75 feet above the boardwalk, only to send riders hurtling downward in a screaming blur. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the Dipper is as old-school as it gets, but it hasn’t lost its ability to thrill.

{bullet} Looff Carousel. Installed by Charles I. D. Looff in 1911, this merry-go-round boasts real pipe-organ music, hand-carved horses and rings from a mechanical dispenser to throw in the clown’s mouth each time around.

{bullet} Cave Train. This slow-moving train ride takes riders back in time — to the Stone Age — with comical statues of cavemen performing otherwise mundane activities such as fishing, sleeping and drinking. It’s also the perfect place to steal a kiss from your summertime sweetie.

Top three eats:

{bullet} Surf City Grill corn dogs. Hand-dipped and huge. Surf City Grill was known as Hodgie’s when it was run by the late Howard “Hodgie” Wetzel. His gut-busting legacy lives on with these bready delights, which set you back $3.45.

{bullet} Marini’s saltwater taffy. That giant metal contraption contorting in the front window is twisting taffy just for you. Flavors range from trusty old strawberry to pina colada. A 1-pound box costs $12.

{bullet} Sandaes. Hands down the best dessert at the boardwalk. Vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies, dipped in hard-shell chocolate and smothered in peanuts for $3.25. All done up right before your eyes and not handed to you in a plastic wrapper by an uninterested 16-year-old. The sundaes are available at a few of the ice cream vendor windows along the boardwalk.

Top three ways for adults to kill an hour while waiting for the children:

{bullet} The Casino Arcade. Relive your own youth with some of the classic games of the past, including Superman pinball, Pac Man, air hockey and foosball.

{bullet} Beer, billiards and boardwalk history. In the upper reaches of a building called Neptune’s Kingdom, you’ll find pool tables, draft beer and historic photos from the amusement park’s past.

{bullet} Sundown beach stroll. Santa Cruz’s broad beach is just steps away. You can stand ankle-deep in the Pacific as the screams of the crowd and the rumble of the rides blend in with the gentle lapping of the sea. When the sun goes down and the boardwalk lights up, you’ll realize you’re in a special place.




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