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7 Exciting Things to Do at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

7 Exciting Things to Do at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

So, you've made your way to California's Santa Cruz. Discover these seven things to do at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk now.


5 min read

April 01, 2022

Inviting waves and sandy beaches are always delightful. Add music, arcade games, roller coaster rides, and theme park treats to that combination, and well, how can you resist? You’ll find all that and more at the historic Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. A must-see stop on any Central Coast beach road trip itinerary, this iconic boardwalk promises a fun day fueled by nostalgia and new memories to be made. Care to take a trip of your own? Here’s everything you need to do when you spend a day at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk.

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What to Do at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

1. Stroll Along the entire Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

It's time to enjoy every second of the Santa Cruz boardwalk. So much fun, you won't know where to begin.

This might seem like an obvious thing to do in Santa Cruz, but it’s simply a must. So, first thing’s first, you should go about exploring the length of the Santa Cruz boardwalk before you decide what specific activities you’d most like to take part in. If you’re visiting the famed shoreline of Santa Cruz Beach for the first time, you should do this as soon as you arrive to get a general idea of what the area has to offer. However, if you’ve been there before, save the stroll for sunset and catch glimpses of the sun disappearing beyond the horizon, through the crowds, and behind the iron railings of the Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk rides. The pinks and oranges in the sky cover the boardwalk in what looks like a real-life Instagram filter — we promise that it’ll be a magical experience.

2. Check out the Fun Santa Cruz Arcade

If the sun gets too hot to bear and you’re thinking what’s there to do in Santa Cruz sans-heat, head inside the air-conditioned arena of the super fun Santa Cruz Arcade. Officially known as the Casino Arcade, this must-visit attraction is filled with new and retro games you know and love, and others you’ll love to try — over 300 of them, to be exact.

Inside the Santa Cruz Arcade, you’ll find redemption games, skeeball, laser tag, air hockey, and more awesome games young and old children of all ages can enjoy. The Santa Cruz Arcade is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, so you won’t need to rush to get your dose of nostalgic fun either.

3. Ride the Famous Santa Cruz Amusement Park Rides

Yes, there are rides at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. It's time to get in touch with your adventurous spirit.

What’s a visit to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk without a ride or two on the scream-worthy rides? Admission to the boardwalk is free of charge, but to enjoy the many rides along the vibrant waterfront, you should either purchase individual tickets per ride or an all-inclusive day pass. The Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk rides are divided into three general categories: Thrill, Family, and Kiddie rides. And here’s a pro tip: if you buy your pass online, you save $10 per person.

If you only have time to ride one attraction at the boardwalk amusement park, try the famous Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz, which first opened in 1924. If you’d prefer to take a tamer, less scream-inducing ride, the 1911 Looff Carousel offers just as much of an interesting experience.

4. Sign up for the Boardwalk Bowl Santa Cruz League

Located right next to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Boardwalk Bowl is a great bowling facility, restaurant, arcade, karaoke club, and lounge, offering plenty of party fun. You can always play a casual round of bowling with your friends and family. But if you and your gang are super proud of your bowling skills, you can go ahead and sign up for the bowling leagues that take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Santa Cruz and you know your way around a bowling ball, consider taking part in the league. Simply register your team online through this link and you might get the next winning title after a competitive yet friendly game.

5. Enjoy Old School Snacks and Treats Along the Boardwalk

Are you ever too old to enjoy scrumptious snacks and treats while strolling the boardwalk? We definitely don't think so.

A wonderful variety of fun and delicious options for indoor and outdoor dining, as well as take-out and food carts, line the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. From pizza and tacos to boba tea and slushies, and even sweet treats like crepes and churros, there’s food on the boardwalk for every taste palette. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the choices when you visit the Santa Cruz boardwalk, but we personally are fans of the old-school snacks like corn dogs and soft-serve ice creams. If you’d prefer to have a more sophisticated dining experience, you’ll find choices for that along and near the boardwalk as well.

6. Shop for Souvenirs at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Shopping along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is almost as fun as buying souvenirs at the Santa Cruz Pier. You won’t find any familiar department or name-brand stores on the boardwalk, but you’ll come across plenty of cool little shops selling souvenirs, swimsuits, surfboards, and sunscreen. The stores are mostly owned and operated by local small businesses, artists, and vendors, so they’ll be more than happy to welcome you and help you find anything you need.

If you’re spending a while in Santa Cruz County, a surfboard might be a worthwhile purchase; the beautiful beaches here are among the best surf spots in the state to catch a swell for beginners and pros alike.

7. Take the Little Ones to the Nautical Neptune’s Kingdom

Make memories with the youngsters and play a round of miniature golf! The kids will love every second.

If you’re traveling with younger children, your Santa Cruz beach day could benefit from a visit to Neptune’s Kingdom. The indoor, nautical-themed entertainment center boasts a bunch of fun games and activities you can participate in for an afternoon of family fun at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk.

Try the two-story, 18-hole Buccaneer Bay miniature golf course, head to the Smuggler's Arcade for a variety of classic arcade games, and check out the Captain's Game Deck for classic favorites like air hockey, foosball, and pool. Then, move on to Cannonball Fun and Games for skeeball and a variety of other fun redemption games. If you get hungry afterward, the Barbary Coast restaurant inside has kiddie favorites like chicken tenders, garlic fries, burgers, sandwiches, and more. Indulge because it’s time to treat your inner child.

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