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Why: The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is a throwback to the days when amusement parks peppered the beaches of California. Now only a few are left, often in barely recognizable form (Belmont Park in San Diego, for instance). But Santa Cruz, whose first casino opened in 1904, still has some gritty magic going on.
What: The boardwalk's attractions include the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster (opened in 1924); about three dozen rides and attractions; assorted games; wacky snack food; and a carousel from 1911. It's all arrayed along a mile of sandy beachfront, with the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf (whose pilings are beloved by sea lions) about 1,000 feet to the west.
Some consider this boardwalk the oldest amusement part in the state. The coaster and carousel were declared national historic landmarks in 1987, the same year that the film "The Lost Boys" made splendid and disquieting use of the site as a venue for teenage vampires. These days the movie is a cult favorite; Visit Santa Cruz in 2017 published a "Lost Boys" locations map.
Rides are open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day and on weekends and holidays the rest of the year. The arcade, miniature golf, laser tag and bowling stay open daily year-round. (Like the rest of Santa Cruz, it gets chilly.)
Where: 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz, 76 miles south of San Francisco, 341 miles northwest of downtown L.A.
How much: An all-day rides wristband costs $36.95. It's $7 to ride the Giant Dipper.