The boardwalk will be buzzing this summer.
Cool ocean air has kept the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Park open to thrill seekers, skeeball players and saltwater taffy eaters through much of the pandemic . But most of the live entertainment that drew large crowds during the summer had to be halted.
This year, after two seasons off, free movies and concerts are back.
“We’re excited to bring free, fun family entertainment back to the boardwalk,” spokesperson Kris Reye said in announcing the lineup. “Our guests come for the rides and can stay for the entertainment.”
Here’s a look at what’s on the schedule, along with plans to celebrate National Carousel Day at Looff Carousel and a preview of the fall schedule.
‘May-hem’ this month
Look for daily specials through May 31 at the Boardwalk Bowl.
“Wild Weekdays,” 12-5 p.m., get two games of bowling, shoe rental, a hot dog or slider, fries, and a soda for $8.62 for adults, $7 for kids . On “Wacky Weekends,” you can go bowling for $2 per game per person.
Movie night starts at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, with discounts on bowling and pizza. On Thursday and Sunday evenings, radio station 102.5 KDON hosts “Radioactive Atomic Bowling”.
And Fridays from 3-7 p.m. is “Scoops and Strikes,” with two games of bowling, shoe rentals, and two scoops of Marianne’s favorite ice cream for $12.86 for adults and 10, $95 for children.
Free movies on the beach
When the sun goes down, the screen rises.
At 9 p.m. on Fridays from June 17 to August 12, films will take center stage on the main beach in front of the Colonnade.
Bring your Boardwalk snacks and blanket or beach chairs on the sand and watch “The Goonies” (June 17); “50 First Dates” (June 24); “Sing 2” (July 1); “The Little Shop of Horrors” (July 8); “The Sandlot” (July 15); “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” from 2021 (July 22); “Ironman” (July 29); “Trolls” (August 5); and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (August 12).
What about “The Lost Boys”?
Normally slated for the summer, the 1987 cult favorite that was filmed on location at the Beach Boardwalk will instead screen this year on October 29, as part of the park’s Halloween festivities.
It might seem like a more appropriate time of year anyway to premiere “The Lost Boys,” the campy flick about vampires disguised as motorcycle-riding punk bands, but Reyes said the date change was made in due to licensing restrictions.
When the Boardwalk hosted the 30th anniversary screening in 2016, over 7,500 fans flocked to the main beach to watch. Could this year’s Halloween schedule top that attendance?
Thursday Free Concerts
Bay Area bands will provide the soundtrack this summer, with free concerts from 8:30-10 p.m. Thursdays, June 16-August. 11, on the Colonnade Stage of the Boardwalk.
The nine bands on the program are: Extra Large (June 16); Blood Matiz (June 23); The Deadlies (June 30); Man in Black (July 7); Brass Magic (July 14); Pacific Roots (July 21); 4at Prestigio (July 28); Coffee Zombie Collective (August 4); and The Joint Chiefs (August 11).
Popular Friday night gigs by big bands couldn’t return this year as the pandemic dashed any hopes of planning ahead a year. “Given the uncertainty at that time regarding future COVID restrictions and regulations, as well as staffing levels, we were unable to schedule a traditional summer concert series for 2022,” said Reyes said.
Take the brass ring
A big birthday is coming up and everyone is invited to the party.
The Looff Carousel, a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest ride on the boardwalk, having been delivered to the amusement park in 1911 – 13 years before the opening of the Giant Dipper, the famous wooden roller coaster.
The ride’s horses were hand-carved by Danish woodcarver Charles Looff, who made more than 50 carousels in his lifetime, according to Bay Area News Group records. And while various attractions have sprouted around it over the years, the Looff Carousel has never changed location.
Since the date of birth of each carousel horse is lost to history, the 111th anniversary of the entire carousel corral will be celebrated on Monday, July 25, which is National Carousel Day. On that day, the first 100 runners will receive a souvenir brass carousel ring.
Santa Cruz Group Review
On Saturday, October 15, the Boardwalk and Santa Cruz High School will team up to host the Santa Cruz Band Review, a Northern California Band Association event, with 55 high school and college marching bands competing next to the Boardwalk. Students will be judged in the categories music, direction and walking — in the sand? You’ll want to get there early to watch this challenge.
Boardwalk Chili Cook-Off
The Boardwalk’s Chili Cook-Off took just one year off – 2020 – only to return in 2021 to host more than 30 amateur and professional teams competing for cash and bragging rights. Expect the number of teams and participants to grow this year to approach pre-pandemic numbers. It’ll be a lot for chiliheads to taste, but the proceeds from every tasting kit you buy still goes to support a local non-profit cause. The date of the event is Saturday, October 22.
Details: Admission to the promenade is free. Currently, Neptune’s Kingdom and other arcades and covered rooms are open daily, with nighttime hours; however, outdoor rides take place Thursday through Sunday with limited evening hours. From May 26, the rides will be open every day, but with varying nighttime hours. For more information on schedules, ride/game ticket prices, advance purchases and promotions, go to https://beachboardwalk.com. Most dealerships only accept cashless payments. 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz.
The Bay Area offers nearly endless options for outdoor adventures, tasty bites, and unexpected day trips. So we created the Bay Area Bucket List, a project that asks our readers to help us find the best activities.
Send us your ideas below. Then we’ll post a sample for readers to vote on and help us choose interesting activities to explore. Be sure to include your contact details so we can ping you if we select your idea for consideration.
Wondering about those reader votes? Check out our latest round of voting below.