Boardwalk Rides Reopen, Then Quickly Close
Shopping, Dining Areas Still Open at Seaside Park
By Erik Chalhoub
For just one weekend in Santa Cruz, life was almost back to normal.
During Nov. 7-8, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk became the first amusement park in California to reopen its rides following an eight-month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were limited options, to be sure, but one couldn’t help but feel hope for the future when stepping into the Giant Dipper’s coaster train for the first time in what seemed like forever.
Just a few days later, however, the rides went dark again, indefinitely.
How did we get here?
California health officials released Covid-19 reopening guidelines on Oct. 20 that allow theme parks and stadiums to resume limited operations.
Smaller theme parks, which are those with a capacity of less than 15,000 people, can reopen with 25 percent capacity, if the counties where they reside are in Tier 3 as outlined in the state’s reopening guidance. To be considered for Tier 3, known as the “Orange Tier,” counties must have Covid-19 positivity rates between 2 to 4.9 percent, among other metrics.
Only residents of the county the parks are located at are allowed to visit.
Santa Cruz County moved into the Orange Tier on Oct. 27, and shortly after, the Boardwalk announced its ride reopening plan. Santa Cruz County residents had to make a reservation to access the ride area for a two-hour session. Only 500 people per session were allowed.
However, the county was pushed back to the more restrictive Red Tier of the state’s Covid-19 reopening plan on Nov. 10 as Covid-19 cases began to surge, effectively closing the Boardwalk’s rides once again.
The Boardwalk Bowl and Neptune’s Kingdom have also closed.
“While we are disappointed to close rides and attractions, we anticipated the likelihood Santa Cruz County might move back and forth within the tiers and have prepared to adjust our operations accordingly,” Boardwalk spokesperson Kris Reyes said. “The health and safety of our guests and employees is of the utmost importance during these challenging times and this will remain our priority in the weeks and months ahead.”
Even though the rides are closed, guests can still experience other aspects of the Boardwalk.
The colonnade and main Boardwalk plaza remain open daily with free admission for all guests to eat and shop. Face masks are required while visiting.
Season passes for 2020 have also been extended through 2021.
Smaller special events are still taking place at the park. Hoppy Hours Food & Beer Pairing take place Fridays and Saturdays from 3-7 p.m., featuring Bay Area craft beers paired with foods prepared by Boardwalk private event Chef Scott Meyer.
Agape Dance Academy’s “Nutcracker the Movie” will be performed Dec. 18-20 at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Attendees can watch the performance from their vehicles.
Operating hours and offerings change daily, so guests are advised to visit beachboardwalk.com.
What else is going on with California theme parks?
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo is continuing its Marine World Experience on the weekends. While the rides are closed, guests can visit the park’s animals, including lions, penguins, sharks, sea lions and others.
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia recently announced a drive-thru Holiday in the Park event that runs through Jan. 3. Guests can drive through the entire park to view millions of lights and other holiday displays.
Disneyland is still closed, but its Downtown Disney District shopping area has begun a phased reopening.
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is offering a food event, Taste of Merry Farm, through Jan. 3. Guests can sample dozens of culinary treats while walking through the park that is decorated with holiday displays. Rides are closed.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s CityWalk is open, while SeaWorld San Diego is offering holiday treats and displays.
Gilroy Gardens and California’s Great America remain closed with no special events on tap. The latter, however, has been keeping fans updated through social media on the numerous park enhancements that are taking place during this extended offseason. Gilroy Gardens is targeting a May 2021 opening.