• September 2023

    Iconic Attraction Returns Soon to the Boardwalk

    Something has been missing at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for too long, an attraction that is a staple at any seaside amusement park: a Ferris wheel. Thankfully, that’s about to change. Plans are in the works to install a new Ferris wheel at the Boardwalk, more than five years after it removed its classic ride due to decades of wear and tear and salty air. This Ferris wheel, approved by Santa Cruz city planners in August, will stand 68 feet tall, roughly the same size as the previous one, and feature 15 gondolas that can sit up to four adults or six children at a time, according to the…

  • June 2023

    Treasure Hunting in Monterey

    Ready to hunt for some undersea treasure in Monterey? Treasure Hunt: The Ride will soon open on Cannery Row, taking riders on an interactive, pirate-themed adventure as they battle not only friends and family to score the most booty, but also against ghosts, skeletons and other creatures that lurk in the “newly discovered” caverns. Located near the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the ride will feature hand-crafted set pieces, animatronics and special effects blended with interactive media. Riders will use onboard interactive “Treasure Collector” devices (think Ghost Blasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk) to rack up a score. Treasure Hunt is the brainchild of manufacturer Sally Dark Rides, known for its…

  • February 2023

    Are Video Games the Next Theme Park Frontier?

    An exciting new trend is gaining traction in the theme park industry, one that could create worlds like no other that we’ve seen off the screen. While video games and theme parks have gone hand-in-hand for decades, namely in the form of arcades, entire themed areas dedicated to a video game world has gone largely untapped. Until now. Super Nintendo World is set to open Feb. 17 at Universal Studios Hollywood, featuring attractions based on the Super Mario franchise, known among gamers since the 1980s but now exploding in popularity with a film coming to the big screen in April. At Super Nintendo World, you’ll be dropped right in the…

  • August 2022

    The End of an Era

    Great America is Closing: What Can You Expect? By Erik Chalhoub The news of California’s Great America’s eventual closure sent shockwaves through the Bay Area and the theme park community. We haven’t experienced such a loss in our region since Santa’s Village in Scotts Valley shut down for good in 1979. So what might this mean for Great America visitors? Let’s take a look.Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which has owned Great America since 2006 and the land it sits on since 2019, announced in late June that it had sold the land to real estate developer Prologis for $310 million, and would wind down operations of the Santa Clara park…

  • May 2022


    The Surprising Things About Legoland By Brad Kava I was so happy that a 6-year-old could appreciate an exhibit I would have figured would be more interesting to grown-ups. It wasn’t just amazing that they did this with Lego, but that they did it so remarkably authentic. It felt like being there. I took my 6-year-old son, Parker, to his first trip to Legoland last month and it was a blast, but not for the reasons you might expect. Yes, he loves Lego. He’s been doing one or two a week since he was 3. At 6 he does the ones way above his age group and our house already…

  • March 2022

    Always Amused

    Santa Cruz Natives Find Success at Boardwalk Seaside Park Promotes Two Long-Time Employees By Erik Chalhoub Jessica Alfaro: Assistant General Manager/Director of Operations. Karley Pope: Director of Marketing and Sales The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk recently shared two success stories within its organization, highlighting the opportunities available for those who grow up in Santa Cruz. Two Santa Cruz natives and longtime Boardwalk leaders, Jessica Alfaro and Karley Pope, were promoted to new positions at the end of January. Alfaro was named Assistant General Manager/Director of Operations, while Pope was promoted to Director of Marketing and Sales. Alfaro, a graduate of Santa Cruz High School and Cabrillo College, began her career…

  • December 2021

    Season of the Coaster

    ‘Tis the Season for Coasters Holiday events are back and more festive than ever By Erik Chalhoub For most of November, theme parks are a strange hodgepodge of jack-o-lanterns, zombie heads, colorful ornaments and twinkling lights. The transition from Halloween to the holiday season doesn’t happen overnight. It takes many months of planning, and weeks of hands-on labor, to transform the parks from spooky nightmares to festive wonderlands. Let’s check out what our local parks have planned for 2021.Santa Cruz Beach BoardwalkThe Boardwalk’s Winter Wonderland returns select days through Jan. 2. The seaside amusement park will be decked out with holiday flair in this annual tradition, featuring lights and decorations…

  • October 2021

    The Return of Halloween Events

    The Return of Halloween Events Theme Parks Announce Scarefests After 2020 Hiatus By Erik Chalhoub I’ve been surprised over the past few weeks as theme parks throughout the state have been slowly announcing their Halloween offerings this year.Curious, mostly, over how events that rely heavily on “in your face scares” can survive and adapt in a world where a pandemic rages on, and where social distancing is still prominent. The parks have so far been mum on what modifications their Halloween festivities will have in light of Covid-19 and its variants. Will plexiglass separate the monsters from the guests? Will capacity inside mazes be extremely limited, therefore requiring reservations? We…

  • August 2021

    Back in Rythm

    Getting Back in Rhythm Theme Park Operations Slowly Return to Pre-Pandemic State By Erik Chalhoub We all get a little out of practice when we haven’t done something in more than a year. Tucking in our shirts, interacting with colleagues in person, handshakes…the rust is real. The same is happening at theme parks, with most reopening in April and May after a year of Covid-19 closures. I’ve heard horror stories of three-hour waits on GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm, where ride operators finally decided to put the second train on the track to speed up the queue … an hour after the park closed for the night. Ouch. Countless rides,…

  • July 2021

    Water Parks

    Getting Back in the Water South Bay Shores Highlights New Water Parks By Erik Chalhoub Growing up, I used to be very timid when it came to trying a different theme park attraction. I was even nervous about riding the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, even though I had ridden it many times before.But once I went on my first upside-down roller coaster at age 18 (I was a late theme park bloomer), I haven’t looked back since. I’ll try any ride at least once. I’ve even been on a slingshot-type attraction as well as a “skycoaster” before, no problem.Yet, when I look at the seven-story Shark…

  • June 2021

    The Return of the Theme Park

    The Return of the Theme Park Reopenings Abound After More Than a Year of Closures By Erik Chalhoub What a month June will be. Or I should say, “can” be. It all depends on us.By the end of May, just about every theme park in California reopened after more than a year of closures. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, as well as the Six Flags parks in Northern and Southern California, got a jump on the rest by reopening select rides on April 1. SeaWorld San Diego reopened April 12, followed by Universal Studios Hollywood on April 16 and Disneyland on April 30. California’s Great America and Gilroy Gardens reopened…

  • Always Amused
    May 2020

    Ride Again

    Will You Ride a Roller Coaster Again This Year? BY ERIC CHALHOUB I was going through old photos on my phone the other day when I came across one I took of RailBlazer at California’s Great America back in December.It made me wonder: Have I yet to ride a roller coaster this decade? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Even more unfortunate is the idea that I have no idea when my next coaster ride will be. And we’re almost halfway through 2020.With the coronavirus barely showing signs of letting up, theme parks around the nation are gearing up for a possible summer without thrills. At the beginning of April, most…

  • April 2020

    Proper Theme Park Hygiene

    Proper Theme Park Hygiene Ways to Stay Healthy During Your Visit BY ERIK CHALHOUB March was a rough month. With spring pushing winter out of the way and Daylight Saving Time making the days last longer, it should’ve been a great month. But there was something big missing. When Disney announced it would close all its parks at least until the end of the month, the dominoes began to fall. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk not only shut down its rides, but also the arcade, Boardwalk Bowl and Cocoanut Grove. California’s Great America delayed its traditional March opening. Six Flags closed all of its parks nationwide. Just about every other…

  • social media theme parks
    February 2020

    Getting Social with Theme Parks: Always Amused February 2020

    Getting Social with Theme Parks Always Amused February 2020 By Erik Chalhoub Love it or hate it, social media is a world-changing phenomenon that has changed society for better or worse. It’s definitely made it better for us theme park fanatics. It was hard to imagine just 10 years ago how active parks would be on social media today. At the turn of the last decade, many parks seemingly created accounts on various social media platforms just to claim ownership of a handle (i.e. @cagreatamerica), and rarely did they post anything beyond a ticket sale or advertise an upcoming event. Now, however, social media has become an essential part of…

  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk holiday
    December 2019

    Finding the Right Gift for the Thrill-Seeker: Always Amused December 2019

    Finding the Right Gift for the Thrill-Seeker Always Amused: December 2019 By Erik Chalhoub Have a theme park fanatic in your family, but don’t know what to give them for the holidays? You’ve come to the right article. It’s a well-known fact of life that theme parks are an expensive hobby: tickets, season passes, parking, hotels, airfare, etc. are not kind on the wallet. But savvy shoppers looking to give the gift of thrills this holiday season know the who, what, when and where for the best deals. Here are some suggestions that will hopefully make your shopping easier. To Pass or Not to Pass? In a previous column for…

  • amusement park lost stuff
    November 2019

    Secure Those Articles: Always Amused November 2019

    Secure Those Articles Cell phones, hats are dangerous on rides Always Amused: November 2019 By Erik Chalhoub “Loose articles” — The term sounds like the name of a ‘90s-era grunge band or a poorly-fact-checked news piece. In fact, it is a scourge that is afflicting theme parks across the nation, and it’s getting worse. The good and bad news? We are to blame. But that also means we can be part of the solution. Loose articles refer to anything you bring with you: cell phones, wallets, sunglasses, hats, keys, change and any other knick-knack that is small enough to carry easily. When guests take these things on a ride without…

  • hospitality santa cruz beach boardwalk
    October 2019

    Work and Play Can Mix: Always Amused October 2019

    Work and Play Can Mix New class at Boardwalk prepares students for hospitality jobs Always Amused: October 2019 By Erik Chalhoub High school students across the county are gathering once a week to learn the ins and outs of the hospitality and tourism industry. And they are doing it at the most fitting location possible: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s Career Technical Education Partnership (CTEP) program teamed up recently with the Boardwalk to offer the new CTEP Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation course. “One of the benefits is they get to know the behind-the-scenes of one of the coolest local employers,” Mollenauer said. “It’s like a…

  • new rides boardwalk santa cruz 2020
    September 2019

    New Rides, Boardwalk Campout Always: Amused September 2019

    New Rides, Boardwalk Campout New-for-2020 attractions unveiled Always Amused: September 2019 By Eric Chalhoub For theme park nerds such as myself, Christmas comes in August, and this past month was no exception. The last month of summer is home to National Roller Coaster Day on Aug. 16. But even better, most theme parks announce their new attractions for the following season. On a seemingly daily basis, news breaks of some major record-breaking coaster announcement, new technologies for familiar attractions and more. Our California parks were busy last month California’s Great America, two years after it retired two rides and removed a handful of other attractions, finally announced what it had…

  • theme park food santa cruz
    August 2019

    What’s cooking at theme parks? Always Amused August 2019

    What’s cooking at theme parks? Deals, healthy options now on the table Always Amused August 2019 By Erik Chalhoub A theme park without food is like a car without wheels — you can’t operate one without the other.  With most guests at parks making their visit a day out of it, coupled with the amount of walking to and from attractions, it can be a good workout, and a great way to work up an appetite. But theme park food is notorious for being greasy, unhealthy, heavily-processed grub. Worst of all, it’s overpriced ($40 pizza, anyone?). Sadly, that is still the case, but fortunately no longer the entire story. Over…