Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

On the Dock of the Bay

by Paul Ruben

As the song by Otis Redding goes:

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Watching the tide roll away

Ooo, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay Wastin’ time.

The bay is Monterey Bay, and the dock is actually a wharf. The Santa Cruz Wharf in California is known for fishing, boat tours, viewing sea lions, dining and gift shops. With a length of 2,745ft (836m), it is the longest pier on the US West Coast. After dining on dead fish in one of the local restaurants, I followed the movement of sailboats on the horizon, listened to the bark of the sealions below, and watched the twinkling lights across the water at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It was magical.

The Boardwalk is magical. Nominated for this year’s IAAPA/Liseberg Applause Award, it has never looked better. Operated by the Canfield family, it celebrated its centennial in 2007. One of the last of the classic seaside amusement parks in the United States, the Boardwalk is considered one of the best of its kind in the world. It is renowned for its great rides, remarkable history, spectacular beach setting and friendly attitude. It spans a wide sandy beach along Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where it’s not unusual to see otters, dolphins, sea lions and even whales swimming just offshore. You want authentic summertime entertainment? This is it.

Two of the Boardwalk’s rides are National Historic Landmarks. The thrilling 1924 Giant Dipper wooden rollercoaster proves that wood coasters can run smoothly and has appeared in a number of films including Sudden Impact with Clint Eastwood and Lost Boys with Kiefer Sutherland. The Looff Carousel, seen in The Sting with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, has one of the few remaining ring grabs found on carousels. Its domed roof appears behind me in the photo above.

Best of all, for me at least, are two unique dark rides. The Cave Train turns and ducks under the boardwalk for its entire ride. The Haunted Castle, surprisingly, drops riders below the boardwalk and again operates invisibly beneath it. The Haunted Castle’s facade, I discovered, houses the park’s guest services and first aid offices on the ground floor, operational offices, employee check-in and locker rooms on the second floor. Brilliant.

Which brings me back to Otis Redding and the Santa Cruz wharf:

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Watching the tide roll away

Am I humming the wrong tune? The allure of Cave Train and The Haunted Castle suggest the lyrics of the Drifters’ song from 1964:

Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, yeah

On a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be

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