The oldest roller coaster in California celebrates its 100th birthday Saturday, as the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk turns 100 with a rollicking party, and someone even brewed it a commemorative beer.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is obviously a delightful NorCal destination, though it no longer has those free summer concerts by has-beens like Eddie Money and Quiet Riot. There is still plenty of reason to visit California’s oldest continuously operating amusement park, with its 40 rides and attractions, 26 midway games, two video game arcades, an 18-hole mini-golf course, and a laser tag arena. And there is good reason to visit on Saturday, as KTVU reports that the boardwalk’s Giant Dipper roller coaster is celebrating its 100th birthday.

The Giant Dipper technically turns 100 years old today, as its grand opening was on May 17, 1924. But the 100th birthday party is Saturday, May 18, and according to the Boardwalk, there will be a “Public ceremony in front of the Giant Dipper to honor a century of thrills” at 10:30 am Saturday, and a 9 pm fireworks Saturday night show to celebrate the milestone.

Have you ever ridden the Giant Dipper? The POV video below shows you exactly what the ride is like, and it cleverly starts with a tension-heightening ride through a pitch-black tunnel to get your adrenaline flowing.


“Since its inauguration on May 17, 1924, the Giant Dipper has maintained its position as the fourth oldest coaster in the U.S. and one of the top ten oldest in the world,” according to the tourism group Visit Santa Cruz County. “The Giant Dipper stands as a testament to enduring craftsmanship, utilizing 327,000 board feet of lumber, 743,000 galvanized nails, 148,000 pounds of concrete, and an array of materials that have contributed to its timeless appeal.”

The Giant Dipper is one of those old-school wooden roller coasters, and hits speeds of up to 46 miles an hour, as well as delivering remarkable views of the Monterey Bay.  Yes it is a century old, but remains safe, as “A team of four full-time mechanics meticulously inspects the ride daily, utilizing advanced techniques like ultrasound scanning to ensure every aspect of the coaster is in top condition,” according to Visit Santa Cruz County. And the structure survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake with no damage whatsoever, while downtown Santa Cruz suffered significant damage.

Visit Santa Cruz County adds that the Giant Dipper’s “iconic red-and-white tracks have graced screens both big and small in movies like Jordan Peele’s Us and vampire cult classic The Lost Boys, solidifying its status as a cultural icon.” The coaster was added to the National Historic Landmarks registry in 1987.


Someone even brewed a beer for the Giant Dipper’s 100th birthday. Soquel-based Discretion Brewing just released Giant Dipper Golden Ale, a low-alcohol beer being sold starting Saturday on the boardwalk, as well as at various other Santa Cruz retailers. There’s also a Giant Dipper art contest in categories for kids 14 and under, and separately those 14 and older.  

Admission to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is free, though there is a fee for the rides, and a ride on the Giant Dipper costs $8. But the boardwalk is doing a 100th anniversary promotion called Dipper Days where rides are only $1 from May 29 to August 7, 2024. Though for perspective, on the day the Giant Dipper opened in 1924, a ride cost 15 cents.

Related: Two Napa Brothers Build Mini Version of Disney's Matterhorn Rollercoaster In Their Backyard [SFNews]

Image: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk via Facebook