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Boardwalk’s Cocoanut Grove: Then and Now

Cocoanut Grove Event Spaces
The Bay View Room, Sun Room, and Ballroom make up the Cocoanut Grove event space.

Happy New Year! As we reflect back on 2023, we are grateful for another wonderful season at the Boardwalk’s Cocoanut Grove. With organizations, companies, and local artists returning to in-person events, the venue once again provided a vibrant hub for unforgettable gatherings. Boardwalk guests may be familiar with the Casino Arcade, but did you know that private and public events have taken place in the beautiful venue spaces upstairs since its grand opening in 1907? Many tourists and locals alike are experiencing these event spaces for the first time. This hidden gem in Santa Cruz is waiting to be explored and cherished by all who seek a truly special setting. The spacious Ballroom, the glass-ceilinged Sun Room, and the panoramic views from the Bay View Room offer truly one-of-a-kind spaces for all types of events. 

Cage Fighting
Central Coast Fighting Championship event in the Ballroom

Big tech names from Silicon Valley have booked the venue to put on some amazing events for staff and leadership to enjoy catered meals and have fun at the Boardwalk. Local organizations have also held company parties here to celebrate their hard work at this well-loved local setting. Late-night high-school formals, proms, and grad parties are back in full swing, with local schools coming down for a night to remember. The Central Coast Fighting Championship even hosted a mixed martial arts tournament inside, harkening back to wrestling matches in the plunge that took place in the 1950s.

The Ballroom, ca. 1907
The Ballroom, circa 1907

With the pandemic behind us, the Cocoanut Grove is thrilled to be fully operational once more. Guests have journeyed from all corners to partake in the celebratory and refreshing atmosphere, relishing the opportunity to spend time and reconnect in this historic location. Designed by Architect William H. Weeks at the behest of Fred Swanton, this elegant building (then called the Casino) has stood the test of time and continues to deliver high-class experiences for the community and our guests. One of the early performers, the Californians, left a lasting mark backstage; you can read about that discovery here

Candlelight Concerts
Cocoanut Grove Entrance A, Candlelight Concerts (inset)

While corporate events and family functions have garnered widespread popularity, live concerts have also made some notable appearances, entertaining a diverse set of audiences and indulging our ears with musical delight. From the dynamic sounds of Toby Keith, Jimmy Buffet, and Lila Downs to the Listeso String Quartet Candlelight Series, our space continues to host a spectrum of talented artists for our guests to enjoy.

Promotional photo for Sunday Brunch in the Sun Room, ca. 1981
Promotional photo for Sunday Brunch in the Sun Room, circa 1981

Live music has been a part of the Cocoanut Grove’s history since its Big Band Era in the 1940s and 1950s. Boardwalk Marketing Director, Skip Littlefield, publicized the Cocoanut Grove’s Big Band era in the 1940s and 1950s, and managed that unique space for 21 years until 1976, taking it through the period of 1960s teen and 1970s disco dances. After a large-scale renovation in the early 1980s, big band dances returned with musicians including Count Basie and Tex Beneke performing on the ballroom stage. Sunday Brunch and a summer series of Joe Sharino Friday Night Dance parties in the glass-domed Sun Room were popular during that time as well.

Storytime with Santa
Storytime with Santa

A variety of public events throughout the year have offered fun experiences for guests of all ages. During the spring, Scouts and their families attended the annual spring overnight. They camped out inside the ballroom, enjoyed a movie on the big screen, played arcade games, and were treated to a magic show from our very own, Doug the Surfing Magician! The inaugural Boardwalk Pride event happened in May, and an exciting afterparty was put on upstairs at the Cocoanut Grove. The Ballroom also hosted the Halloween Fright Flicks series for scary movie fans to get comfy in big blow-up chairs, eat popcorn, and get spooky! Santa was sighted here for the holidays, with guests joining for a holiday brunch, cookies, storytime, and a movie!

Cocoanut GroveOur dedicated Banquet & Events team works diligently behind the scenes to take great care of the facility and ensure a high-quality experience. Their passion for high-quality service can be seen through late night and early morning shifts, quick room turns for back-to-back events, and excellent customer care. Operating in this historic building demands a level of precision and attentiveness to detail. Consistently, this group of dedicated employees excels in meeting tight deadlines, efficiently managing a vast space, and delivering the magic of the Cocoanut Grove time and time again.

If you or anyone you know would like to host a private event at the Cocoanut Grove, please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Cheers to a wonderful 2024!


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