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Giant Dipper 100th | Then & Now

This year marks the Giant Dipper’s 100th anniversary! To honor this remarkable milestone, the Boardwalk is hosting a variety of fun events, offering cool promotions, and providing some fresh new merchandise. Join us this season as we celebrate A Century Of Thrills – 100 Years of Unforgettable Twists & Turns!

Celebratory Events 

Giant Dipper train with 100th logo
The Giant Dipper trains are ready for a season of celebrations!

The Boardwalk is hosting a sensational pyrotechnic display on Saturday May 18th at 9pm. Mark your calendars and join the party! Riders will also receive a free commemorative button while supplies last. Fireworks have been a longtime tradition at the Boardwalk since 1916. The annual celebration began at the old Pleasure Pier where the fireworks were launched every fourth of July until the pier’s demolition in 1962, at which time they moved to the beach across from the Giant Dipper until 1974. Some readers may remember the fireworks display for the Boardwalk’s centennial in 2007. The Giant Dipper Centennial will once again bring an exciting aerial display back to the beach to celebrate this significant moment in time.

Harkening back to the early days of this wooden coaster, the Boardwalk will host Dipper Days, bringing back retro pricing with $1 rides on Wednesdays from May 29th to August 7th. Fun fact, the first time rides were $1.00 was back in 1982!

1969 Fireworks
Beach Boardwalk Fireworks Show, 1969

Another exciting event on this summer’s lineup is the Giant Dipper 100th Anniversary Fan Art Contest – you can see some of the winning entries from our previous Giant Dipper Art Contest here. Are you a Giant Dipper fan? Share your best photo, drawing, or other artistic creation to win Dipper swag, MyBoardwalk Cards, or Ride Wristbands! Entries can be submitted starting in May and winners will be announced in August.

We will once again observe National Roller Coaster Day on August 17th. This year, the first 100 riders on the Giant Dipper that day will receive a Boardwalk Souvenir Cup! 

Centennial History

Giant Dipper Station 1946
Giant Dipper station, 1946

This ride holds the title of fourth oldest coaster in the United States. Since it’s construction in 1924, led by Arthur Looff, this iconic thrill ride has stood the test of time. Did you know the Giant Dipper has had over 68 million riders in its lifetime?! Read one of our past blogs to learn more about the early history of this magnificent ride. 

The Looff family legacy at the Boardwalk began in 1911, when Charles Looff delivered a new merry-go-round of hand-carved horses. Thirteen years later, his son Arthur followed in his amusement industry footsteps, running rides, games, and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Arthur then set his sights on Santa Cruz as he wanted to build a bigger and better coaster than his Big Dipper in San Francisco. Thus, the Giant Dipper was born. By 1987, the family made another mark on history when the Giant Dipper and Carousel became National Historic Landmarks by the U.S. National Park Service.

Letter from Arthur Looff
Letter from Arthur Looff to William O’Leary, 1923

In 2023, a letter donated to the Boardwalk archive documents Arthur Looff offering William O’Leary the “job as foreman at ten dollars per day on construction of the GIANT DIPPER.” His description sheds light on the planned impact of this new addition to the park, “The GIANT DIPPER will be higher by almost ten feet than the Big Dipper, the Dips will be deeper…” The family hopes to visit this year to take their first Giant Dipper ride! 

This classic wooden coaster has also been featured on the big screen in major motion pictures including Sudden ImpactDangerous Minds, and cult classic, The Lost Boys. Next time you visit the Boardwalk see if you can spot all the movie posters from it’s big screen appearances.

Today, the Giant Dipper is looking better than ever after a large-scale winter repainting project; take a look at one of our previous articles for more details on that. Speaking of, did you know that the Giant Dipper was built in just 47 days at a cost of $50,000?…Today, labor and materials for merely painting the Giant Dipper are estimated around $500,000!

While the Boardwalk has undergone a multitude of updates and changes over the years, the Giant Dipper has remained surprisingly consistent. Our team of maintenance staff and ride operators are committed to ensuring the longevity of the ride and making it an experience that generations can share.

Charles Canfield on the Giant Dipper
Charles Canfield on the Giant Dipper in 2007. Photo taken by Shmuel Thaler

We interviewed Kris Reyes, Boardwalk Spokesperson, who had this to say about its vibrant history: “The Giant Dipper is as thrilling today as it was on its first day 100 years ago. There is nothing quite like a tooth rattling ride on the old wooden coaster at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.” Even Seaside Company Chairman, Charles Canfield is looking forward to a ride this season to add to his collection of Giant Dipper memories he’s been acquiring since he was a kid.

Special Artwork & Merchandise

Giant Dipper 100th Mural
Giant Dipper 100th Mural at Entrance 5

If you’ve been to Entrance 5 lately (by Hot Dog on a Stick), you might have noticed the colorful and vibrant new mural. Local artist, Shaun Logan, worked tirelessly to get it finished for this upcoming season, and it looks amazing! His work provides a refreshing new visual experience to this iconic entryway, with a celebratory nod of appreciation to this milestone. Be sure to check it out next time you’re here – it makes a great spot for photos! 

Another spot that is not to be missed is the Main Entrance Plaza, now sporting a new Giant Dipper banner to commemorate this year’s centennial, a great backdrop for guests to take photos and selfies.
Giant Dipper 100th merchandise at The Walk
Giant Dipper 100th merchandise available at The Walk

You can also take home a memento of this remarkable occasion. All of the new limited-edition Giant Dipper 100th merchandise including apparel, socks, drinkware, and more is available at the The Walk located in the Colonnade. More exciting updates on that coming soon…

Do you have a fond memory of the Giant Dipper you’d like to share? Head over to our memories page to submit. We love reading your stories!
Hope to see you at the Giant Dipper.

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