Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk rides ready to reopen

Starting Thursday, California's theme parks can reopen for the first time since last year.

Parks in counties that are in the red tier have to limit capacity to 15%, in the orange tier, it's 25% capacity, and in the least restrictive yellow tier, it's 35% of capacity.

In Santa Cruz, rides at the Beach Boardwalk are preparing to reopen, but business is already strong.

"Summer is coming early you know. It's so nice that the sun's out," says Cierra Taylor of Roseville. The college student is on spring break and celebrating her mother's birthday.

Even with the rides closed, the Beach Boardwalk was popular on Wednesday afternoon. Some visitors are here on spring break.

 "It's lovely to see everyone walking around and being able to actually utilize the boardwalk and the beach," says Taylor. 

Admission to the boardwalk is free. Outdoor games are available. Retail shops are open and food is served.

Starting Thursday, April 1, a familiar sight and sound will return. The historic Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster, will be among eight to 12 rides reopening for the first time in months due to the pandemic.

"I love roller coasters so it's going to be a huge yes for me," says Chantelle Rollins. 

She's here with her husband and two young children. Visiting from Henderson, Nevada, they say they plan to be back for a second day at the boardwalk.

"We figured everything would be closed down but the beach, so when we got here, we're like, 'Wow!' This is really awesome, how open everything is, but they're still encouraging face masks," says Rollins.

Visitors are required to wear face masks and social distance at all times, including while on rides.

Workers were seen cleaning a ride.

"We're only allowed to operate at about 25% capacity so we're strongly encouraging guests to plan ahead," says Kris Reyes, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk spokesman. "We'll have our selection of kiddie rides, family rides and thrill rides. But our re-opening is going to be very gradual and very measured."

That means making reservations online. Walkup purchases will be available if there is capacity.

On this gorgeous spring day, it was about the sun, sand and people watching.

"This kind of resembles more of what life was like before COVID. People walking around, taking part in games," says Phil De La Cruz from Hayward. 

Reservations are highly recommended for anyone who plans to enjoy the rides.

There are other things to do such as eat, shop and of course, the beautiful beach.