Santa Rosa has always been one of those interestingly remote places for me. I grew up just an hour away from it, but it always felt as distant as places three or four hours away, as if it were more suited to a long weekend trip than a quick visit. Where I live now is […]
There are a few places in the Bay Area where you need to take out-of-town friends and family when they come visit. Pier 39. Alcatraz. Fisherman’s Wharf. The Golden Gate Bridge. Somewhere lower on the list is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has always struck me as bizarrely out of place, something you’d see on the East Coast or closer to Los Angeles. Still, it survives (and even thrives) here.
As misplaced as it seems, the Beach Boardwalk also feels like stepping into a more innocent past—and no wonder, since it opened in 1907. (Don’t worry, it’s clear that the rides have been updated since then.) If you’re in the mood to let go of normal life and be carefree for a few hours, the Boardwalk is absolutely the place to do it. And if the rides and games weren’t enough, the carnival food definitely gives the sense of being on vacation.
For me, the nearby Mystery Spot is somehow more compelling. As a Bay Area native by way of Berkeley, I take a certain local pride in never having visited some of the more touristy attractions; it’s something of a badge of honor in some circles to be able to say, “I’ve never been to Alcatraz.”
The Mystery Spot is different, though. I’ve heard so much about it, largely from enraptured locals who gush about how eerie and disconcerting it is. My own reluctance to go hasn’t been out of any sort of misplaced local pride, but rather because there’s something magical in leaving it a mystery, and something alluring about the anticipation.