Long before Disney, there was Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk—California’s original amusement park and still one of the best. Launched in 1907, the boardwalk has meticulously preserved its bygone ways. Whether it’s corn dogs and cotton candy or wooden roller coasters and screechy bumper cars, this stretch of sand 90 minutes south of San Francisco is like stepping into one of those old Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movies. Must-stops along the path include Momo’s Beach Shack, and Olitas Cantina & Grill for a margarita and fish tacos. As daylight fades, the Giant Dipper roller coaster offers an unforgettable view of the sunset over Monterey Bay.
STAY AT DREAM INN: This swank property sits right on the beach at one end of the boardwalk, with mod rooms and bay views; jdvhotels.com.