3146 Mission Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92109
The amazing Giant Dipper
One of the brightest days of summer for my kids was their visit to Belmont Park, an amusement park and historic San Diego site, situated on Mission Beach in San Diego. Belmont Park is most notably home of the Giant Dipper, one of two wooden beach roller coasters remaining in California. Though this is not a sprawling amusement park, it is one with local San Diegan charm, one-of-a-kind rides, and refreshingly short lines. In addition to the exciting rides, it also offers a variety of interesting, kid-pleasing attractions: glow-in-the-dark golf, an arcade, Sky Rope walking, a rock climbing wall, laser maze, a mirror maze, shops, and restaurants. This diversity of choices offered was more than enough to keep my kids enthralled all day long. With their Super-Combo wristbands, my kids were free to participate in all of these rides and attractions, repeating as many times as desired. My family loved this beachfront, seven-acre park; the short lines truly allow the kids to jump off a ride, run back around to the entrance, and immediately hop back on it--a novelty rarely found these days, especially in Southern California.
The central attraction and history of the park revolves around the Giant Dipper roller coaster. It can be fun to fill the kids in on some of its background, while feasting on giant waffle cones, and then feel that you even provided a little San Diego history lesson for the day! The roller-coaster originally opened on July 4, 1925, as the central draw for the then 33-acre Mission Beach Amusement Center, which thrived throughout the 30’s and 40’s, but fell into disrepair in the late 60’s. By the early 80’s, the coaster had degenerated into an eyesore in Mission Beach with peeling paint and a demolition date was scheduled. Fortunately, some concerned citizens, identifying themselves as the “Save the Coaster Committee,” successfully had the coaster designated as a national Landmark and obtained ownership. This committee saved the coaster, and many renovations under new ownership have occurred since that time. In 1990, the restored roller coaster was reopened to the public with great notoriety and remains immensely popular today. The Giant Dipper is a fast-moving, clinkety-clank ride, with an authentic wooden roller-coaster feel. My kids loved that they could see the beachfront and the ocean from its highest points.
Belmont Park is imbued with the old-fashioned charm and nostalgic history of the Giant Dipper and the patriotically themed carousel dressed in red, white, and blue, yet it somehow manages to also remain on the cutting edge with the latest and greatest rides in the industry. For instance, the recently installed Control Freak is the first of its kind, as a double two seater ride controlled by the passengers. Riders have hand controls which enable them to move it forward, backwards, and flip the cars as they rotate vertically over and over themselves. This ride is not for the faint of heart and only two of my four kids dared it. Similarly, the thrill ride, the Octotron, which opened in December, 2010, is the first of its kind in California. A series of cars whirl around on a horizontal track while riders control the forward and backward flipping motions as well as the speed of the flips. All of my kids loved this ride and rode it multiple times. Another thrill ride is the Beach Blaster which looks like a giant claw, spinning in circles as it rises and falls on a giant pendulum that rises as high as the tree tops. My kids also loved the traditional carousel, the Crazy Submarine and the old-fashioned Twirl-a-whirl, with its spinning carts that revolve around a circle. This ride was a little too much for my husband, but the kids loved it. For those who enjoy the sensation of falling, The Vertical Plunge is a five-seater car that drops, in small increments, over and over again. My family also loved the two different types of bumper cars. The more modern-styled one uses rubber cars that resemble giant inner tubes and are controlled with levers that extend front/back and right/left. They can be maneuvered to sit and spin or race after another car. The other bumper cars are the timeless version parents will remember from their own childhood days consisting of metal sleds with steering wheels.
The thrilling Octotron
The attractions were as unique and original as the many rides. My kids had never played glow-in-the-dark golf before their experience at Belmont’s Black-Light Miniature golf. In the dark room, all the holes and structures throughout the course are fluorescent. The Mirror Maze was exciting for my kids as we muddled our way through room after room of ubiquitous mirrors which created interesting optical illusions for us to traverse through and eventually find our way out.
Those who enjoy heights will love the Sky Rope Adventure and the Rock Climbing wall. The Sky Rope Adventure is a tropically-themed arena of elevated intercrossing ropes and rope ladders. My kids felt like tightrope walkers, holding onto an over-hanging rope for balance, with safety attachments strapped to them in case they were to slip. The bottom floor below is decorated like a jungle. The Rock Wall is 30 feet tall with numerous routes reaching the top. It is accompanied by its miniature version, the Coconut Tree, 25 feet tall. All of these attractions are available for those who buy the Super Combo wristband, which can be purchased at several local Costco stores throughout San Diego.
The arcade was very user-friendly with simple tokens, and my kids enjoyed the variety of games including simulated basketball shooting and a Vegas style spin-the-wheel. They accumulated tickets and then traded them in for various toys and candies from the front counter selection with their earnings. The Vault Laser Maze is the only one of its kind in California. It is a timed event course where the goal is to navigate through the web of lasers without being hit. My son couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was. We considered enjoying a picnic lunch at the beach, but instead found a fabulous restaurant right in the park, with terrific food and an attentive wait staff.
I would advise those with young kids to arrive early since the average age of the kids in attendance seemed to increase as the day progressed, until the park was mostly filled with teenagers and young adults by evening. That said, all of these rides, attractions, plus the generously portioned snacks (especially the rainbow-colored slushies), along with the ever-flowing ocean breeze from the backyard beach makes for a magical, regionally-flavored experience. Belmont Park is the perfect setting to create those elusive, idealistic memories that we often only hope to imprint into the kids’ little memories.
As Belmont Park caters completely to the kids in your family, this update is best conveyed directly from kids' perspectives. Let's take a look at how kids experience it. The latest and greatest addition to this classic beach-side amusement park, since my previous listing, is the Laser Tag, which complements their Laser Maze, and a hugely popular feature for both boys and girls. My ten-year old son conveys here the current ambiance of the park and my thirteen-year old daughter describes her experience playing Laser Tag. If you are a San Diegan, consider having your next birthday party at Belmont Park and treating the kids to a round of Laser Tag.
Kids and teens always have non-stop fun at Belmont Park
My experience at Belmont Park, a small amusement park near the ocean was thrilling! It was most wonderful because of all the activities there are to explore. Candy shops with all kinds of tasty treats are throughout the park. Then there are the rides that are over the top, including fast-paced and slow-paced rides; scary and relaxing; classic to non-classic. This addicting place is also filled with shops to buy materials such as surfboards, sunglasses, and more items that relate to the beach. Restaurants, arcades, Laser Tag, temporary tattoo places, mini museums, and many more places are all found here.
In February, my family and I went back to Belmont Park to see the new activities there. The main new thing was the Laser Tag. It was awesome! As soon as I walked in, a guy, our guide, explained for all of us how to play and all of the rules of the game, for people who never played before. The guide was really careful to demonstrate where everything was and make sure everyone knew the plan. For instance, as we walked through the game room, he walked us over to each base to make sure everyone understood what they were doing.
As soon as he was done speaking, he divided us into groups. Then we got on our Laser gear, our chest lights, and we were ready to play! The goal of the game is to protect your base and to keep your opponents from shooting you. The "shots" don't hurt at all; they are just shots of light. The "arena" is super cool; it's a bit dark, but the obstacles are all lit up and they play exciting music while the game goes on. I felt like I was in The Hunger Games!
Then, as soon as the guide yelled "Go!" everyone lunged into play! People from the other base rushed over with their pretend guns and tried to blow up our base, but we stopped them by shooting their chest guard. Once shot, they can't play for about 20 seconds. In order to blow up the base you have to shoot the target three times; and the team that blows up the base the most wins. My team won! They give you 20 minutes to enjoy Laser Tag. I can't wait to go back. Whenever my mom asks what I want to do, I always say that I want to go to Belmont Park, but now I have another good reason to go: Laser Tag!
The San Diego beachfront atmosphere comes alive at Belmont Park