One of San Diego's most notable and popular attractions, the historic Giant Dipper, is celebrating its 92nd birthday on the Fourth of July.
The wooden roller coaster, which officially opened to the public on July 4, 1925, is both a National and State Historic Landmark. It is also an iconic part of San Diego beach culture, located at Belmont Park in the heart of Mission Beach.
According to a Belmont Park spokesperson, the ride is one of only two remaining antique wooden roller coasters in California. It was originally built as a key attraction for the 33-acre Mission Beach Amusement Center that opened in the summer of 1925.
The entire project was the idea of sugar magnate, John D. Spreckels, a major force in San Diego's development. The original cost to build the coaster was $150,000, including the two-18 passenger trains.
The Mission Beach Amusement Center was popular through the 1930s and '40s and, in later years, it was renamed Belmont Park.
By the late 1960s, Belmont Park fell into disrepair and the park and coaster finally closed in December 1976.
In the 1980s, the Giant Dipper became an eyesore in Mission Beach and endured several problems, including several fires, peeling paint and a reputation as an encampment for transients.
After much pressure, the owner of the coaster planned to have it torn down and a demolition date was set.
According to Belmont Park reps, a group of concerned San Diegans banded together to form the “Save the Coaster Committee” in an effort to rescue the Giant Dipper from demolition.
The group succeeded in having the coaster designated as a National Landmark and requested ownership be transferred to the committee. The San Diego Coaster Company was established and $2 million was poured into restoring the ride. Restoration included all elements of the track and a new passenger train featuring six 4-person cars.
On August 11, 1990, the newly restored roller coaster reopened to the public and finally rode again.
Today, it enjoys an active life, welcoming thrill-seekers on a daily basis who dare to take its dips, twists and turns. The top of the coaster offers some breathtaking views of Mission Beach and the ocean.
According to the Roller Coaster Database website, the coaster spans 2,600 feet in length and has a height of 73 feet. It travels at 55 mph, with each ride lasting a little more than two minutes.
Riders must be at least 50-inches-tall to enjoy the Giant Dipper fun and each ride costs $6, though some Belmont Park ticket packages do include unlimited rides on the iconic coaster.
The popular beach community it calls home spans nearly two miles of ocean front views and boasts a boardwalk frequented bicyclists, joggers and casual strollers. Along the boardwalk, dozens of eateries and small shops offer snacks and trinkets, and a wall offers a relaxing place to rest and gaze out at the ocean.