Giant Dipper 89th Birthday Belmont Park Mission Beach

The wooden roller coaster in Belmont Park is an icon of San Diego's Mission Beach community

Courtesy of Belmont Park

America isn’t the only one celebrating a birthday on the 4th of July: San Diego’s famous Giant Dipper roller coaster also happens to be turning 89.

The wooden roller coaster -- which officially opened to the public on July 4, 1925 -- is both a National and State Historic Landmark. It’s 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 beachside ride was the brainchild of iconic San Diegan John D. Spreckels. It cost $150,000 to build, including two 18-passenger trains.

The Giant Dipper stuck around through the ups and downs of the Mission Beach Amusement Center, remaining popular through later decades after the boardwalk recreation area was renamed Belmont Park.

But, by the late 1960s, Belmont Park fell into disrepair and both the park and coaster 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 date.

But the Giant Dipper still had some fight left in it.

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.

The rest, as they say, is history.

On Aug. 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.

As the Giant Dipper celebrates its 89th birthday, Mission Beach is currently celebrating its centennial with a host of summertime events.

Mission Beach, built on a sandbar between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay, came to be in 1914.
In June of that year, the official subdivision map of the community was surveyed. By December, 14, 2014, it was adopted by the Common Council of San Diego, becoming the first official map of Mission Beach.

Today, the popular beach community 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 a trinkets, and a wall offers a relaxing place to rest and gaze out at the ocean.

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