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Pirates of Emerson Invade
the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz

Reviewed 10/05/07 by Hauntmistress

Pirates of Emerson has expanded into two locations - Fremont and Santa Cruz at the Boardwalk. Pirates of Emerson Invade the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk includes the Scaribbean Cove haunted attraction, Beneath the Boardwalk haunted attraction, Sand Trap Maze, 20 foot Spinning Tunnel, Fright Walk, and a Boardwalk ride wristband good for the five Boardwalk rides that are operating after 7 pm.

With the Boardwalk's pirate theme, Pirates of Emerson seems like the perfect October addition to the Boardwalk. Pirates of Emerson allows you to take a trip back in time to the 15th Century when pirates ruled the seas. The reincarnated pirates aim to terrorize you at every opportunity. There were a lot of people having fun on our visit and we made our way through them to get to the action and our first haunt.

Scaribbean Cove

Our first stop of the night was Scaribbean Cove. It reminded me most of the Pirates of Emerson of old in Fremont. You make your way through various rooms of a pirate cove that have the same attention to detail we've come to expect and love from Pirates of Emerson. From the many changing photos on the wall to the mulch on the floor that you can feel through your shoes and hear as you take each step, Pirates of Emerson doesn't miss a beat with the details. There were actors perfectly in character offering plenty of scares, as well as twists and turns and doors that wouldn't open to confuse you. It was a fast-paced haunt with plenty to see and be entertained by.

Beneath the Boardwalk

The other haunted attraction is Beneath the Boardwalk. When you enter you are admonished to, "Keep your eyes and your ears open. There are strange creatures lurking. Shhhhhh, you wouldn't want to wake them. Tread lightly. Do not awaken what's beneath the boardwalk". I don't know how they expect you to be quiet when they keep making you scream! You feel like you're actually under a boardwalk, complete with wooden beams and planks. Again, the attention to detail is wonderful, as are the actors who stay in character and offer scares. Our favorite was one we've dubbed rat-boy, who scares you and then scurries off into a mouse hole. After all, a wharf wouldn't be complete without a rat or two (or the spiders that adorn the walls). Beneath the Boardwalk was fun and offered many scares.

Boardwalk's Fright Walk

The Boardwalk's standing attraction, Fright Walk, is mostly as we remembered it from our last visit. The line took about 30 minutes to get through because they let you in with only your party, which is as we believe it should be. Cattle calls do not make for a fun experience. Much of the walk  takes you through walls of mirror, invoking memories of traditional boardwalk fun houses. There are glow in the dark arrows on the floor to lead you, which seemed to defeat the purpose of getting confused by the mirrors. But I guess they are needed because we caught up to the people in front of us who had entered the haunt at least three minutes ahead of us. They probably would still be in there without the arrows... There aren't actors in Fright Walk - the scares are given by pneumatic and mechanical props. But the timing was right on most of them and they were well-done. There is a vortex tunnel that was also very well-done and threw us off-kilter. There is also another little surprise we won't ruin, but let's just say it's surprising and scream-worthy. Another neat element is the low ceiling in one part of the walk that you have to crouch down really low to get through. I almost didn't make it after stiffening up from standing in line so long. In addition to offering scares, Fright Walk offers laughs, which is another great element to haunts and a similarity to the way Pirates of Emerson does things.

Sand Trap Maze

Set on the beach, the Sand Trap Maze is an open-air labyrinth made of chain-link fence. A similar attraction, The Bilge Rat Maze in Pirates of Emerson's Fremont location, is strobe-lit, making it hard to determine where you are or need to be going. But this maze does not have that feature - or at least didn't on the night we visited. The sand is not that deep so it's not too hard to walk through. It's not scary, but it's something different to do on the beach.


Alas, one of my favorite things, the spinning vortex tunnel, was not operating when we visited. But there were five Boardwalk rides that were, including the Double Shot, bumper cars, and the swinging Pirate ship ride. The arcade was filled with people playing games and air-hockey and having their photos taken with pirates. There were also food stands and shops open. 

There's a lot to do and there's a carnival-like atmosphere, making the price worth it if you intend to take advantage of all that's offered. We would have liked to see individual prices for attractions, as it's less cost-effective for those of us that do not go on rides or only want to visit certain attractions. We saw a few couples who only wanted to go through the Sand Trap Maze but would have had to pay the full $24.95 to do so.

All in all, Pirates of Emerson Invade the Boardwalk is a fun way to spend an October night celebrating Halloween. Our advice is to get there early to take advantage of everything, as there will be long lines the closer it gets to Halloween.

Be sure to take a look at our Events Calendar or our map of pumpkin patches and haunted houses to find all the other great events going on in the Bay Area. 

Do you think we got this review totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion of this haunt in our forums!

When Oct. 5-7; 12-14; 18-21; 25-31, 2007; Fri.-Sat. 7 pm-midnight; Sun.-Thurs. 7 pm-10 pm
Where Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz
Admission $24.95
Contact www.beachboardwalk.com

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