10 questions with Belmont Park’s General Manager Steve Thomas

Belmont park overview

An overview of Belmont Park. | Photo courtesy of Belmont Park

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When we think of San Diego, Belmont Park is one of the first places that comes to mind. The beachfront amusement park is steps from the Pacific Ocean, features year-round activities + introduces new experiences.

We had the chance to talk with Steve Thomas — Belmont Park’s General Manager — to learn more about the home of the Giant Dipper and get excited for our summer trips to the Mission Beach landmark.

Q: For those who haven’t been before — or in a while — what does Belmont Park feature?

A: Belmont Park has quite a bit, and I don’t think people ever realize how much is here.

  • Over 20 rides and attractions
  • A full arcade
  • An indoor pool
  • A world-class fitness facility from Fit Athletic
  • Three full-service restaurants
  • One entertainment venue for concerts and shows
  • Event space for team building + corporate events that overlooks the ocean
  • Tons of retail
  • 12 fast-casual food + beverage restaurants
  • A Sun Diego — the surf/skate shop
  • A skate park in one of our venues
  • The ocean

Q: A lot is happening right now. What are some of the newest projects at Belmont Park?

A: A couple of the big things — the Plunge pool was originally built in 1925. It got refurbished in the late 80s, and just recently it reopened in 2019. It’s a full, all-glass, automatic, open-roof, indoor pool with a world-class gym attached to it. I don’t think anybody realized how amazing — and what a really cool piece — this building is that’s right in the heart of Belmont Park.

In addition to that, we’re revitalizing the entire property. We’re pumping money into every corner to bring in new rides, fresher attractions, better feeling, flatwork in the food court, and better food offerings that are more locally-focused. We’re constantly trying to improve that park, and we have plans for the next five years or so to improve the facility and the area as a whole.

What’s going down at Belmont Park? | Photo courtesy of Belmont Park

What’s going down at Belmont Park? | Photo courtesy of Belmont Park

Q: What are three things visitors need to do when they visit Belmont Park?

  1. You need to ride the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.
  2. You need to have sushi at Cannonball and watch the dolphins go by at sunset with a sushi roll — it’s an amazing experience.
  3. Watch a Padres game at Draft on the 31-ft screen.

Q: What are some of the major events we can look forward to each year?

A: We have a number of seasonal events plus a few one-offs. In 2019, we started a Winter Wonder where we decorate the entire park with lighting and sculptures, and all these really cool picture opportunities when you wander through the park. We brought in a Fall Festival in 2020, so now we do a Fall Festival which has more picture opportunities, more theming — the classic fall feeling with the vegetables and a market, some really fun aspects. We bring in a pumpkin patch and go karts — we’re looking to do a tractor ride this year — and some really great cocktails to accompany the season.

This year we launched Spring Bloom, so that takes place from April until mid-May and that’s celebrating the spring season with flowers, more sculptures, and photo opportunities. We did the underwater egg hunt and appearances from the Easter Bunny. So those three are going to be the three staple seasonal events: Spring Bloom, Fall Festival + Winter Wonderland. This year for Winter Wonderland I’m looking at bringing in an ice skating rink, which will be an amazing addition to the area.

In addition to that, we have a Father’s Day Car Show we do every year. A group comes in and they put on an amazing car show with a ton of classic cars, and they have a competition, we usually have a band playing in the park, and we offer free rides for fathers. We bring in a tap truck to have really great beer offerings from all over San Diego.

Q: There are a lot of attractions. What do you consider a “hidden gem?”

A: On the attraction side, I would say that Laser Tag is a hidden gem because every time people play it, they love it. It’s competitive, you can get in there and have a blast, and it’s three-stories tall and nobody knows how big it is until they get inside it. I would say that’s a hidden gem because it’s inside of our arcade, you don’t really know until you come across it.

On the entertainment + food side, I would say Beach House. It is a day club overlooking the ocean where you can have cocktails, there’s cabanas, and CRSSD comes in and projects the DJs so we have shows there all throughout the year. It doesn’t get much better than watching an amazing artist perform and seeing the sunset behind them with a cocktail in your hand.

Taking a trip ‘round the park. | Photo courtesy of Belmont Park

Taking a trip ‘round the park. | Photo courtesy of Belmont Park

Q: In your opinion, what makes Belmont Park such an important part of San Diego?

A: It’s historic, and I love that it’s iconic to San Diego in the sense that it was built by John D. Spreckels back in 1925. San Diego is a fairly young city in general, so to have this piece of it be almost 100 years old is special. It’s special for San Diego to have this roller coaster and Plunge turning 100 in 2025.

Q: Belmont Park is right by Mission Beach, how do you work with the community?

A: My goal is to clean up the entire area — we don’t limit ourselves to the footprint of Belmont Park. I’m extremely involved with the Mission Beach town council, so I attend their meetings as well as the Mission Beach Precise Planning Board. On a monthly basis, I bring up what we’re doing, types of events, issues we’re seeing, ways of cleaning up the community, events that we’re having. In general, Belmont Park is still small enough that we’re involved in the San Diego community — that’s who we are at our heart. This month, we’re providing one meal to someone in need for every wristband sold. We do monthly volunteering at Feeding San Diego with our employee team.

Q: What’s one pro tip you have for visitors going to Belmont Park?

A: If you’re going to be in the area for more than a day, I would say to buy the annual pass. It’s such a good deal, and you get everything in the park.

Q: How do you think Belmont Park will evolve in the next decade?

A: We’re going to bring in more local San Diego fare, in addition to driving the park to a different place than a “quintessential beach boardwalk” like Santa Cruz, Morey’s Pier, or the Jersey Shore. What we have in San Diego is the fitness, the ocean + surf, and we’ve really taken to heart at Belmont, so you don’t feel it’s the typical beach boardwalk amusement park. It’s got these sleek, stylish elements that are unique to San Diego, and as it evolves, we’re going more in that direction. We’ll probably add some more rides, but always keep the really sleek style and feel that is San Diego.

Q: Is there anything else about Belmont Park you’d like to share?

A: One thing I always land on for locals + for regional traffic that comes to Belmont Park is that we have a full day’s worth of experiences here. You can get surf lessons on the ocean, you can do rooftop yoga classes, you can eat at Beach House, you can ride the rides in the afternoon, and you can have dinner at Cannonball overlooking the ocean. Belmont Park truly offers an all-day experience for people. You can rent bikes and cruise down the boardwalk and go see Crystal Pier in PB. There’s just so much here that you can stay for a long time and I think people don’t always realize it until they get here. Plan on spending the day.