Happy Fourth of July. In addition to the festivities + fireworks, something else goes down today — San Diego celebrates the birthday of the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at Belmont Park.
The beachfront landmark attraction turns 97 years old, making it the 10th oldest roller coaster in the world. It’s always a thrill to take a ride, but this coaster has just as many ups + downs in its history as it does on its track.
👆 Coming up
The Giant Dipper’s ride begins with businessman + real estate investor John D. Spreckels who built the coaster as part of Mission Beach Entertainment Center — now Belmont Park — to draw attention to the up-and-coming beachfront community. The 2,600-ft ride was built by 100+ workers in under two months for the cost of $150,000 (about $2.5 million today).
On July 4, 1925, riders buckled-up for their first dips. In the 1930s + 1940s, the Mission Beach park became a popular place, with the Giant Dipper as its main attraction.
🎢 The twists + turns
- In 1926, Spreckels died. His family donated the Mission Beach Entertainment Center and its attractions to the City of San Diego.
- In 1955, a fire at the park damaged the Giant Dipper. It was closed for repairs + reopened 1957.
- The “Roller Coaster” at Mission Beach became a San Diego Historic Landmark on December 7, 1973.
- By 1976, the coaster was briefly renamed “The Earthquake” + Belmont Park was falling into disrepair. It closed in December of that year.
- After the park closed, the “Save the Coaster Committee” formed, had the coaster added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and successfully prevented the ride from demolition.
- The coaster was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
- Commercial areas in Belmont Park reopened in 1988, but the Giant Dipper wasn’t in operational condition. In 1989, the City of San Diego formed The San Diego Coaster Company to restore + operate the ride.
- After $2 million in repairs, the coaster reopened on Aug. 11, 1990, with a new train.
👇 Drop in
The coaster still rises at its home in Belmont Park, where brave riders can take a dip for $8 — unless you save with a ticket bundle — which is a bit more than the 15-cent ticket price in 1925. But it’s still so worth it for the views, experience, and the screams.