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"World’s Smallest Bowling Museum" Opens in Santa Cruz

New Mini-Exhibit at the Boardwalk Bowl Explores the History of Bowling by the Beach
Exhibit photo at the Boardwalk Bowl

SANTA CRUZ, CA (December 5, 2019) –  The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk announced the opening of a new exhibit in the Boardwalk Bowl, adjacent to the Boardwalk. The exhibit showcases the history of bowling by the beach with a display of bowling artifacts, photographs and memorabilia from the Boardwalk's Archives. 

The exhibit was curated by Boardwalk archivist Jessie Durant and Boardwalk Bowl director Willie King.  "We like finding fun ways to share our collection with the public," said  Durant. "This is a little-known chapter of our history and we wanted to honor the legacy of bowling by the beach."

The Santa Cruz bowling community also shared their own stories and memorabilia. The unique items in the exhibit tell the story of bowling in the Santa Cruz beach area and the people who have played integral roles in creating that history. 

 "We're proud of our place in local bowling history and this new exhibit is a fun way for the public to appreciate the history of our beach-side location," said King. "It's a small 'museum' but there's plenty for visitors to digest." King has managed the Boardwalk Bowl since the Santa Cruz Seaside Company purchased Surf Bowl in the 1990s. 

The Bowl has received interior and exterior upgrades over the past year. In addition to the museum, located inside the Pro Shop,  a new display on roller coaster history was added to the lounge entrance,  lane technology was upgraded, and the Bowl's decor was completely refurbished. 

Bowling has a long history in the Santa Cruz beach area. Santa Cruz Seaside Company archives document a 4-lane "duckpin" alley along the Boardwalk in 1909 operated by Victor A. Marini. It’s the earliest recorded activity of the local Marini family, known today for their salt water taffy. 1930 marked the last year of bowling on the Boardwalk, however, duckpin alleys would make appearances in the Boardwalk Casino throughout the first half of the 1940s. You can see a set of antique duckpins in the new exhibit. 

Modern bowling at the corner of Beach & Cliff Streets dates back to 1958 when a state-of-the-art 14-lane bowling alley, lounge and restaurant were built. The Santa Cruz Seaside Company purchased the Surf Bowl in 1994 and after major renovations it was renamed the Boardwalk Bowl in 2001.

For more information about the history of bowling in the Santa Cruz beach area visit the Boardwalk's history blog - Never a Dull Moment.

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The Boardwalk Bowl is open daily;  the Boardwalk Bowl Museum is located inside the Pro Shop. Admission is free, hours vary. Call 426-3324 for more information. 

The Boardwalk Bowl is a state-of-the-art bowling center with 26 lanes, a restaurant, lounge, beach-view patio, birthday party room, video game arcade, and the world's smallest bowling museum. Coaster's Lounge features live music on weekends, and has been voted Best Karaoke in Santa Cruz for the past decade. Located at 115 Cliff Street in Santa Cruz , the Bowl is owned and operated by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company.