Mission Beach Roller Coaster

White wooden rollercoaster with red tracks surrounded by palm trees
Mission Beach Roller Coaster

"Giant Dipper" by Jeremy Thompson, via Flickr, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Quick Facts
3000 Mission Blvd., San Diego, California
Community Planning and Development, Engineering, Entertainment/Recreation, Social History
Listed in the National Register - Reference number 78000753
The Mission Beach Roller Coaster in San Diego, California was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The structure is significant as an example of a early 20th century wooden rollercoaster, as well as being one of the only remaining structures from the Mission Beach Amusement Center, one of businessman John D. Spreckels's major development projects in San Diego at the turn of the century.

Rollercoasters, which were originally inspired by Russian ice slides, spread through Europe beginning in the late 18th century. The first rollercoaster in the United States opened on Coney Island nearly a century later, in 1884. Building on innovations developed in creating the Coney Island rollercoaster, engineers and amusement parks across the country competed to have the biggest, fastest, and most thrilling ride. Rollercoasters peaked in popularity in America during the 1920s, with over 1500 rollercoasters in existence.

From 1887 to 1926, businessman John D. Spreckels was a prolific developer in the San Diego area, funding projects such as the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway, the Lower Otay Dam, the Hotel Coronado, the Spreckels Organ Theatre in Balboa Park, and the Mission Beach Amusement Center. Spreckles built the Amusement Center, and the rollercoaster within it, in order to stimulate real estate sales and attract people to his street car line.The rollercoaster opened under the name "Giant Dipper" in 1925, and at the time was the largest rollercoaster on the West Coast. Hundreds of patrons stood in line to ride the rollercoaster on its opening night.

Amusement parks, and rollercoasters, faced a downturn in the 1930s and 1940s as Americans faced the Great Depression and World War II. However, the Mission Beach Amusement Center and "Giant Dipper" coaster were given new life in the 1950s, as the park was renamed Belmont Park and a new owner redesigned the park to emphasize family entertainment. While the coaster was severely damaged by fire in 1957 and was threatened with demolition in 1978, it has been restored and continues to operate as a working rollercoaster.

Last updated: August 16, 2023