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Giant Dipper Roller Coaster At Belmont Park

By on 06/17/2013

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

For Father’s Day weekend 2013, we drove down and hung out in San Diego. While we were there, I was adamant about finally getting a ride on the Giant Dipper roller coaster located at Belmont Park. We’ve been to San Diego numerous times over the years, but something has always preventing me from riding this coaster. Not this time.

Belmont Park is a historic seaside amusement park located right on Mission Beach in San Diego, California, less than one mile from SeaWorld. Opened on July 4, 1925, its star attraction at the time was a massive roller coaster called Giant Dipper. Despite its ups and downs over the years, the Giant Dipper roller coaster is still going strong today:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

Many people think of roller coasters as being the sole domain of theme parks, where you need to pay for parking and then pay for a ticket to get into the park before you can even think about riding a roller coaster. Belmont Park is free, even the parking. You can just drive right up to the coaster, fina an available spot, and then walk to the ride entrance:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

This is the Giant Dipper’s entrance and loading station. You just walk up the ramp with the teal colored hand rails and you’re ready to board the coaster train. There is no mile long queue with endless switchbacks located here:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

Parking and admission to the park may be free, but the rides do cost money. You can buy individual tickets ($1/ea) or you can buy an all day, unlimited ride wristband ($26.95). We were pressed for time and were only here to ride the coaster, so we opted to buy tickets. The Giant Dipper roller coaster is the most expensive ride at 6 tickets ($6):

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

The entire station was eerily quiet first thing in the morning:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

The Morgan trains consist of six cars, each with a 2×2 configuration, for a total of 24 riders per dispatch. The lacquered and shiny wood station floors were fantastic:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

No air gates here! Just a solid yellow line and some feet impressions so you know where to wait your turn. A clean, simple reminder of days gone by:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

Looking from the exit at the back of the station towards the front:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

I’m not sure what this next part of the station is/was used for. I was thinking that perhaps it was an unloading area for when multiple trains were in use, but I’m not seeing any place for riders to exit. There was only one train in use while we were there:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

It’s a simple out and back design with a 73′ lift hill. The track is only 2,600′ long and it reaches a maximum speed of 55 MPH. When the train is dispatched from the station, it makes a left turn into a dark tunnel, seen in the lower-left corner of the next picture. Like its sister, the Giant Dipper roller coaster at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the train travels through some curves in complete darkness before emerging on the lift hill:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

The red and white striped roof building in the above photo is the ticket booth.

The first drop banks heavily to the right and cuts back the opposite direction:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

There are some pretty decent angles on parts of the track:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

Despite what appears to be some good hills on the coaster, I never felt any airtime while riding this, which really kind of disappointed me:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

There’s quite a bit of covered track as the coaster makes its way back into the station:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

The exit is a simple set of stairs that dumps you out on the sidewalk:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

Despite only being 73′ tall, the Giant Dipper roller coaster does stick out in the general area. And because it’s right on the beach, you get a beautiful view of the ocean off to your right as you’re making your way up the lift hill:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

I love that this thing backs right up to public streets:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

I forgot to mention it before, but the ticket booth also serves as a museum and gift shop for the coaster. We didn’t have time to check it out, but next time for sure:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

The Giant Dipper roller coaster was designated as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark in 2010. Built in only four weeks…really? It’s a fascinating read:

Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

I really wasn’t there long enough to give this roller coaster a proper review, but I think I hit all the highlights. We were really only there about 20 minutes, just long enough to ride it once. The next time I’m in San Diego on business, maybe I’ll buy a wristband and ride this several times, in all rows, to get a better feel for it. Have you ever ridden it? If so, what are your thoughts about it?

12 Comments

  1. Candice Hargrove

    06/17/2013 at 10:39 pm

    I’ve lived in San Diego all my life and I grew up riding the Giant Dipper. I love this thing, despite its age! It has gotten very bumpy over the last few years, but I will still love it no matter what.

    • The Coaster Guy

      06/18/2013 at 4:34 pm

      It really wasn’t that bumpy when I rode it.

  2. Eric

    06/17/2013 at 10:43 pm

    Thank you for a great report about one of the gems in Southern California.

    I got to ride this for the first time when it reopened in 1990 after a 15-year hiatus. You might be able to find more information on this ride if you Google “Save the Coaster Committee.” That’s the name of the group that campaigned to save this coaster in the late ’70s when Belmont Park closed as a traditional beachfront amusement park. Next time you get to San Diego, do make sure that you visit the museum. It’s very interesting and has some great information and photos of this ride.

    My only beef with The Giant Dipper is that it runs Morgan trains. The original trains were nine-car, single bench trains. I think a custom Millennium Flyer train of nine cars (vs. the standard 12) would work great on this ride and closely replicate the original. The last time I rode this was in 2001 and, sorry to say, it was running very rough. I hope it’s been smoothed out to some degree.

  3. Patrick

    06/17/2013 at 10:56 pm

    I’m going to magic mountain on Wednesday, and I really want to do lex luthor, did you like it, and if so what did it feel like?

    • The Coaster Guy

      06/18/2013 at 4:36 pm

      I love Lex Luthor! It’s a very quiet ride as you ascend to the top. The view is incredible and you get lots of time to take it in! The drop is fast but very, very smooth, as is the stop. If you like drop rides, you’ll love it.

      • Patrick

        06/18/2013 at 7:53 pm

        Thank you that makes me feel a lot better haha, and I do love drop rides, but I’ve never done one so big before.

  4. XYZ

    06/18/2013 at 7:54 am

    The Giant Dipper is a decent wooden coaster, in my opinion. I really don’t know why the hills produce no airtime as both Giant Dippers were designed by Prior & Church and the one at Santa Cruz has good airtime.

    It’s too bad that Belmont Park never expanded into its original area as right now, it only occupies the original northern half of the park. You can see here how Belmont Park used to occupy the space that is now the parking lot south of the park: http://rcdb.com/4572.htm?p=25078

    • The Coaster Guy

      06/18/2013 at 4:38 pm

      Wow…I didn’t realize it was so much bigger once upon a time.

  5. Likegreenlantern

    06/18/2013 at 8:35 am

    What’s an ace coaster?

    • The Coaster Guy

      06/18/2013 at 4:39 pm

      ACE stands for American Coaster Enthusiasts, a roller coaster club that you can join. Just click on the link I provided in the article and you can read all about it.

  6. Casey

    06/19/2013 at 9:16 am

    Is there an age limit for ACE?

  7. Patrick

    06/19/2013 at 5:13 pm

    Just did lex luthor for the first time this morning, it was amazing, I loved it so much, and very smooth!

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