SALT WATER TAFFY, SAND, AND SURF: There are a few rules for visiting a ride-filled, treat-tastic, oh-so-historic beach-fronting boardwalk, but rule number one is this: Rules are flexible. Part of the charm of spending a day out in your shorts and tank top, eating candy apples and riding roller coasters, is that you don't need a schedule or a to-do list or an agenda. Want to have popcorn before lunch? Why in the heck wouldn't you? Want to grab the front seat on the loopity-loop coaster as often as you can? Queue up and go for it. But we would add one gentle and polite asterisk to the "rules are flexible" notion if the beach boardwalk happens to be in Santa Cruz and it is this: You should always stop by Marini's for a piece of salt water taffy or a hunk of fudge or the kind of candy of your particular choosing.
HAPPY 100TH, MARINI'S: For Marini's at the Beach is part of the hallowed boardwalky tradition of ocean-close candy-makers, the kind of candy-makers who found their sugar-coated beginnings at the end of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. The Santa Cruz candyhouse definitely qualifies here, as it got its sweet start back in 1915. That means that Marini's is marking its centennial in 2015, and chewing on some taffy as you head down to the waves is as much a part of a Beach Boardwalk summer as the waves themselves.
THE BEACH BOARDWALK, by the by, officially kicks off its summertime season on Saturday, May 16. "Special brass rings will be added to the Carousel's ring machine" to ramp up the warm-weather party, and "1,000 free Marini's collectible pins will be given out at Boardwalk Ticket Booths with the first 1,000 All-Day Wrist Bands purchased!" Oh yeah. And if you do snag a designated brass ring while riding the vintage ponies, you can take it to Marini's for a gratis goodie. Even if you don't, you can still swing by to purchase that candy apple for gnawing on down on the shorefront. Careful of sand, though. Though, of course, a little sand on a candy apple is also a beach boardwalk summertime classic that is to be revered, appreciated, and enjoyed. Nostalgic pleasures of sunny good times still exist, for a song. Just don't forget your bathing trunks and parasol.