November 21, 2006

Tacky beach towns I’ve always loved them, and regret that they’re being up-scaled, at least in California. In the 1940s and 50s, Santa Monica had its Muscle Beach and a small pier,, with it’s merrygoround, separated by a boardwalk with hot dog stands, curio shops and small wood frame beach houses. Now, it’s prime real estate.

A boardwalk connected Santa Monica and Venice Beach. In between, there several blocks of bars where revelers sang rowdy songs loudly. The main attraction was the Pacific Ocean Park (YouTube with sound) pier – much grander than the one in Santa Monica. Venice began to lose its tacky-ness when Jane Fonda bought a house there while she was married to Tom Hayden. Moving north, Pismo Beach still has a small, tacky core, but the hills are now covered with look alike houses with Spanish tile roofs. Santa Cruz still has its arcade and boardwalk with carnival rides, but when the down town was rebuilt after the 1989 earthquake, some of the charm was lost. What are tacky beach towns like in the rest of the world? Do any of them sell Salt Water Taffy?

  • Wait a minute, Santa Monica Beach, et. al., are/were tacky? They are wonderful!
  • That may depend on your definition of "wonderful."
  • Oh, man, the Jersey Shore is still heaven for this kind of thing. And thanks for the link. I've always loved these kinds of towns, from Old Orchard Beach, Maine and Revere Beach, Massachusetts to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (where the old amusement park is being replaced) and, more recently, California beach towns from San Diego's Pacific Beach north to Santa Cruz. I wish I'd had a chance to see San Francisco's old Ocean Beach tourist attractions, and abroad I've found a similar feeling in, of all places, Biarritz, as well as outside Barcelona in Sitges and near Marseille in les Stes. Maries de la Mer. Nice FPP.
  • I can't link to the merry-go-round. *pouts
  • Opps, thought I tried it on "preview." Try this merry-go-round. It's not the same picture I chose before, but the url for that one was impossibly long. I always used to ride a black horse on the outside tier. The inner ones didn't go up and down. You could also catch a ring if your were on the outside which gave you a free ride.
  • I meant "links," of course.
  • It's starting to get seriously cold here in New York, and those cool Santa Monica pictures make me feel just a bit warmer!
  • Having just been to Santa Monica pier within the past month or so, it did have somewhat of an air of a tacky carnival. Which isn't to say that it wasn't great, just that I felt like I was going to be attacked by carnies. It's a touristy thing, though. I couldn't help but think that the only actual Californians there were just present to sell things to the tourists. (or to keep order, or fish). These things happen. You build something nifty and pretty soon, everyone wants to come see it.
  • > What are tacky beach towns like in the rest of the world? Blackpool in Sept - Nov is one of the strangest places I've ever visited.
  • Nice post path! Have beach? Got tack! Where in NY are you TUM? Yes, the bitter chill is setting in.
  • Yeah, damn. I remember. Suuuucks. My favorite place used to be Rio del Mar, a little enclave where Aptos Creek comes into the ocean south of Capitola, and insulated to a certain extent by Seacliff State Beach (home of the concrete shipwreck). Used to drive there by the old road, which I don't think is even useable any more. One store and one hotdog stand, and some cheesy motels and beach apartments. Probably million dollar houses there now. You can buy Salt Water Taffy on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, and what's more they claim to have invented it. Ha!
  • The Santa Monica Pier is much more interesting, fun, and worthwhile to visit than the Santa Monica 3rd Street Mall. I'd rather be attacked by carnies than by Starbucks, upscale furniture and upscale restaurant chains and yet another pan piper.
  • zorgon, you're right about Rio del Mar and the million dollars houses. I went there once for a work party and it's all expensive box houses. I would have said kitsch rather than tacky, but really what's the difference? Santa Cruz Boardwalk has great salt water taffy -- I used to buy it to send back to my family in NZ. Here in NZ, I can't think of tacky beach towns that are anywhere near in the same vein. I spent a lot of my childhood in Riverton, which is a tacky fishing town with rickety wharves and paua jewellery shops, 1950s-era tearooms and pubs that serve food that's as old as the tearooms are. Taramea Bay used to host a carnival every year, and that was tacky. One year my younger sister competed in the junior princess of the sands competition. As far as I can remember, the main drawcard for out-of-towners was the fresh fish you could buy straight from the fishing boats at the end of the day. It rains there pretty much all year round so swimming at the beautiful beaches was seldom an option.
  • "I would have said kitsch rather than tacky..." I think kitsch is gentrified tacky.
  • Here is the fixed link to path's original merry-go-round picture. Pismo used to be one of my favorite places. I was so sad when it went yuppie. I grew up going to Pismo every summer, and loved the somewhat run-down buildings and general air of settling happily into its pleasantly tacky image. It eventually got "discovered" and upscaled tremendously. While I still love it, I miss the way it used to be. But at least I figured out the recipe for the family favorite dish from one of the old restaurants that no longer exists. We can have tasty strolls down memory lane now, whenever I fix a batch of devilled clams.
  • Well, there's still Cayucos, Christophine ... or is there? *plots road trip* *offers tracicle secret banana slug handshake*
  • Ta, Path. Beautiful
  • > I think kitsch is gentrified tacky. Yes. Or kitsch is tacky that's been around for a while.
  • I'm surprised you haven't mentioned Seaside, FL (website, wiki, GIS). It's more of a manufactured tacky beach town, so maybe it doesn't count. Its freaky pastel houses are a bit surreal being there in person. I stumbled upon it 10 years ago with a friend. We were like "WTF is THAT??", then pulled over and checked it out.
  • We've lots of beach towns on and around Vancouver Island but until recently they've been more rustic than tacky. The hordes of retiring baby boomers from across the land are now buying up the land and the gentrification proceeds apace.