A Fresh Coat of Innovation: Belmont Park Adds Color and Fun

by Joe Tracy, editor of Theme Park Magazine

Belmont Park, a much-loved amusement landmark in San Diego, is enhancing its allure by changing dull spaces into artistically themed environments. The park, nearing its 100th anniversary, recently launched a dynamic mural initiative realized through the ingenuity of local artists. In addition, Belmont Park is adding more immersive elements, like the recent Scooby-Doo and The Spooky Castle Adventure escape room. Slowly it is bridging the gap between “amusement park” and “theme park.”

Belmont Park: a beachfront amusement park in San Diego, California (image courtesy of ©Belmont Park)
Belmont Park: a Beachfront Amusement Park in San Diego, California (image courtesy of ©Belmont Park)

The Murals of Belmont Park

The enchantment of theme parks is deeply rooted in the comprehensive theming designed for visitor engagement, something amusement parks lack. With the addition of murals and artistic displays, Belmont Park, a beachfront amusement park, now brims with enhanced vibrancy and color that it previously lacked. This ambitious project to reinvigorate the park’s ambiance was set in motion in 2022 and continues today.

“The mural program at Belmont started as part of the launch of our spring festival, Belmont in Bloom, in 2022,” Sarah Abelsohn, Director of Marketing at Belmont Park, tells Theme Park Magazine. “A large goal of this festival is to provide opportunities and to showcase members of our local SoCal art community.”

According to Abelsohn, during the Belmont in Bloom festival, the park invests a large part of its efforts into live art events, art classes for the public, and new art installations around the park.

At present, Belmont Park is adorned with seven murals and counting, all crafted by local and regional artists. Near the rock climbing wall, a striking mural vividly states, “Supplying Good Vibes Since 1925,” with a riot of colors artistically celebrating the park’s vibrant history.

One artist who helped liven an area of the park is Stefanie Bales. She was tasked with breathing new life into the Sweet Shoppe at Belmont Park.

The before and after of Stefanie Bales transformation of Sweet Shoppe at Belmont Park (photo courtesy of ©Stefanie Bales)
The before and after of Stefanie Bales transformation of Sweet Shoppe at Belmont Park (photo courtesy of ©Stefanie Bales)

Stefanie Bales Sweet Shoppe Transformation

San Diego artist Stefanie Bales, who owns Stefanie Bales Fine Art, has been leaving her creative imprints on the cityscape, transforming ordinary spaces into captivating art scenes for years. In 2012, she earned the distinguished title of “San Diego 2012 Visual Artist of the Year” at the Indie Arts Awards, otherwise recognized as the RAWards.

Bales journey intertwined with Belmont Park’s revitalization program in 2021 at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa. Commissioned to fashion a custom mural for the resort’s pool area, Bales’s remarkable work caught the eye of the resort’s marketing director. As fate would have it, the director landed a new role at Belmont Park and introduced Bales as a promising talent for the park’s revitalization initiative.

Stefanie's work at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa is what put her on Belmont Park's radar to help with their transformation (photo courtesy of ©Stefanie Bales)
Stefanie’s work at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa is what put her on Belmont Park’s radar to help with their transformation (photo courtesy of ©Stefanie Bales)

Belmont Park, eager to blend tradition with innovation, enlisted Bales’s skills to enliven the Sweet Shoppe. Keen to preserve the classic ambiance of the vintage ice cream parlor, the park also aspired to usher in a modern touch. Bales was presented with ample exterior space and one indoor space section as her canvas. Inspired by Sweet Shoppe’s existing branding, she rolled up her sleeves and, over seven days, reimagined the monochrome space into a vibrant, appealing space that became an instant hit for snapshots.

Bales, who enjoys visiting Belmont Park during the Belmont in Bloom festival, loves that the addition of flowers throughout the park during the festival complements her designs at the Sweet Shoppe. The floral touches have only heightened the allure of her art, drawing people and even brands to capture its charm in photos.

The initiative of Belmont Park, enlisting local artists like Bales to breathe life into dormant areas, has proven successful in the past two years, transforming the park into an inspiring tapestry of picturesque spots.

Scooby-Doo and The Spooky Castle Adventure

The Scooby-Doo and The Spooky Castle Adventure is a new escape room experience introduced to the park’s Escapology, a national brand that opened at Belmont Park in 2016.

In Scooby-Doo and The Spooky Castle Adventure, visitors plunge headfirst into the mysteries lurking within the enigmatic town of Crystal Cove. This otherworldly cartoon escape room plunges players into a narrative in which the once peaceful town has been brought to its knees by a series of terrifying monsters and ghost appearances. The eccentric and wealthy local, Baroness Maria Richman, has inexplicably vanished – a mysterious event believed to be linked to these spectral sightings!

“If you’re a fan of mystery, nostalgia, and thrills, then the Scooby-Doo Escape Room is an experience you can’t miss,” says Abelsohn. “Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure is a low-difficulty family-friendly game for all ages… you’ll be transported to the iconic settings of Scooby-Doo, complete with Scooby Snacks, ghosts, and classic Scooby-Doo villains. Find hidden clues, solve intricate puzzles, and collaborate with your team to save the mystery gang.”

As participants in this captivating escape room journey, guests must use their detective wits with those of the famed Mystery Incorporated. When you arrive at the daunting Spooky Castle, a bizarre turn of events sees you trapped inside while your detective comrades are left on the outside. Yet, don’t fret – help remains at hand, with Mystery Inc. ingeniously providing assistance by transmitting clues through the Castle’s enchanted portraits.

Can you make it through the Scooby-Doo and The Spooky Castle Adventure escape room at Belmont Park?
Can you make it through the Scooby-Doo and The Spooky Castle Adventure escape room at Belmont Park?

The additions of murals and escape room experiences are a welcomed addition to enhancing guest experiences.

Belmont Park to Turn 100

This year, Belmont Park is celebrating its 98th anniversary. Theme Park Magazine asked Abelsohn what the park would look like for its 100th anniversary in two years.

“For our upcoming centennial celebration, we will be honoring and preserving the history of Belmont Park while embracing the future and setting the stage for our next 100 years in San Diego,” says Abelsohn. “Guests can expect to see engaging historical installations throughout the park, a brand-new look for the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, unprecedented promotions, a once-in-a-lifetime centennial celebration, new rides and attractions, commemorative merchandise, special food offerings and so much more.”

Belmont Park’s History

Belmont Park, a historic oceanfront amusement park in San Diego, is a rich part of the city’s vibrant past. Established in 1925, Belmont Park was born out of the ambitious vision of sugar tycoon John D. Spreckels, who aimed to create an entertainment hotspot that would rival the likes of Coney Island. With its Spanish-style buildings and picturesque location on the Pacific coast, Belmont Park quickly became a hub of leisure and merriment. Guests were enticed by the park’s eclectic mix of thrill rides, pool areas, and the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster.

The Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster is nearing its 100-year anniversary  (image courtesy of ©Belmont Park).
The Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster is nearing its 100-year anniversary (image courtesy of ©Belmont Park).

The Giant Dipper, a 2,600-foot-long wooden roller coaster, served as the mainstay attraction at Belmont Park. Opened in 1925, it is one of the oldest operational wooden coasters in the United States. The coaster was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987, symbolizing the park’s resilience and appeal.

In the early ’70s, however, the park fell on hard times, with a number of its attractions being shut down due to financial constraints. The Giant Dipper was closed, left in a state of disrepair, and for a period, it appeared the light of Belmont Park might finally dim.

The downturn wouldn’t last forever, though. In the mid-’80s, a wave of revitalization swept through Belmont Park, led by the “Save the Coaster Committee” and the city of San Diego. This restoration effort and public and private investments breathed new life into the park.

The Giant Dipper was restored and reopened in 1990, marking a turning point in Belmont Park’s fortunes.

Today, the park stands as a testament to San Diego’s history, still bustling with activity and nostalgia, a cherished piece of the city’s character, and a shining beacon of its resilience. A renewed focus on vibrancy and community engagement has propelled the park to new heights as its 100th-anniversary approaches.

More Themed Elements at Belmont Park

In addition to the recent additions of the murals and Scooby-Doo-themed escape room, Belmont Park has several other themed elements, including:

  • Themed food stations
  • Art installations
  • Tiki Town Mini Golf
  • Xandu 7D Theater
  • Coconut Climb

Through these ongoing enhancements, Belmont Park is successfully bridging the gap, emerging as a unique blend of a traditional amusement park infused with theme park elements.

Belmont Park is located at the Mission Beach Boardwalk in San Diego, California. The Belmont in Bloom festival occurs annually during Spring.

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About Joe Tracy

Joe Tracy, the creator, and editor of Theme Park Magazine, is a lifetime enthusiast of theme parks and immersive experiences. The publication was launched under his leadership on June 1, 2021, as a manifestation of his deep-seated love for all things themed. Joe has amassed over 20 years of expertise in both traditional print and online publishing.

Joe Tracy, editor of Theme Park Magazine

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