It's no surprise California is home to some of the most iconic skate parks in the world. After all, skateboarding was born in the Golden state. Skateboarding, dubbed initially "sidewalk surfing," is said to have started in the late '40s when surfers sought alternative ways to fuel their stoke when the waves were flat.
Skateboards were shaped like small surfboards, and the wheels were made of clay or metal from rollerblade companies. Public skate parks didn't even exist until the late '60s, so at this time, kids would carve the streets or flock to secret drainage ditches and dry reservoirs to skate the curved wave-like walls.
With the booming popularity of the sport and the growth of competitions, skaters were soon shredding parks made just for them.
From 1968 to 1982, over 200 skate parks were constructed in the United States. The first was named Surf City, and it consisted of a series of concrete ramps in Tucson, Arizona. However, with its highly favorable coastal weather and strong skate culture, California was soon leading the way with skate park designs, opening the gates to its first one in 1976 in Carlsbad.
Although San Diego County had the first skate park, it's genuinely Venice Beach that represents the roots of the skateboarding culture. To this day, it is very evident when you visit. And so my picks for the best skate parks in California has to begin with the famous Venice Beach Skate Park.
The Best Skate Parks in California
Venice Beach Skate Park
Los Angeles is home to many skate parks suitable for all skill levels. Still, if we're being honest, it truly doesn't get any better than the pristine beachfront skateboard paradise that is Venice Beach Skate Park.
Opened in 2009, the 16,000-square-foot skate park is located directly on the beach with sweeping views of the ocean and the always busy boardwalk. This park offers obstacles for both street and vert skaters, one of the most popular features being the snake run, and for a good reason. The roll-in to the snake run begins at the park entrance and continues to a 180-degree turn around a series of ramps before rolling into a 10-foot bowl with perfectly smooth coping. Vert skaters also have two other large bowls, one with a tombstone alongside the snake run.
Street skaters are in for a real treat as a series of ledges and stairs sets line the outer perimeter of the park. Various sized rails along the stairs allow beginners to experience the first leap while experts practice more advanced grinds. The skate park is surrounded by handrails, which give curious tourists a safe distance to watch. However, there is occasionally a rare opportunity to see the experienced local skaters launch out of the bowls and over the handrails.
Be cautious when the park is busy. Experienced skaters launch from every direction, and I've personally witnessed many avoidable accidents there.
Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park
This skate park is worth the drive no matter where your trip begins from. Almost 70,000 square feet of concrete bliss makes Lake Cunningham Regional Skate park the largest skate park in the state of California. It doesn't stop there either. California Skate parks went all-in on this park by building the world's most giant cradle, the world's tallest vert wall, and the largest full pipe ever constructed.
You can easily spend days at this park without riding every obstacle. You've got a massive street section with box jumps and stair sets, manual pads everywhere, and hubbas to sharpen your transition skills.
Did I mention there are six bowls? A skull bowl, a combi pool, an Olympic bowl, a Travelodge bowl, a thumb bowl, and a multi-bowl! If you're looking to practice for the X-games, this is your park. There is a $10 parking fee, or you can purchase a yearly pass for $40.
Magdalena-Ecke YMCA Skate Park
A popular spot for professional skateboarders and beginners, the ever-changing YMCA Skate Park is famously known for its intimidating 80'-wide halfpipe used by Tony Hawk, Buckey Lasek, and Bob Burnquist during the 2003 X-Games.
While the keyhole bowl, mini-ramps, and quarter pipes make this a popular location for vert skaters, a street plaza welcomes street skaters with various boxes and many rails to choose from. Helmets are required here, and there is a $10 to enter the park-a fee worth it, in my opinion.
Vans Skate Park
Let's start by mentioning that the "Off The Wall" Skate Park has an attached burger joint and Vans retail Store, so you can purchase a new board while ordering a mouth-watering burger. At a whopping 35,000 square feet, this is an absolute jewel of a park, mainly suited for street skating.
There are epic bowls there as well, but it seems the majority of folks who visit this park come for the consistent lines of the street section. Smooth cement, massive gaps, and well-designed flow patterns maximize the overall experience and make this a perfect place to learn something new.
Vans Skate Park is a real handrail haven with more than twelve different rails, some on flat land and some leading down sets of stairs. The three bowls are a real treat for vert skaters and even have a strategically placed palm tree that you can foot plant off of! Helmets are required for skaters under 18, and entry is free.
Raised in Butte, Montana, Josh Monthei is a nomadic photographer, skateboarder, and an over-caffeinated writer. He has been traveling North America for over seven years. His travels have spanned over 100,000 miles and include a 3000-mile skateboard trip from Los Angeles to New York City. Instagram: @josh.monthei
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