America is home to some truly fantastic and underrated beach towns. Not only are they great places to swim, surf and play in the sand, but they can also serve as great spots for scenery, delicious food, fun games and thrilling rides — if they have a boardwalk, that is.
Boardwalks are becoming less of a popular tourist spot as technology brings more exciting attractions and climate changes destroys more and more of them. Still, some have survived or been rebuilt, and despite growth, they continue to retain a sort of retro, timeless charm.
Atlantic City’s popularity as an East Coast weekend getaway has largely been due to the legality of casino gambling there, but that’s not all this seaside town has to offer. Stretching 4 miles, its boardwalk is the oldest in the country, having first opened in 1870. If you’re not up for the walk, guides can give you a lift in an old-fashioned rolling chair to its many hotels, resorts, shops and, of course, casinos. Visit Garden Pier, where you’ll find the local history museum and the Atlantic City Arts Center to enjoy all kinds of live shows, or check out Steel Pier for rides and games at the local amusement park.
Carolina Beach is located on Pleasure Island, a barrier island in the Cape Fear region of southeastern North Carolina. Its classic boardwalk has a vintage feel, with a colorful carousel, amusement rides, carnival games, street food and live music greeting beachgoers in the summer. Enjoy great food and drink at seaside restaurants and tiki bars amidst the mild, breezy beach weather.
Disney’s BoardWalk Resort is a hotel and entertainment complex just outside Walt Disney World, and its boardwalk — just a quarter of a mile long — is specifically intended to take guests back in time with a turn-of-the-century boardwalk vibe modeled after the early days of Coney Island and Atlantic City. It’s a great way to enjoy Disney on a budget; you can simply stroll down the boardwalk to enjoy the street performers and afternoon midway games, or you can check out the interesting shops and fantastic dining and nightlife.
One of the cleanest beaches in the country, Hampton Beach’s boardwalk is a great, low-key option for shopping and relaxing. Just a little over a mile long, the boardwalk is home to a casino, arcades, food booths, fantastic restaurants and fun concerts.
Take an affordable, family-friendly trip to Point Pleasant Beach, where you’ll find Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, a mile-long stretch with a retro charm. Eat some ice cream and pizza while trying your hand at carnival games and mini golfing. The boardwalk also has an arcade and amusement rides.
A Chicago landmark and officially listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Navy Pier is a popular attraction to the point that some find it overrated. Still, almost 9 million people visit every year to enjoy its famed Ferris wheel and other rides (like the carousel and the Pepsi Wave Swinger) or to check out the indoor botanical garden, Chicago Children’s Museum, and other attractions.
Located on Cape May, the Ocean City Boardwalk is two and a half miles of classic boardwalk from delicious treats such as cotton candy and pizza to fun rides such as bumper cars, roller coasters, carousels and a 140-foot Ferris wheel that gives breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Take to one of the multiple golf courses, go on a bike tour or enjoy food at an oceanfront café.
Los Angeles’ Ocean Front Walk, also known as the Venice Beach Boardwalk, is located in the famous LA neighborhood of Venice, founded in 1905 as a resort town. Famous for its canals and beach, Venice’s 2.5-mile stretch of boardwalk is full of quirky street performers, vintage boutiques, interesting vendors and colorful murals, making it a hotspot for tourists, locals and even celebrities.
The Pier at Old Orchard Beach has been destroyed by storms and rebuilt twice after its first iteration in 1898. Today, you’ll find it’s home to Palace Playland, a beachfront amusement park that’s been there since 1902 and remains the only one of its kind in New England. The wooden pier stretches 500 feet and is lined with carnival-style food stalls and souvenir shops with a night club at the end of it.
Stretching a mile long, the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is full of shops, restaurants and other attractions. Visit Funland, the best amusement park in the state, which has been around for over 50 years, and classic food vendors such as Dolle’s, which has been serving saltwater taffy and caramel corn since 1926.
Better known as the Coney Island Boardwalk, Riegelmann Boardwalk is one of America’s bucket list attractions. Running along the southern shore of Brooklyn’s Coney Island for 2.7 miles, it’s home to a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and the New York Aquarium. Enjoy the beach and plenty of food vendors as well, such as hot dogs at Nathan’s Famous and the classic Feltman’s of Coney Island or delicious pizza just a ten-minute walk away at Totonno’s.
Established in 1639, Sandwich is the oldest town on Cape Cod and its boardwalk was first built in 1875. The Sandwich boardwalk is very simplistic in design and stretches 1,350 feet across Mill Creek into Town Beach. Destroyed multiple times as a result of storms, it was most recently rebuilt in June 2018 using the boardwalk’s original design.
One of the best beaches for families, Santa Cruz Beach has a boardwalk that’s become so extensive that it’s literally an amusement park — the oldest surviving one in California, having been founded in 1907. Two of the 35 rides here — which include a water ride and three roller coasters — are officially recognized together as a National Historic Landmark; the Looff carousel was built in 1911, and the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster was built in 1924.
Opened in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier is a fun and historic attraction in Southern California. Pacific Park, an amusement park with 12 rides including the world’s first and only solar-powered Ferris wheel, is located on the pier, which also has an original 1920s carousel, an aquarium and a video arcade, along with restaurants, bars and stores. Come in the summer, and you’ll find outdoor concerts, movies and other activities free to the public every week at this most Instagrammable spot in the state.
Located within the southern tip of New Jersey, Wildwood’s boardwalk stretches 2 miles and is full of carnival games, food stalls, souvenir shops and tons of rides and water parks. Wildwood Boardwalk is home to not one but three amusement park piers and claims to have more rides than Disneyland. Located further from the sea than most boardwalks, it’s also the venue of many concerts, sporting events and monster truck rallies, making it one of the best beach destinations in the world.
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