SUMMER VACATION IDEAS

20 Most Awesome Boardwalks in America

If your idea of summer perfection involves roller coasters, funnel cakes, and Whac-A-Mole, we’ve got some pieces of honky-tonk heaven—from Jersey to Cali—just waiting for you to pay a visit.

  1. Why settle for one oceanfront amusement park when you can have two? Ocean City, NJ, offers a boardwalk with two big Ferris wheels, coasters, water rides, go carts, and much more. ocnj.us/boardwalk

    (Julie Feinstein/Dreamstime)
  2. Who says a boardwalk has to be by the ocean? Chicago's Navy Pier is on Lake Michigan. navypier.com

    (Christian De Grandmaison/Dreamstime)
  3. Navy Pier has got a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel that lets you take in the skyline and the lake, a carousel, wave swinger, mini-golf, and remote-control boats in season. And don't forget to grab an America's Dog Chicago hot dog with mustard, relish, onion, sport peppers, tomato, pickle, and celery salt.

    (Alexandre Fagundes De Fagundes/Dreamstime)
  4. Atlantic City, NJ, may be known for its casinos, but its historic boardwalk is no gamble if you're looking for a great time by the sea. atlanticcitynj.com

    (Courtesy Dreamstime)
  5. Originally built in the 19th century to prevent sand from blowing off the beach into the area's schmancy hotels, the Atlantic City Boardwalk has become a destination all its own. Its Steel Pier is a thriving amusement park, while its Garden Pier is a hot spot for the performing arts.

    (Gary718/Dreamstime)
  6. Sure, the name may conjure images of barbershop quartets and early-20th-century couples strolling by the sea. But the revitalized Luna Park amusement park ain't your great-grandfather's Coney Island. lunaparknyc.com

    (Zhukovsky/Dreamstime)
  7. Coney Island's Wonder Wheel may be the best-known Ferris wheel in America. If it's a hot day, grab a classic New York-style Italian ice at Uncle Louie G's.

    (Zhukovsky/Dreamstime )
  8. Santa Monica Pier's Ferris wheel is so close to the water that you can almost convince yourself that the wheel is going to dip you into the Pacific Ocean. santamonicapier.org

    (Katja Šauperl/Dreamstime )
  9. You'll find gentle rides at Santa Monica Pier for the little ones, and you can take a ride on the beautifully carved and painted carousel that was featured in the Academy Award-winning motion picture The Sting.

    (trekandshoot/Dreamstime )
  10. Myrtle Beach's boardwalk is just a baby compared with some of the historic boardwalks on our list. Opened just five years ago, this entertaining place feels as if it's always been here. visitmyrtlebeach.com

    (Shester171/Dreamstime )
  11. Welcoming crowds by the million with its charm and hospitality, Myrtle Beach's Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade features the Family Kingdom amusement park that includes the massive Skywheel and Slingshot, and the Twist 'n Shout steel roller coaster.

    (Jkellyimaging/Dreamstime )
  12. A carousel dating back to 1902, free boardwalk entertainment, and the classic vibe of a relaxed beach town make Ocean City, MD's boardwalk one of the most popular stops on the Atlantic coast. ococean.com

    (Richard Gunion/Dreamstime)
  13. For a taste of '50s-style seaside fare, drop by Ocean City, MD's Atlantic Stand for fried chicken, soft crabs, and burgers.

    (Richard Gunion/Dreamstime )
  14. Visit a typical boardwalk and you'll most likely return home with memories of blue water, candy-apple red kiddie rides, and the scent of fried seafood. Visit Venice Beach Boardwalk (officially Ocean Front Walk, but nobody calls it that) and you're more likely to return home with memories of blue hair, candy-apple-red lipstick, and the aroma of, um, other stuff. venicebeach.com

    (Juan Moyano/Dreamstime )
  15. It's not just the beautiful location or the array of unique shops here that make Venice Beach unforgettable; it's the always-surprising, creative folks who turn out every day to make political statements, perform stunts, or just be their fabulous selves.

    (Juan Moyano/Dreamstime )
  16. Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, DE, is not huge, glitzy, or loaded with terrifying rides. Instead, this place rolls out a quiet, family-friendly pace that can be just what the doctor ordered. beach-fun.com

    (Richard Gunion/Dreamstime )
  17. Kids will love the rides and treats along the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. Grown-ups will appreciate the clean, laid-back beach and charming town.

    (Richard Gunion/Dreamstime )
  18. Get your picture taken at the apex of the thrilling coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, CA, and you're almost certain to have a hilarious keepsake—it's a loooooooong way down! beachboardwalk.com

    (Mariusz Jurgielewicz/Dreamstime )
  19. Santa Cruz, at the top of Monterey Bay, is also home to barking sea lions, one of the world's best surfing scenes, and redwood forests just a short ride up into the mountains.

    (Douglas Nelson/Dreamstime)
  20. We tend to associate New England with quiet stretches of beach, but the boardwalk in Old Orchard Beach, ME, is an exception, with a full-blown amusement park, Palace Playland, right by the ocean. palaceplayland.com

    (Bambi L. Dingman/Dreamstime)
  21. You'll find easy rides for the kiddies, family-friendly water rides, and the crazy adrenaline-junkie stuff, too, at Old Orchard Beach. You'll also find lovely New England sunlight and moments of quiet like this.

    (Jo Ann Snover/Dreamstime)
  22. Wildwood, NJ, is a shore thing whether you want a perfect beach or rides that'll rattle your nerves. wildwoodsnj.com

    (Anthony Aneese Totah Jr/Dreamstime)
  23. Wildwood is a great place to soak up the spirit of the Jersey Shore.

    (Denise Rizza/Dreamstime )
  24. Virginia Beach Boardwalk is a popular place to celebrate summer. It not only boasts a beautiful stretch of sand and attractions but, if you're lucky, dolphins breaching right off shore. virginiabeach.com

    (Mvogel/Dreamstime)
  25. Lovely Virginia Beach, near Colonial Williamsburg, offers unparalleled history just down the road.

    (Teresa Kenney/Dreamstime)
  26. No list of boardwalks would be complete without the Disney World Boardwalk. disneyworld.disney.go.com

    (Daniel Padavona/Dreamstime)
  27. The ocean may be nowhere in sight, but the imaginative folks at Disney World have put together a fun family boardwalk for guests that rivals the real thing.

    (David Watts Jr./Dreamstime )
  28. Texas's Gulf Coast needed a great boardwalk and the Kemah Boardwalk, just 20 miles from downtown Houston, fits the bill! kemahboardwalk.com

    (Courtesy jimthompson/Wikimedia Commons)
  29. A vintage police car at the Kemah Boardwalk, which has expanded from a popular dining spot to a full-blown family-travel destination.

    (Courtesy Geoff Sloan/Wikimedia Commons)
  30. Often overshadowed by its flashier neighbors up the California coast, the boardwalk at Mission Beach is one of San Diego's sweetest spots. sandiego.com

    (Courtesy Microsome/Wikimedia Commons)
  31. Add beautiful Mission Beach Boardwalk to your SoCal to-do list.

    (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
  32. Appropriately located on Pleasure Island, Carolina Beach Boardwalk, NC, specializes in making you forget your cares. visitcarolinabeachnc.com

    (Courtesy Wilmington and Beaches CVB)
  33. Mild breezes, a gorgeous beach, and a sweet hospitality make Carolina Beach Boardwalk a family favorite.

    (Courtesy Wilmington and Beaches CVB)
  34. Hampton Beach Boardwalk, NH, is a low-key gem that's great for relaxing and shopping. hamptonbeach.org

    (johndphotos/Flickr)
  35. Hampton Beach Boardwalk lets you pretend that you never have to go back to your real life.

    (johndphotos/Flickr)
  36. Amid the Jersey Shore's bigger, better-known boardwalks, Jenkinson's, in Point Pleasant, has a retro charm that can't be beat. jenkinsons.com

    (Courtesy www.jenkinsons.com)
  37. Walk the Point Pleasant boardwalk early in the morning as the shops open to beat the crowds. And grab a chilly fresh-squeezed lemonade when the sun is high.

    (Courtesy www.jenkinsons.com)
  38. Okay, the Sandwich Boardwalk, MA, isn't a honky-tonk boardwalk. At all. We chose to close our list with it because it's just perfect for summer delights like strolling hand-in-hand far from the crowds. sandwichmass.org

    (Courtesy Don Fleet, Fleetwood Photography, Sandwich)
  39. The Sandwich Boardwalk may not have a Ferris wheel, but it does offer the unforgettable sky and water that Cape Cod is known for. BYO funnel cakes!

    (Courtesy Don Fleet, Fleetwood Photography, Sandwich)

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