Ahh summertime…it’s that golden part of the calendar when the days are really long and we need a lot of fun things to do with all that daylight. When I think about summertime fun, I always think of the classic boardwalk. Taking a stroll, enjoying the seaside view, or just sitting outside listening to music… the boardwalk never ceases to take me back to childhood when I would ride the coasters, play games and search for the perfect funnel cake.
Here are 10 of the best boardwalks in the USA that have plenty of affordable and family friendly activities:
Santa Monica Pier, California
Located at the end of Route 66 just outside of Los Angeles, you’ll find one of the most iconic boardwalks at the Santa Monica Pier. With the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, you can eat, ride, bike, shop and have a lot of low cost fun in a nostalgic carnival atmosphere. The restaurants can be a bit busy and overpriced, but there are plenty of places to eat nearby. Don’t miss the sunset from the end of the pier and the view of the city looking back over your shoulder. If your family loves to bike, you can stay nearby, ride to the pier and then pedal up and down the beach to Venice Beach plus other destinations on the 8.5 mile path.
Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey
The grand daddy of all boardwalks, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is the oldest and longest in the U.S. Founded in 1870, the boardwalk is over 5 miles long and a great place to take a stroll or go casino hopping. And the shopping isn’t too shabby either, there are lots of little shops and places to eat. Grab some deep-fried Oreos or salt water taffy from the James Candy Company. There are rides for the kids, rental buggies and a really entertaining laser light show. My advice is to take your time and work your way down the boardwalk, it will take hours but you will be lost in a colorful world that feels like days gone by.
Hollywood Beach Boardwalk, Florida
This is a little slice of heaven located in Hollywood, Florida. You might call it the epicenter of rest and relaxation! The beach is filled with sunbathers and the boardwalk with the active joggers, skaters and cyclists. There is 7 miles of beach to enjoy and 2.5 miles of brick pathway offering you a nice place to stroll, eat and shop. For a fun way to cool off, take the kids for a dip in the dolphin play fountain. Make sure you visit on a weekend so you can indulge your palette at Josh’s Organic Garden, a 3,000 square foot farmer’s market that is a local favorite.
Ocean City Boardwalk, Maryland
The 3-mile long boardwalk in Ocean City is family friendly and captures the classic feeling of Americana that dates back to 1902. Grab your bike and hit the boardwalk for a great ride in the morning so you can eat the biggest slice of pizza imaginable come dinner time. Take the kids to the usual boardwalk fare of mini golf, bumper cars, arcades, and roller coasters. Every summer night is filled with family fun activities such as movies on the beach, bonfires, concerts and even a beach Olympics. My favorite thing about Ocean City is the sweets! You can feed your sugar craving with taffy, caramel popcorn, fudge, ice cream and fresh hot funnel cakes. If you have a few extra hours, try the Aquarium Room at the Life-Saving Station Museum. Kids love the huge tanks filled with hundreds of different sea creatures.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California
This is the Coney Island experience on the Northern California Coast. Founded in 1907 and offering free family fun for generations, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has it all. Here you can ride a little bit of history with two of the coasters named as National Historic Landmarks. The 1924 Giant Dipper wooden coaster still thrills kids of all ages. If a coaster is too much for your quiet evening on the beach, then try the 1911 Looff Carousel’s unique ring toss. The kids will never be bored with all the different things to do, like the huge arcade, two-story mini golf and laser tag arena. Try the chocolate covered bacon, corn dogs, fried artichokes and freshly made salt water taffy. During the summer you can see a free concert every Friday night.
Virginia Beach Boardwalk, Virginia
One of the most well known boardwalks is in Virginia Beach. King Neptune stands guard over the 3-mile stretch of boardwalk that features several sea sculptures, high-rise hotels and shops. Take in a concert, go for a bike ride, fish off the pier or head to the Old Coast Guard Station. Right next to the pier is a small amusement park (15th Street) that offers carnival rides, like the spinning Skyscraper. Also fun for families are the four-seat surrey bikes that can be ridden along the path as you collect your favorite sweet treats along the way.
Navy Pier, Chicago
One of the best destination boardwalks, the Navy Pier stretches into the middle of Lake Michigan and is known for its many activities. Life is simple at the Navy Pier, the kids will love riding the spinning seats and the huge Ferris wheel. If you are staying nearby, rent a bike and head over to the pier whenever you want to see one of the hundreds of free shows or see a movie at the IMAX Theatre. Or just ride around and soak in the sunset. Book one of the many fireworks cruises so you can see the fireworks from the water as they paint against the Chicago skyline.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, South Carolina
It’s next to impossible to think about Myrtle Beach without thinking about its wonderful boardwalk. One of the most popular attractions, the new 1.2 mile long oceanfront boardwalk (2010) stretches from 14th Avenue to 2nd Avenue piers along the sandy beach. You’ll have plenty of different choices for entertainment, such as fishing, shopping, mini golf, amusement rides and water parks. The boardwalk features festivals and events all summer long, including the popular “Hot Summer Nights.” Be sure to hit the Kids Carnival on Monday nights with inflatables, bounce houses, face painters, jugglers and balloon artists. Wednesday night is fireworks.
Venice Beach Boardwalk, California
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the iconic places of Southern California. If you are going to be anywhere near Los Angeles, put this on your planner for some of the most entertaining people watching anywhere. Stretching two and half miles across the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, the boardwalk makes a very unique statement of life on the California coast. Most well-known is Muscle Beach where the body builders gather to tan their bulk. Stroll along the boardwalk to see up and coming entertainers trying to get their first big break. Take some cash so you can reward your favorite performances!
Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
The Coney Island Boardwalk offers a much deserved break from the humid and hectic New York City experience. Founded before the Civil War (1824), it is one of the oldest boardwalks in America. Considered the birthplace of the hot dog, make sure you grab a bite to eat at Nathan’s Famous. Plan to spend several hours in the carnival-style Luna Park with thrill rides such as the Tickler, Air Race, Cyclone Roller Coaster and Scream Zone. Take the kids to the New York Aquarium to see more than 300 marine animals and the Sea Lion musical training demonstration!
Where is your favorite boardwalk or pier? Share in the comments section.