1. Wildwood, N.J.
We keep Wildwood on our list of favorite boardwalks because it's just so family-friendly and our kids love it! Situated along New Jersey's Shore, the traditional boardwalk is home to Morey's Piers, which operates three different amusement parks directly on the pier: Mariner's Landing Pier, Adventure Pier and Surfside Pier. The amusements operator also operates Ocean Oasis Waterpark & Beach Club and Raging Waters Waterpark for water fun directly off one of the Shore's best beaches. More than 100 rides and attractions are available, as well as shopping and dining along the 2-mile boardwalk -- what's not to love?
Recommended Hotel: Pan American Pan American Hotel
2. Coney Island Boardwalk, N.Y.
Coney Island has been a favorite boardwalk for more than 100 years, and we love the relatively new Luna Park theme park, which is bringing Coney Island back to its amusement park heyday. Luna Park originally operated at Coney Island in the first half of the 20th century until a fire destroyed much of the park. In 2010, 66 years later, a new Luna Park opened with new thrill rides and old-fashioned fun that harkens back to Coney Island's glory days. Visitors to Coney Island can also enjoy a nearly 3-mile beach, and learn the history of the boardwalk at the Coney Island Museum. For lunch, stop at Nathan's Famous and taste some of the most popular hot dogs in the nation.
Recommended Hotel: New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge
3. Ocean City, Md.
The 3-mile Ocean City boardwalk is a popular destination for families who want games, arcades, rides and more. Antique rides on the boardwalk include the Herschel-Spellman carousel built in 1902. The Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum lets guests peak into the history of rescue teams and shipwrecks. Families can ride trams up and down the boardwalk. During the evenings, the beach comes alive with performers. Monday and Friday nights, families can watch free movies on the beach in the summertime. Also in the summer, the beach hosts a Family Beach Olympics event on Tuesday evenings.
Recommended Hotel: Francis Scott Key Resort Francis Scott Key Resort
4. Virginia Beach Boardwalk, Va.
Virginia Beach is home to a 3-mile boardwalk that evokes a nautical theme with an Old Coast Guard Station, the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and sea-centric sculptures like a 34-foot statue of King Neptune (God of the Sea). Right across from the pier, the small 15th Street Amusement Park offers a carnival atmosphere with rides like the wild, spinning Skyscraper that shoots you up into the air. Kids also gravitate toward the Hurricane, Music Express, Comic Storm and Inverter. Families love the four-seat surrey bikes, which can be ridden along a bike path parallel to the promenade to small, peaceful parks off the beach. When you need a bite to eat, sample the local blue crab at Catch 31 Fish House and Bar. Live music venues are also along the boardwalk and beach.
Recommended Hotel: Comfort Inn & Suites Oceanfront Virginia Beach Comfort Inn & Suites Oceanfront Virginia Beach
5. Santa Monica Pier, Calif.
One of the most iconic boardwalks rests above the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, just outside of Los Angeles. This amusement park pier has stood at this spot for more than 100 years and families come for its iconic Ferris Wheel and rides. Arcade games and small rides are easy on the wallet, and outdoor dining doesn't have a better view than from this location, make the pier idea for visits any time of day. For more energetic families, the bike path just outside of the pier travels all along the beach to Venice Beach in about a mile. (The entire path is 8.5 miles, if you really want a workout!) A small aquarium is also housed on the pier, with touch tanks entertain little ones for free. Don't miss taking a spin on the antique, wooden carousel, which has been housed in its Hippodrome located since the 1940s.
Recommended Hotel: Shore Hotel Shore Hotel
6. Chicago Navy Pier, Ill.
Not all beaches are on the ocean; Chicago enjoys a lakefront location on Lake Michigan -- a body of water so big it seems like an ocean missing only the huge waves. Baby waves are perfect for young children, and older children can engage in sailing, kayaking or swimming. Built in the early 1900s, and the largest pier of its time, Navy Pier has 50 acres of parks, promenades and attractions. Family-friendly events and entertainment are always happening on the Pier. Pier Park is on the upper deck with a 150-foot high Ferris wheel, a 36-animal musical carousel, an old-fashioned Wave Swinger, and a miniature golf course. Kids can walk through a funhouse maze and play miniature golf, too; there's something for everyone! If you need to get out of the sun, break for a movie in the IMAX Theater or see live performers at the Family Pavilion Stage. Make sure to visit on a Wednesday or Saturday night during the summer to witness a larger-than-life fireworks show.
Recommended Hotel: The James Chicago The James Chicago
7. Old Orchard Beach Pier & Boardwalk, Maine
Home to the Palace Playland, Old Orchard Beach is a popular family destination in the summer months, where the 7-mile beachfront and amusement park have been entertaining for more than 100 years. Old Orchard hosts the only beachfront amusement park left in New England in Maine's famed coastal region. The play land is like a traditional boardwalk amusement park with arcade games, small roller coasters and a Ferris Wheel. The wooden pier also features weekly fireworks during the summer months.
Recommended Hotel Beachmere Inn Beachmere Inn
8. Kemah Boardwalk, Texas
Families at Kemah, near Galveston, Texas, step into the old world of carnivals, riding on wooden roller coasters, a 65-foot Ferris wheel, a double-decker carousel, a reproduced 1863 Central Pacific Huntington Train, and a dozen more free-swinging, spinning and dropping rides. Animatronics of elephants and gorillas live in the rainforest exhibit, and a tank allows children to pet stingrays and ride in a 140-passenger open speedboat. Young kids especially like riding the Red Baron airplane ride and playing in the Dancing Water Fountains, 75 water jets that shoot water 10 to 12 feet in the air. The summer fair atmosphere runs all-year-long. When hunger strikes, head to Aquarium -- a theme restaurant that serves high-quality seafood amid large fish tanks.
Recommended Hotel: Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center
9. Key West, Fla.
While Florida lacks the traditional "boardwalk" with amusement rides and piers extending into the water, Key West's Mallory Square tops our list as one of our favorite "boardwalks." The Square is especially a hotspot at sunset, where street performers are out in abundance as the sun sets into the water. Watch tightrope walkers, magicians, comedians, jugglers and other entertainers put on a show, shadowed by the sun. You can also buy trinkets, have your palms read, and savor some seafood at nearby restaurants. When the sun is gone, revelers proceed to Duval Street for more shopping and dining.
Recommended Hotel: Southernmost on the Beach Southernmost on the Beach
And for those who just want a gorgeous setting...
These boardwalks are tops, offering long walks (bike rides, skating, you name it) along a shoreline with perfect views.
10. Fort Lauderdale
Once famed for its wild spring breaks, Fort Lauderdale turned its "strip" and beachfront parking into a beautifully paved walkway hugging the beach at the Atlantic Ocean. The 2-mile Beachfront Promenade follows along a swirling, white beach wall - known as the Wave Wall - and a brick-lined path ideal for walking, biking and skating. Just across the street are tons of restaurants with outdoor seating, and shops for souvenirs.
11. Michigan's Gold Coast
Along Michigan's Gold Coast, in the southwest corner of the state and situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven and Holland provide boardwalks with views of the lake and harbors. In Grand Haven, the 2.5-mile boardwalk follows the Grand River to Lake Michigan and a lighthouse, with shops and restaurants following much of the path. In nearby Holland, the Mt. Pisgah Dune Boardwalk provides spectacular views from its peak dune height of 157 feet.
12. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Although this boardwalk doesn't follow along a beach, it is one of the most unique boardwalks you'll ever walk upon. Idaho's picturesque Coeur d'Alene offers up the world's longest floating boardwalk at nearly a mile, resting on Lake Coeur d'Alene and following around a marina. The boardwalk even has a picnic area and plenty of benches to sit back and enjoy the lake views and wildlife.
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