best boardwalk pier sunset carnival rides

8 Best Traditional Boardwalks in the U.S.

Discover these eight traditional U.S. boardwalks that offer fun carnival games, thrilling rollercoaster rides, and serene ocean strolls.

Old-school boardwalks have been an American seaside staple for over a century. They attract thousands of visitors annually, providing a hub for various activities and entertainment. Not only do they host amusement parks, arcades, and restaurants, but they also offer stunning views of the ocean. They're a perfect destination for families, couples, and solo travelers, with something to offer everyone.

Discover these eight traditional U.S. boardwalks that offer fun carnival games, thrilling rollercoaster rides, and serene ocean strolls.

1. Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey

shops along the boardwalk atlantic city

Did you know that Atlantic City is the birthplace of boardwalks in America? It opened on June 26, 1870, introducing the first removable wooden walkway. The Atlantic City Boardwalk is also famous for its rolling chairs, which offer visitors a charming and traditional way to explore the planked walkway. Steel Pier is a notable attraction, extending from the boardwalk with amusement rides and food vendors. Other places of interest include Frank's Deli for breakfast classics, Superfrico for reimagined Italian cuisine, and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for an upscale experience. With free concerts and events, an endless array of saltwater taffy, and a stunning beachfront, you'll have everything you need for a memorable vacation in Atlantic City.

2. Coney Island Boardwalk, New York

coney island boardwalk shops

The Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York is another iconic destination. Every year, it attracts approximately 5 million visitors from around the world. It has been an amusement and entertainment hub since 1923. The boardwalk stretches for 2.7 miles along the beach on old wooden planks. It's home to several attractions like Luna Park, the New York Aquarium, and Nathan's Famous hot dog stand, famous for its annual hot dog eating contest. The boardwalk also has a variety of souvenir shops, carnival games, and food vendors. Coney Island's decadent treats include funnel cakes, zeppoles, and fried Oreos. Last but not least, visitors can stroll or rent a bike and enjoy beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. 

3. Santa Monica Pier, California

santa monica pier aerial view

The Santa Monica Pier is a renowned landmark in Southern California, welcoming about 10 million guests annually. Located in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, the pier offers many entertainment options, from craft vendors and shops to live music performances. It's home to Pacific Park amusements, featuring a solar-powered Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and various carnival games. Additionally, visitors can enjoy fresh seafood at the numerous restaurants and bars along the pier, including the famous Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. The pier also offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, making it a popular spot for scenic walks and photo opportunities. Overall, the Santa Monica Pier is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a fun-filled day by the beach.

4. Ocean City Boardwalk, Maryland

ocean city maryland boardwalk buildings

The Ocean City Boardwalk has been a tourist hot spot since 1910. It stretches three miles along the Atlantic Ocean and offers a unique blend of old-school charm and modern entertainment. Visitors can enjoy classic carnival-style games and rides, get their fortune told by a palm reader, or indulge in saltwater taffy. The boardwalk also features modern amenities like high-tech arcades, trendy boutiques, and upscale restaurants. Numerous events, including concerts, beach festivals, and parades, take place in Ocean City, MD throughout the year. The summer season is particularly packed with free family activities, such as Movies on the Beach, Kids Crafts in the Courtyard, and Sundaes in the Park with concerts and children's activities.

5. Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, Delaware

rehoboth beach boardwalk sand ocean

Photo by Susan Smith via Flickr

The Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk in Delaware has been welcoming visitors since 1873, making it one of the oldest boardwalks in the U.S. It stretches for one mile along the Atlantic Ocean, making it one of the shortest boardwalks on this list. Visitors can enjoy classic boardwalk games, rides, and attractions or stroll along the beach. The boardwalk also features a variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, from live music performances to mini-golf courses. In addition, the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the Sea Witch Festival and the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, making it a popular destination for families and music lovers.

6. Old Orchard Beach Pier, Maine

old orchard pier aerial view

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

Old Orchard Beach Pier is a historic landmark dating from 1898. It stretches 500 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, supported by a network of pilings that make for a great Instagram photo. Due to limited plank space, the pier is home to only a few souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants. Maine lobster is a sought-after delicacy here, and an amusement park sets up shop in the summer opposite the pier. Other attractions include summer concerts, fireworks displays, comedy acts, and dance parties. The fact that legendary jazz musicians Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington performed at the Pier Casino cements Old Orchard's legacy as one of the best boardwalks in the U.S.

7. Jenkinson's Boardwalk, Point Pleasant, New Jersey

jenkinsons boardwalk beach and shops

Point Pleasant Beach is a popular summer destination on the Jersey Shore. It hosts Jenkinson's Boardwalk, catering to foodies, thrill seekers, and bar crawlers. Completed in 1928, it's one of the most-visited boardwalks on the Eastern Seaboard. Main attractions include the Adventure Lookout Ropes Course, Jenkinson's Aquarium, Castaway Cove mini golf, and Frank's Arcade. The beach also offers exciting nightlife at Jenks Club and beach bars like Inlet Bar and Broadway Bar & Grill. During the summer, a variety of events keep visitors entertained, including an Easter parade, Movies on the Beach, and Princess Palooza.

8. John's Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach, Florida

johns pass shops sunset

Image courtesy of Johns Pass Village & Boardwalk Facebook page

John's Pass Boardwalk is a picturesque destination in Madeira Beach, Florida, near the city of St. Pete. It combines a fishing village, a shopping district, and an entertainment center. The boardwalk features over 100 shops, restaurants, and attractions. The popular Pirate Ship Royal Conquest offers daily sailings and kid-friendly activities. Visitors can also rent jet skis, go parasailing, or take a dolphin-watching cruise. The boardwalk's historic fishing village also offers a glimpse into the past, with unique local shops and fresh seafood restaurants. Overall, John's Pass is one of the best boardwalks in the U.S. for spending a day or evening, and it has amazing sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico.

Preparing for Your Boardwalk Experience

So, you’ve checked the weather and picked a date for your boardwalk adventure. Now it’s time to prepare for your trip and make the most of your experience.

The bare essentials include sunscreen, lip balm, and a sunhat. Cash is always a good idea, too, as some vendors, arcades, and rides may only accept cash payments. Comfy shoes go without saying. Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and help reduce waste. Lastly, bring a fully charged smartphone with a camera to capture the moments you’ll make on your boardwalk adventure!

Check out our online store, YouTube channel, and Gravel Travels blog for more accessories and tips.

Happy board-walking! 🏖️🚶‍♀️☀️🌭🎇✨

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