“From the park you hear the happy sound of the carousel
You can almost taste the hot dogs and french fries they sell, yes you can
Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, yeah
On a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be”
Those lyrics are iconic, but why hang out under the boardwalk when a stroll along a historic walkway pairs coastal views with seaside fun?
Here are five to consider:
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz, California
Offering affordable family fun since 1907, this West Coast boardwalk features free entertainment as well as the chance to hop aboard two rides that proudly claim National Historic Landmark status. The Giant Dipper, a red and white wooden roller coaster built in 1924 and featured in several films, is a fan favorite. Don’t miss the Looff Carousel, open since 1911, featuring one of few remaining working ring tosses. Riders on outside horses can grab rings from a dispenser as they spin, then toss them into a large clown’s gaping mouth, resulting in bells and flashing lights. Take a break from games, mini golf and laser tag to look toward the sea. You are likely to see dolphins, sea lions and otters swimming offshore.
Atlantic City Boardwalk
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Stroll along this historic promenade, considered the oldest and longest boardwalk in the country. Since the first wooden planks were placed in 1870, the walkway has served as the centerpiece of this resort city. Today, families can ride bikes in the morning hours, sample an endless menu of confections and wander through the arcade halls and museums. During warm-weather months, family-friendly movies, Broadway on the Boardwalk and other musical entertainment gets underway. Adjacent to the famed boardwalk is Steel Pier, home to a flashy amusement park sure to appeal to kids of all ages. Call to request a free visitors guide or download yours from the website.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The region’s 60 miles of beaches has long provided a playground for lovers of the sea and sunshine. The addition of a 1.2-mile walkway added a new vibrancy to this beach town and provided a hub for entertainment and activity. Expect plenty of dining options, shopping and music as well as views of the sea and intermittent green spaces for picnics or play. Kids will enjoy the weekly carnival that promises face painters, bounce houses, balloon artists and stilt walkers. Other seasonal fun on the boardwalk includes fireworks displays, live bands, acrobats and fire shows.
Ocean Front Walk
Venice Beach, California
Rollerblade, bike or simply stroll along this scenic stretch of boardwalk where beachfront beauty combines with surf-culture commerce and bohemian style to create an eye-popping array of colorful activity. Expect farmers market–style jewelry and art as well as aura readers, tattoo artists and intermittent performances by jugglers, human statues and magicians. Stop for breakfast or lunch in any of the beach front cafes and keep your eyes peeled for your favorite celeb.
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
Visit this family-friendly beach community for a relaxing seaside getaway. The festive boardwalk, first built in 1873, has not lost its celebrated vintage vibe. After a day on the wide expanse of beach, sample sweets from Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy, ride the Jolly Trolley and make time for the kids to enjoy the retro Funland amusement center where rides, shooting galleries, pinball machines and arcade games, may offer a glimpse of the kind of fun you enjoyed as a child.
Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer.