Close your eyes and imagine that you are reclining on a beach towel with the surf at your feet, the sun on your face, and a cool drink resting by your side. Now add in the sounds of carnival music, the screaming roar of roller coasters, and the aroma of funnel cake and corndogs drifting on the salty breeze. When you’re looking for something to spice up your trip to the beach, consider these awesome boardwalks.
Mission Beach Boardwalk - San Diego, CA
“Classy, clean, and California charming” should be the mantra for San Diego’s Mission Beach Boardwalk. Everything you want from an attraction and more, this two-mile-long boardwalk hugs the cool blue Pacific where all you see is golden sands and sapphire skies. Belmont Park, the boardwalk amusement complex, is located at the beginning of the boardwalk on South Mission Beach. The natural beauty of San Diego makes it nearly impossible to stay indoors for long which is why almost everything about Belmont Park is open-air, including the restaurants. Grab a drink as you sunbathe on the beach at the warehouse, a 30,000 square-foot restaurant on the beach, or try some craft brews walking along the boardwalk after you try your hand at the Lazer Maze or the country’s only FlowBarrel.
Navy Pier - Chicago, IL
Chicago’s historic Navy Pier is proof that you don’t have to travel to the coasts to find world-class boardwalk and water-side views. Built-in 1916, this 3,300-foot long pier extends along Chicago’s busy borders into the serene and expansive Lake Michigan. One may not expect to find a waterfront pier in the Midwest and yet Chicago’s Navy Pier somehow manages to offer more than the standard American boardwalk. Besides the carnival rides, ice cream shops, and souvenir kiosks, the Navy Pier is home to the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, an IMAX, and a six-story tall glass botanical garden containing over 80 live palm trees and a cornucopia of beautiful flora and fountains. This pier truly is an oasis in the middle of chaos.
Wildwoods Boardwalk - NJ
Part of the charm of boardwalks is the kitschy carnival atmosphere, and nowhere is it stronger than in New Jersey. Many people overlook Wildwoods in favor of Atlantic City but that would be a mistake. Though there are plenty of attractions for kids to enjoy themselves, the adults are definitely not left out of the loop. It is New Jersey, after all. During the day play around jet skiing or parasailing, ride the roller coasters, or try your hand at the Variety Casino. At night, party with your group at Jersey Girl Drinks & Dining, see a live show at Westy’s Irish Pub and watch the fireworks show every Friday during in the summer. With three amusement piers, three beachfront waterparks, dance clubs, bars, lounges, and over 100 rides and attractions, Wildwoods is supremely wild - in a good way.
Kemah Boardwalk - TX
Where Wildwoods has a mature, lively atmosphere, Kemah Boardwalk on the Texas Gulf Coast has kids in mind. Kemah Boardwalk is listed for its family-friendly hospitality, Texan charm, and top-notch attractions. This 60-acre amusement complex is a perfect destination for groups with children or anyone who is young at heart and enjoys a good carnival ride. Arrive in the early morning to spend the day exploring Galveston Bay on the Boardwalk Beast, touching and feeding stingrays at Stingray Reef, and playing around at the arcade or Midway Games. Stay until sunset to see the Gulf light up from on top of the Ferris wheel or as you rest on the beach, satisfied with your day of fun.
Santa Monica Pier - Santa Monica, CA
Finally, we come to the gorgeous, double-jointed concrete pier that has stood since 1909 at the edge of Santa Monica. While you may plan to simply sit on the sands, surf the waves, or join in an impromptu game of volleyball on the beach, the conjoined piers with their amazing amenities have ways of tempting you into their grasp. The second pier, the Looff Pleasure Pier, opened in 1916 to compete with the other Californian amusement boardwalks. The Looff Hippodrome and historic carousel are still in operation today, along with a vintage soda fountain, a trapeze school, Playland Arcade, and carnival rides inside the Pacific Park. Don’t miss the pier at night when the ocean lights up with the neon lights, fireworks, and the bright frivolity of people having the time of their lives.
The relaxation of the beach paired with the familiar thrill of a carnival makes for summertime happiness. The U.S. not only has access to some of the most beautiful waters in the world but has provided some of the best and most awesome boardwalks. What’s better than spending your vacation riding roller coasters, drinking vintage sodas, and walking along the beach with cotton candy in your hand? Not much. Chill out, smile, and soak in the sun - you deserve it.