6 Historic Beach Boardwalks Everyone Should Visit
6 Historic Beach Boardwalks Everyone Should Visit

Taking a stroll along a beachside boardwalk is the perfect way to spend a summer’s day. Whether you prefer gazing out toward the ocean or biting into a sugar-coated funnel cake, boardwalks offer the perfect combination of natural beauty, rich local history, and family-fun activities.

Though each individual boardwalk may vary in terms of what rides and delicacies they offer, you’re bound to have a great time at any of these waterside institutions. Here are six beautiful and historic beach boardwalks located throughout the United States.

Santa Monica Pier - Santa Monica, California

Aerial of Santa Monica Pier.
Credit: Luciano Lejtman via Getty Images

What better way to experience the Pacific Ocean than by taking a walk down the famous Santa Monica Pier? As one of the Los Angeles area’s more desirable tourist destinations, the pier has a rich history dating back over a century. The pier wasn't originally built for entertainment purposes — in fact, when it opened in 1909, it was initially used for sewage disposal. However, the area pivoted and was reimagined into a spot for local fun shortly thereafter. While the pier has undergone many renovations since, some of its original charm still remains, including a carousel built in 1939 that still offers rides atop its vintage wooden horses. The pier’s Pacific Park also features the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, as well as a thrilling roller coaster that towers 55 feet above the Pacific. If rides aren’t your thing then fear not, because the Santa Monica Pier offers plenty of other activities such as carnival games and fishing — head to the Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle Co. to pick up a rod for yourself.

Riegelmann Boardwalk - Brooklyn, New York

The Wonder Wheel in Luna Park.
Credit: STLLR Photo/ Unsplash

The Riegelmann Boardwalk is a New York institution located in Brooklyn’s historic Coney Island neighborhood. Nicknamed “Coney Island’s Fifth Avenue,” this bustling 2.7-mile-long wooden walkway runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean, and has been serving the community since it opened in 1923. So much can be found along the Riegelmann Boardwalk including the New York Aquarium, which is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States. The boardwalk is also home to Luna Park, an amusement park that operates the famed Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster which first opened on June 26, 1927. This thrill ride is the second-steepest wooden coaster in the world and reaches max speeds of 60 mph, carrying passengers along 2,640 feet of track which includes an exhilarating 85-foot plunge. Lastly, take a stroll down to the end of the boardwalk for yet another warm weather staple — baseball. The Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team plays home games at one end of the boardwalk, adding even more options for summer fun.

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Ferris wheel and shops on boardwalk in Myrtle Beach.
Credit: ehrlif/ Alamy Stock Photo

The desirable oceanside community of Myrtle Beach is known for “The Grand Strand,” a scenic 60-mile-long section of uninterrupted Atlantic coastline. Found along the Grand Strand is the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, a 1.2-mile-long promenade with a relatively new history, as it only officially opened in 2010. For what it lacks in historic lore, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk more than makes up for with endlessly fun activities. Plyler Park offers a carnival-like atmosphere year round with entertainment and events. The boardwalk also features the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, allowing riders to tower 200 feet above the ground below and gaze out over the Atlantic. The entertainment franchise Ripley’s has also carved out a place for themselves here in Myrtle Beach, offering a number of boardwalk attractions including an “Odd-itorium,” haunted adventure, and even a 5-D virtual moving theater, incorporating some wacky and fun elements into an otherwise beachy paradise.

Downtown Chicago with skyscrapers and Navy Pier.
Credit: espiegle/ iStock

Navy Pier is a historic institution along Lake Michigan that was constructed in 1916 atop 20,000 logs imported from Oregon. However, the pier wasn’t always a tourist attraction, but rather began as a place to house soldiers and sailors during World War I. It was that connection with the military that earned this boardwalk its Navy Pier moniker in 1927, and it continued to house soldiers through World War II. In 1946, after the war’s completion, a new college campus opened by the University of Illinois at Chicago opened near the pier, and visitors shifted from soldiers to students. The pier grew to become one of Chicago’s most scenic sites, welcoming Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 who toured Navy Pier as the first reigning British monarch to set foot in Chicago. In 1995, this enormous 50-acre boardwalk was finally converted into an entertainment hub. Today, Navy Pier is highlighted by its enormous 196-foot-tall Ferris wheel that’s considered a fixture of the Chicago skyline.

Wildwood Boardwalk - Wildwood, New Jersey

The Wildwoods sign and beach ball sculptures.
Credit: John Van Decker/ Alamy Stock Photo

One of the best known recreation areas on the East Coast, the Jersey Shore is among America’s most enjoyable summer destinations. One must-visit spot along the shore is the 2.5-mile-long Wildwood Boardwalk, composed of over 70,000 wooden planks along the Atlantic. Wildwood truly captures the spirit of Americana, welcoming 9 million annual visitors to bask in its kitschy beachside environment. The boardwalk also played a key role in the early development of American rock music; in 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets debuted “Rock Around the Clock” at the Wildwood’s Hof Brau Hotel, and in the 1960s Chubby Checker unveiled his signature dance – the Twist — at the Peppermint Lounge.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk - Rehoboth, Delaware

Doll Salt Water Taffy and other shops on the boardwalk at night.
Credit: Danita Delimont/ Alamy Stock Photo

The boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach perfectly encapsulates Delaware's beauty. With its quaint atmosphere, the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is perfect for families and solo travelers alike. If you’ve got kids or want to feel like a kid yourself, pop into Funland, an amusement area that’s been operating for over 60 years. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, be sure to visit Starkey’s Funnel Cake Factory, a local spot known for frying up this delectable summer treat as well as refreshing Italian water ice. Thankfully the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of fun on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, as it continues to host events all year long. The boardwalk is also a shopper’s paradise, with plenty of lovely boutiques that offer tax-free shopping to those looking for a few extra pieces in their wardrobe.

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