America has some fantastic beach towns. Not only are they great places to swim, surf, and play in the sand, but they can also serve as great spots for scenery, delicious food, fun games, and thrilling rides - if they have a boardwalk, that is. Boardwalks are becoming less of a popular tourist spot as technology brings more exciting attractions and climate change destroys more and more of them. Still, some have survived or been rebuilt, serving as a portal back in time to days of simply enjoying the beach with a hot dog in one hand and funnel cake in the other.
One of the earliest boardwalks was built in 1870 in New Jersey, and indeed, the country has a surprising number of boardwalks that are still around from the turn of the 20th century. While most have grown through the decades, adding thrilling roller coasters, carousels, and games, as well as expanding their list of shops and restaurants, many still retain a sort of retro, timeless charm in which modern worries and technology don't play too much of a role. For a wonderful beachside getaway, take a step back in time at these boardwalks.
Atlantic City Boardwalk (Atlantic City, N.J.)
Atlantic City's popularity as an East Coast weekend getaway has largely been due to the legality of casino gambling there, but that's not all this seaside town has to offer. Stretching 4 miles, its boardwalk is the oldest in the country, having first opened in 1870. If you're not up for the walk, guides can give you a life in an old-fashioned rolling chair to its many hotels, resorts, shops, and of course, casinos. Visit Garden Pier, where you'll find the local history museum and the Atlantic City Arts Center to enjoy all kinds of live shows, or check out Steel Pier for rides and games at the local amusement park.
Disney's BoardWalk (Bay Lake, Fla.)
Disney's BoardWalk Resort is a hotel and entertainment complex just outside Walt Disney World, and its boardwalk - just a quarter of a mile long - is specifically intended to take guests back in time with a turn-of-the-century boardwalk vibe modeled after the early days of Coney Island and Atlantic City. A great way to enjoy Disney on a budget, you can simply stroll down the boardwalk to enjoy the street performers and afternoon midway games, or you can check out the interesting shops and fantastic dining and nightlife.
Jenkinson's Boardwalk (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.)
Take an affordable, family-friendly trip to Point Pleasant Beach, where you'll find Jenkinson's Boardwalk, a mile-long stretch with a retro charm. Eat some ice cream and pizza while trying your hand at carnival games and mini golfing. The boardwalk also has an arcade and amusement rides.
Navy Pier (Chicago, Ill.)
A Chicago landmark and officially listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Navy Pier is a popular attraction to the point that some find it overrated. Still, almost 9 million people visit every year to enjoy its famed Ferris wheel, rides such as the carousel and Pepsi Wave Swinger, or check out the indoor botanical garden, Chicago Children's Museum, and other attractions.
Old Orchard Beach Pier (Old Orchard Beach, Maine)
The Pier at Old Orchard Beach has been destroyed by storms and rebuilt twice after its first iteration in 1898. Today, you'll find it's home to Palace Playland, a beachfront amusement park that's been there since 1902 and remains the only one of its kind in New England. One of the best boardwalks in the country, the wooden pier stretches 500 feet and is lined with carnival-style food stalls and souvenir shops with a night club at the end of it.
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk (Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
Stretching a mile long, the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is full of shops, restaurants, and other attractions. Visit Funland, the best amusement park in the state, which has been around for over 50 years, and classic food vendors such as Dolle's which has been serving saltwater taffy and caramel corn since 1926.
Riegelmann Boardwalk (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Better known as the Coney Island Boardwalk, Riegelmann Boardwalk is one of America's bucket list attractions. Running along the southern shore of Brooklyn's Coney Island for 2.7 miles, it's home to a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and the New York Aquarium. Enjoy the beach and plenty of food vendors as well, such as hot dogs at Nathan's Famous and the classic Feltman's of Coney Island or pizza at Totonno's.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
One of the best beaches for families, Santa Cruz Beach has a boardwalk that's become so extensive that it's literally an amusement park - the oldest surviving one in California, having been founded in 1907. Two of the 35 rides here - which include a water ride and three roller coasters - are officially recognized together as a National Historic Landmark; the Looff carousel was built in 1911, and the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster was built in 1924.
Santa Monica Pier (Santa Monica, Calif.)
Opened in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier is a fun and historic attraction in Southern California. Pacific Park, an amusement park with 12 rides including the world's first and only solar-powered Ferris wheel, is located in the pier, which also has an original 1920s carousel, aquarium, video arcade, and restaurants, bars, and stores. Come in the summer, and you'll find outdoor concerts, movies, and other activities free to the public every week at this most Instagrammable spot in the state
Wildwood Boardwalk (Wildwood, N.J.)
Located within the southern tip of New Jersey, Wildwood's boardwalk stretches 2 miles and is full of carnival games, food stalls, souvenir shops, and tons of rides and water parks. Wildwood Boardwalk is home to not one, but three, amusement park piers and claims to have more rides than Disneyland. Located further from the sea than most boardwalks, it's also the venue of many concerts, sports games, and monster truck rallies, making it one of the best beach towns for partying.