The 9 Best Boardwalks in the U.S.

Summertime will soon be upon us — this week has already seen highs of 82 degrees in NYC! — and we can't wait for long days spent strolling along the boardwalk. From Atlantic City to Santa Cruz, beach bums will strut their stuff down those sandy pathways, either taking in the views or letting loose on beachside coasters (or both!). Foodies will delight in summer treats such as saltwater taffy and Nathan's hot dogs, and visitors can also play games, have their fortunes told, hit up unique shopping grounds, or just people-watch as the summer heat brings out some truly interesting characters. So bust out your flip-flops, spread on the SPF, and head to one of these boardwalks near you for some spring and summer fun in the sun.

1. Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey

The Atlantic City Boardwalk is the oldest in the United States and the longest in the world.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk is the oldest in the United States and the longest in the world.

First opened in 1870 and now spanning 5.5 miles, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is both the oldest in America and the longest in the world, garnering plenty of attention from East Coast visitors. Travelers fantasize about the Art Deco glamour and glitzy shows of Nucky Thompson‘s heyday while munching on saltwater taffy from the James Candy Company (in business since the early 1900s) or indulging in an order of deep-fried oreos. Others may try their luck in one of the many casinos that dot the boardwalk. Though Atlantic City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, loyalists are helping this shore spot bounce back with a vengeance.

Where to Stay: Caesars Atlantic City

Caesars is one of the oldest properties in Atlantic City, but extensive renovations have kept it feeling like one of the newest. It’s situated along the boardwalk, steps from the beach and luxury shopping, and has a dramatic lobby with Roman-inspired columns and painted ceilings. Upscale property amenities include an impressive spa, an adults-only rooftop pool with views, as well as a plush stadium-seat theater for live entertainment.

2. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California

Santa Cruz's oceanfront amusement park is the only one left on the West Coast.
Santa Cruz’s oceanfront amusement park is the only one left on the West Coast.

California’s take on Coney Island, this boardwalk features the only oceanfront amusement park still standing on the West Coast. Two of its rides — the hand-carved Loof carousel built in 1911 and the wooden roller coaster Giant Dipper built in 1924 — are National Historic Landmarks, but new rides keep the park feeling fresh as well. Live concerts are hosted here on Friday evenings, and visitors can also play mini-golf, laser tag, pinball, or bowling while here. The corn dogs are an infamous treat, as are the lightly fried artichokes and fresh saltwater taffy.

Where to Stay: Dream Inn Santa Cruz

This cute, stylish boutique hotel fuses modern services and retro- and surfing-inspired decor. The colorful lobby features a bright, geometric carpet and a curved pull-apart couch, flanked by a yellow-framed photograph of surfers on the beach. The rooms are contemporary, and all feature private balconies with views of the bay, wharf, and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

3. Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach, California

Ocean Front Walk and the Santa Monica Pier offer lots of quirk and good times.
Ocean Front Walk and the Santa Monica Pier offer lots of quirk and good times.

A remnant of the days when this town was a mecca for the bohemian and surfing masses, the Ocean Front Walk and Santa Monica Pier are still chock-full of fortune tellers, tattoo artists, weightlifters, skate boarders, and street performers. After a ride on the Santa Monica Pier’s iconic ferris wheel, chow down on Jody Maroni’s homemade sausages and people-watch to your heart’s content.

Where to Stay: Hotel Casa del Mar

The luxury Hotel Casa Del Mar offers something truly special in Los Angeles: it’s one of only two hotels with a coveted stretch of sandy Santa Monica Beach real estate and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. The overall vibe is Mediterranean villa meets Southern California. It has a hopping Hollywood bar scene, the popular Catch restaurant, a full luxe spa, and a pool with beach views.

4. Wailea Oceanfront Boardwalk, Hawaii

Views take center stage at this boardwalk in paradise.
Views take center stage at this boardwalk in paradise.

You won’t find souvenir shops, arcade games, or roller coaster rides at this scenic boardwalk on Maui. Rather, you’ll find spectacular panoramas of the Pacific that stretch on for two miles. Soak in a sunset or stand in awe of the volcanoes Molokini, Kahoolawe, and Lanai off in the distance. The boardwalk will take you past five coves where you can stop to swim or snorkel, or you can veer off into the Hawaiian Coastal Gardens and hike amid the island’s lush natural flora.

Where to Stay: Grand Wailea

Hands down the most amenity-packed resort on Maui, the Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Resort is a destination all its own. With 780 rooms, two massive pools, four restaurants, and a 50,000 square foot spa, the Grand Wailea wows with its grandiose scale. The property attracts all kinds of travelers, from families with kids to honeymooners to travel bloggers to corporate types.

5. Hollywood Beach Boardwalk, Florida

It's all about R&R here.
It’s all about R&R here.

Hollywood, Florida is all about R&R. Visitors come for a relaxed, quiet version of a beach vacation, especially compared to what one will find at neighboring destinations Miami and Fort Lauderdale. As such, the boardwalk here is more of a 2.5 mile-long coastal path than anything else, where joggers, skaters, and bikers mingle with ease. The brick-paved way does pass dozens of restaurants, shops, hotels. The boardwalk also hosts a 3,000-square-foot farmer’s market on Sundays — Josh’s Organic Garden — and is home to Vedu’s Fish & Burger Shack for fresh seafood.

Where to Stay: Hollywood Beach Marriott

The Marriott’s location is its main draw — right by the boardwalk on a beautiful, white-sand beach that can be seen from the pool and numerous rooms. The beach- and boardwalk-facing pool (with Jacuzzi), lovely day spa, and modern fitness center are additional perks.

6. Navy Pier, Chicago

It's lakeside rather than beachside, but you won't find any complaints here.
It’s lakeside rather than beachside, but you won’t find any complaints here.

Stretching into the middle of Lake Michigan, the Navy Pier is Chicago‘s answer to the summer boardwalk experience. Visitors can view a play at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, take the kiddies to the Children’s Museum, or simply dig into a warm, chocolate-covered treat from the Churro Factory while strolling down the pier. Live concerts and cold beers attract a diverse crowd nightly.

Where to Stay: W Chicago – Lakeshore

The 520-room W Chicago – Lakeshore delivers the chic decor you’d expect from a W, and its impressive features — a spacious gym, attractive indoor pool, on-site Bliss Spa, and absolutely stunning views of Lake Michigan and Navy Pier — make this a solid upscale option.

7. Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Strolling this three-mile path is always pleasant.
Strolling this three-mile path is always pleasant.

This three-mile path along the Atlantic is home to many high-rise hotels and upscale shops. Locals fish off the pier, while four outdoor stages allow for concert-goers to mill about in the sunshine happily. There are also amusement park rides, bike rental shops, and museums. Perhaps the most unique feature is the parade of whimsical nautical sculptures, including a bronze King Neptune that stands at 34 feet tall.

Where to Stay: Comfort Inn & Suites Virginia Beach – Oceanfront

The rooms here, if not up to modern decor standards, are cheery with bright, floral curtains and colorful furniture. All feature small balconies overlooking the ocean as well as living areas (many with pull-out sofas), microwaves, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, wet bars, and flat-screen TVs. The hotel also offers a small fitness center, laundry facilities, and freebies such as hot breakfast and Wi-Fi.

8. Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Boardwalk & Promenade, South Carolina

This boardwalk enlivens an otherwise sleepy summer beach town.
This boardwalk enlivens an otherwise sleepy summer beach town.

Having only opened in 2010, this boardwalk in Myrtle Beach is as fresh as they come, featuring nice souvenir shops, fun arcades for the kids, and a lovely oceanfront park. The Skywheel, seen here, is another fun attraction, as is the variety of amusement rides that surround it. There is live entertainment each evening, with plenty of funky characters milling about for visitors to meet and greet. Grab a root beer float or a foot-long hot dog at Peaches Corner and then enjoy the people-watching.

Where to Stay: Aqua Beach Inn

The lower-middle-range Aqua Beach Inn is a no-fuss property in downtown Myrtle Beach. It’s situated just a four-minute walk from the boardwalk, beach, and SkyWheel, along with numerous nearby restaurants, bars, and shops. Higher level rooms have sea views and there’s an outdoor swimming pool with adjacent hot tub and barbecue facilities.

9. Coney Island Boardwalk, Brooklyn

Did you think we'd leave out Coney Island? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Did you think we’d leave out Coney Island? Fuhgeddaboudit!

The legendary Coney Island Boardwalk has been serving Brooklyn loyalists since before the Civil War, making it one of the oldest boardwalks in the country. Its famous Luna Park was revitalized in 2010, introducing almost two dozen new rides and refurbishing classics such as the wooden-framed 1927 Cyclone roller coaster. Nathan’s Famous, host of annual Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest, also received a face lift. The 2.7 mile-long boardwalk mixes the tawdry (flame-jugglers and knife-swallowers) with classic beachfront scenes, making for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Where to Stay: Aloft New York Brooklyn

The ultra-hip Aloft Brooklyn draws adventurous travelers to one of Brooklyn’s latest emerging neighborhoods with hip, edgy decor, playful amenities like a billiard table and cocktail bar, and guest rooms filled with modern conveniences — all at a rate usually well below the Manhattan standard.

What to Bring to the Boardwalk: Woven Raffia Tote

Whether you’re winning tons of prizes in the arcade or planning on heading to the beach afterward, carry along a cute tote bag to lug all your necessities while you stroll.

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