Budget Travel

20 Affordable American Boardwalks

Why settle for one oceanfront amusement park when you can have two? Ocean City, New Jersey, offers a boardwalk with two big Ferris wheels, coasters, water rides, go-karts, and much more.

Who says a boardwalk has to be by the ocean? Along Lake Michigan in the Windy City, the Navy Pier (navypier.com) has a new 196-foot-high Ferris wheel, plus a carousel, a wave swinger, a climbing wall, and remote-control boats in season. 

This waterfront city may be known for its casinos, but the historic boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is no gamble if you're looking for a great time. 

At Brooklyn's iconic Coney Island, the names of the rides say it all: The Sling Shot throws you up in the air and lets you free-fall back down to earth; the Cyclone roller coaster is still one of the most terrifying around, and the Wonder Wheel may be the best-known Ferris wheel in America. 

Santa Monica Pier's Ferris wheel is so close to the water that you can almost convince yourself that the wheel is going to dip you into the Pacific Ocean. 

Welcoming crowds by the million with its charm and hospitality, the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, features the massive, 187-foot-tall SkyWheel and an amusement park with a log-flume water ride, a steel roller coaster, and more.

A carousel dating back to 1902, free boardwalk entertainment, and the classic vibe of a relaxed beach town make the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, one of the most popular stops on the Atlantic coast. 

It's not just the beautiful location or the array of unique shops that make Venice Beach, California, unforgettable; it's the always-surprising, creative folks who turn out every day to make political statements, perform stunts, or just be their fabulous selves.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, Delaware, rolls out a quiet, family-friendly pace that's just what the doctor ordered. 

Get your picture taken at the apex of the thrilling coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California, and you're almost certain to have a hilarious keepsake—it's a long way down! 

You'll find easy rides for the kiddies, family-friendly water rides, and the crazy adrenaline-junkie stuff too at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. You'll also find lovely New England sunlight and moments of quiet like this.

Wildwoods, New Jersey, is a shore thing whether you want a perfect beach or rides that'll rattle your nerves. 

Virginia Beach Boardwalk not only boasts a beautiful stretch of sand and attractions but, if you're lucky, dolphins breaching right off shore. 

The ocean may be nowhere in sight, but the fun family boardwalk at Disney World rivals the real thing.

Texas's Gulf Coast needed a great boardwalk and the Kemah Boardwalk, just 20 miles from downtown Houston, fits the bill. 

Often overshadowed by its flashier neighbors up the California coast, the boardwalk at Mission Beach is one of San Diego's sweetest spots. 

Mild breezes, a gorgeous beach, and a sweet hospitality make Carolina Beach Boardwalk in North Carolina a family favorite.

Hampton Beach Boardwalk, New Hampshire, is a low-key gem that's great for relaxing and shopping. 

Amid the Jersey Shore's bigger, better-known boardwalks, Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant has a retro charm that can't be beat. 

The boardwalk in Sandwich, Massachusetts, may not have a Ferris wheel, but it does offer the unforgettable sky and water that Cape Cod is known for. BYO funnel cakes!

​If your idea of summer perfection involves roller coasters, funnel cakes, and Whac-A-Mole, we’ve got the scoop on some little pieces of honky-tonk heaven—from Jersey to Cali—that await your visit.

The boardwalk is as much a part of the American summer experience as ice cream cones, corn on the cob and Fourth of July fireworks. From retro charm to shiny-new affairs—and everything in between—boardwalks from coast to coast deliver nostalgia and light-hearted fun to young and old. 

Ocean City, New Jersey

Why settle for one oceanfront amusement park when you can have two? Ocean City offers a boardwalk with two big Ferris wheels, coasters, water rides, go-karts, and much more. (oceancityvacation.com)

Navy Pier, Chicago

Who says a boardwalk has to be by the ocean? Along Lake Michigan in the Windy City, the Navy Pier has a new 196-foot-high Ferris wheel that lets you take in the skyline and the lake, plus a carousel, a wave swinger, a climbing wall, and remote-control boats in season. Don't forget to grab a Chicago hot dog from America's Dog, with mustard, relish, onion, sport peppers, tomato, pickle, and celery salt. (navypier.com)

Atlantic City, New Jersey

This waterfront city may be known for its casinos, but its historic boardwalk is no gamble if you're looking for a great time. Originally built in the 19th century to prevent sand from blowing off the beach into the area's schmancy hotels, the Atlantic City Boardwalk has become a destination all its own. Its Steel Pier is a thriving amusement park, while its Garden Pier is a hot spot for the performing arts. (atlanticcitynj.com)

Coney Island, New York

Sure, the name may conjure images of barbershop quartets and early-20th-century couples strolling by the sea. But the revitalized Luna Park amusement park ain't your great-grandfather's Coney Island. The names of the rides at this iconic Brooklyn destination say it all: The Sling Shot throws you up in the air and lets you free-fall back down to earth, the Cyclone roller coaster is still one of the most terrifying around, and the Wonder Wheel may be the best-known Ferris wheel in America. Grab a hot dog from Nathan's Famous or an order of clams on the half-shell from Ruby's, and nab a seat on the boardwalk for unparalleled people-watching. (lunaparknyc.com)

Santa Monica Pier, California

I may be a native New Yorker, but my favorite Ferris wheel is here at Pacific Park, on Santa Monica's pier. Why? Because it's so close to the water that you can almost convince yourself that the wheel is going to dip you into the Pacific. You'll find gentle rides here for the little ones, and you can take a ride on the beautifully carved and painted carousel that was featured in the Academy Award-winning motion picture The Sting. (santamonicapier.org)

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This one's just a baby compared with some of the historic boardwalks on our list. Opened just eight years ago, this place feels as if it's been here forever. Welcoming crowds by the million with its charm and hospitality, the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach features the massive, 187-foot-tall SkyWheel as well as the Family Kingdom amusement park, which includes the Sling Shot, the Log Flume water ride, and the Twist 'n Shout steel roller coaster. (visitmyrtlebeach.com)

Ocean City, Maryland

A carousel dating back to 1902, free boardwalk entertainment, and the classic vibe of a relaxed beach town make Ocean City's boardwalk one of the most popular stops on the Atlantic. There's plenty of food on offer, but for a hot doughnut fried to order and dipped in the glaze of your choice, drop by the Fractured Prune, an O.C. stalwart since 1976. (ococean.com

Venice Beach, California

Visit a typical boardwalk and you'll most likely return home with memories of blue water, candy-apple red kiddie rides, and the scent of fried seafood. Visit Venice Beach Boardwalk (officially Ocean Front Walk, but nobody calls it that) and you're more likely to return home with memories of blue hair, candy-apple-red lipstick, and the scent of pot smoke. It's not the beautiful location or the array of unique shops here that make the place unforgettable; it's the always-surprising, creative folks who turn out every day to make political statements, perform stunts, or just be their fabulous selves. (venicebeach.com)

Rehobeth, Delaware

I had my most relaxing boardwalk visit ever at this mid-Atlantic beauty. It's not huge, glitzy, or loaded with terrifying rides. Instead, this place rolls out a quiet, family-friendly pace that can be just what the doctor ordered. Kids will love the rides and treats along the boardwalk. Grown-ups will appreciate the clean, laid-back beach and charming town. (beach-fun.com)

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California

Get your picture taken at the apex of the thrilling coaster here, and you're almost certain to have a hilarious keepsake—it's a loooooooong way down! The boardwalk's vibrant party scene, fast-paced rides, and best-ever funnel cakes are just a few of the things to love about Santa Cruz, situated near the top of Monterey Bay on the central California coast, about a 90-minute drive from San Francisco. The city is also home to barking sea lions, one of the world's best surfing scenes, and redwood forests just a short ride up into the mountains. (beachboardwalk.com)

Old Orchard Beach Boardwalk, Maine

We tend to associate New England with quiet stretches of beach, but the boardwalk in Old Orchard Beach is an exception, with a full-blown amusement park, Palace Playland, right by the ocean. You'll find easy rides for the kiddies, family-friendly water rides, and the crazy adrenaline-junkie stuff, too. (palaceplayland.com

Wildwood, New Jersey

A shore thing whether you want a perfect beach or rides that'll rattle your nerves, this is the place to soak up the spirit of the Jersey Shore. (wildwoodsnj.com

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sure, there are lots of great beaches and boardwalks out there. But Virginia Beach not only boasts a beautiful stretch of sand and attractions but also dolphins right off shore, and unparalleled history just down the road. (visitvirginiabeach.com

Disney World Boardwalk, Florida

No list of boardwalks would be complete without Disney. The ocean may not be anywhere in sight, but the imaginative folks here have put together a fun family experience that rivals the real thing. (disneyworld.disney.go.com

Kemah Boardwalk, Texas

The Gulf Coast needed a boardwalk and Kemah, just 20 miles from downtown Houston, fits the bill, having expanded from a popular dining spot to a full-blown family-travel destination. (kemahboardwalk.com

Mission Beach Boardwalk, California

Often overshadowed by its flashier neighbors up the California coast, Mission Beach is one of San Diego's sweetest spots and should be on your SoCal to-do list. (sandiego.com

Carolina Beach Boardwalk, North Carolina

Appropriately located on Pleasure Island, Carolina Beach specializes in making you forget your cares. Mild breezes, gorgeous beach, and a sweet hospitality make this boardwalk a family favorite. (visitcarolinabeachnc.com

Hampton Beach Boardwalk, New Hampshire

This low-key gem is great for relaxing, shopping, and pretending you never have to go back to your real life. (hamptonbeach.org

Jenkinson's Boardwalk, New Jersey

Amid the Jersey Shore's bigger, better-known boardwalks, Jenkinson's has a retro charm that can't be beat. Walk the boardwalk early in the morning as the shops open to beat the crowds, and grab a fresh-squeezed lemonade when the sun is high. (jenkinsons.org)

Sandwich Boardwalk, Massachusetts

Okay, this isn't a honky-tonk boardwalk. It's a boardwalk made for strolling and taking in the fresh air, unforgettable sky, and water that Cape Cod is known for. You'll have to bring your own funnel cakes! (sandwichmass.org)

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