Boardwalk (Photo on Unsplash by Chris Hardy)

Embarking on a nostalgic journey of entertainment and relaxation, the United States boasts an array of captivating boardwalks that encapsulate the essence of coastal charm. Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey stands as an iconic and historic destination, adorned with vibrant casinos and a lively atmosphere. The laid-back charm of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California captures the allure of vintage amusement parks with its classic rides and stunning ocean views, while the artistic vibes of Coney Island Boardwalk in New York offer a blend of eclectic entertainment and cultural diversity, inviting visitors to explore a rich tapestry of experiences along these beloved coastal walkways. The best boardwalks in the U.S. epitomize summer vibes, tasty food, and there is always something for everyone.

The first major wooden boardwalks popped up in the late 1800s as a means for people to enjoy views of the ocean without getting wet and dragging sand indoors. Some boardwalks have been around long enough to see trends change through the decades, while others have only recently enjoyed a Renaissance in the revamping of some dilapidated boardwalks, or simply building brand new ones, around the country.

These beach paths are staples of American culture and offer clusters of fried food, mile-high sundaes, and brightly colored graphic tees. Plus, you can usually find exceptional amusement park rides like Coney Island in New York or Adventure Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey. Regardless of where you go for beachside fun, you are likely to find plenty of boardwalks scattered throughout the country to invoke nostalgic memories of the hot, sticky summer days of childhood.

The abundance of great seaside walkways makes choosing the top five boardwalks in the country a tricky task. That’s why StudyFinds consulted 10 expert websites to draft this list of the best boardwalks in the U.S. to visit this summer. Have you been to one? Let us know in the comments below or tell us if your favorite is missing from this list. 

The List: Best Boardwalks in the U.S., According to Experts

1. Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey

Not only is Atlantic City’s boardwalk the nation’s longest, it is also the oldest in the country, dating back to 1870. The 1,000-foot Steel Pier amusement park is a fun time, offering casinos, restaurants, and sweets shops. “This waterfront city may be known for its casinos, but its historic boardwalk is no gamble if you’re looking for a great time,” gushes CNN. “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.”

Ferris Wheel at daytime
Atlantic City Boardwalk (Photo on Unsplash by Kevin Jarrett)

“For pure history, Atlantic City is a must for all boardwalk lovers and an East Coast vacation you need to take at least once. It sports the longest boardwalk in the world, at 5.5 miles, and also the oldest, first offering visitors the chance to stroll the sand-free walkway in 1870,” writes Reader’s Digest. “It was here that Miss America was first crowned, where diving horses thrilled the crowd, and where thrills of other kinds later followed with legalized gambling and family-friendly adrenaline rides.”

“At more than 5 miles in length, New Jersey’s Atlantic City boardwalk is the longest in the country,” states Far & Wide. “The boardwalk — which starts at Absecon Lighthouse and passes through Ventnor City to Margate City — moves you beyond the city’s iconic casinos to charming beach houses overlooking a sand-strewn path that’s perfect for biking.”

2. Ocean City Boardwalk, Maryland

The Ocean City Boardwalk was originally built as a removable wooden walkway in 1902 until a permanent five-block path was built in 1910, though it was destroyed by a storm in 1962. The rebuilt boardwalk offers a lively scene with amusement park rides and iconic summertime treats like Maryland crab cakes and homemade saltwater taffy.

Ocean City Boardwalk
Ocean City Boardwalk (Photo by Kat Keeling on Unsplash)

“This three-mile promenade draws crowds for many of the historic attractions like Thrasher’s French fries, which still serves signature vinegar fries first created in 1929, and antique rides like the Herschel-Spellman carousel, which was built in 1902,” says Conde Nast Traveler. “There’s also the Life-Saving Station Museum that takes visitors through the history of shipwrecks and the rescue teams that came to their aid.”

“From amusement rides, including a Ferris Wheel, rollercoaster, and Trimper’s Carousel from 1912, to arcades filled with games to food like Maryland crab cakes, boardwalk fries, and funnel cakes, this oceanfront boardwalk is fun from end to end,” states TimeOut.

“The classic Ocean City Boardwalk spans three miles offering amusements, games, and rides,” writes Fodor’s Travels. “Plus, visitors can encounter live music and street performers on any given day. Enjoy the scenic sights from the top of the Ferris wheel, or squeal with excitement on the roller coaster. Slow down and hop back in time on the carousel, which dates back to 1902, and was installed in 1912—it’s the country’s oldest continuously operating carousel with two tiers of elaborately carved and painted animals.”

3. Virginia Beach Boardwalk, Virginia

That this oceanfront boardwalk has been rebuilt several times proves its staying power as one of the best boardwalks in the USA. There are even separate paths for walkers and bikers, which keeps run-ins to a minimum.

Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach (Photo by Marshall Williams on Unsplash)

It tops Family Vacation Critic’s list of the best boardwalks in America, as it writes that it “evokes a nautical theme with an Old Coast Guard Station, the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and sea-centric sculptures such as the 34-foot statue of King Neptune.”

“For biking and jogging, this paved boardwalk’s three-mile thoroughfare is hard to beat,” writes Smarter Travel

Originally built in 1888, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk has been rebuilt several times, evolving from a five-block wooden walkway to a 28 ft-wide, three-mile-long concrete boardwalk extending from 2nd Street to 40th Street,” writes TimeOut. “The lively boardwalk includes four oceanfront stages, a massive 24 ft-tall bronze statue of King Neptune, and dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops.”

4. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California

The iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers tons of fun: arcades, street food, mini golf, laser tag, and more. “You can check out the nearby Municipal Wharf, which is home to restaurants, local shops, and places to go fishing.

a santa cruz beach sign in front of a roller coaster
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (Photo on Unsplash by Levi Meir Clancy)

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,” writes CNN. “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.”

“Some call it the Coney Island of the West, and that’s an apt comparison — if Coney Island had palm trees, balmy breezes and a setting on Monterey Bay,” says Travel Channel. “The half-mile-long Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk dates to 1907; its 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster and 1911 Looff Carousel are National Historic Landmarks. More modern attractions include mini-golf, laser tag, pinball and bowling, as well as plenty of eateries and, of course, the beach.”

“This famous California boardwalk promises chills and thrills on some 40 rides — more than any other boardwalk in America,” writes Far & Wide. “At this beachside attraction, you can go cliff soaring over the sand on the Cliff Hanger, take in views of the Pacific Ocean before dipping 125 feet on the Double Shot, experience G-forces on the Fireball, and find yourself upside down over the boardwalk on the Rock-O-Plane. Two of the oldest rides in the country can also be found here: the Giant Dipper and the Loof Carousel, both of which are National Historic Landmarks. The Giant Dipper, which has been seen in movies such as ‘The Lost Boys,’ is a towering red and white roller coaster that has been making visitors scream since it opened in 1924. The circa-1911 carousel features three antique organs, as well as real horse hair in the carousel horses’ tails.”

5. Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade, South Carolina

Often referred to as “America’s Boardwalk,” this beachside walkway is just over a mile long. With various shops, restaurants, and activities –  like the 187-foot-tall Myrtle Beach SkyWheel – along the path, it’s a good time for the whole family.

“Though it’s one of the newer boardwalks in the country, built in 2010, it has quickly become a staple on the eastern seaboard,” writes Conde Nast Traveler. “The 1.2-mile walkway is filled with everything you’d find on the historic ones—shops, rides, jugglers, and restaurants—with a bit more of a modern edge. Think Art Burger Sushi Bar over Nathan’s hot dogs.”

“This 1.2-mile-long stretch of promenade in the heart of the Grand Strand leads visitors through the sand from 14th Avenue to the 2nd Avenue Piers in Myrtle Beach,” writes Fodor’s Travels. “It’s home to a number of festivals and events throughout the summer and is a favorite destination for visitors of any age.”

“This boardwalk was launched in the summer of 2010, breathing new life into the Grand Strand beachfront,” says Trips to Discover. “It stretches for over a mile and features a carnival-like atmosphere with souvenir shops, arcades, and rides. … The walkway has become the town’s hub of activity, hosting live entertainment on summer nights, like bagpipers, stilt walkers, and jugglers, as well as a weekly fireworks display.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Melissa Sherrard

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. David Allen says:

    You Blew It! Mission Beach in San Diego is the best boardwalk in the country!! Maryland??? New Jersey??? Ha ha!!

    1. Terri Santiago says:

      I agree and I live in Southern Maryland.
      San Diego is wonderful.

  2. Ed says:

    Atlantic city is maybe the worst boardwalk in NJ.

  3. Em Elbee says:

    Atlantic City is a dump. Steel pier is closed.

  4. Lee says:

    You forgot to mention that in Atlantic City you take your life in your hands when you go outside at night in Atlantic City. Awful town. Disgustingly dirty. Homeless everywhere. Basically New Jersey sucks. Best beach and boardwalk are in wildwood.

  5. Robert says:

    Myrtle Beach nowadays is infested with drug addicts, thieves and streetwalkers. Secure anything of value you may have.

    1. Gary L Sharp says:

      Virginia Beach board walk I agree with. It is one of the best board walks in how it is laid out or designed. Also Police watch everything. At Christmas time they turn the board walk into a long Christmas light show you drive your car on even with Santa on a surf board and more

  6. KN says:

    The Rockaway Beach bisrdwalk at 5 .5 miles long—rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy is the BEST!!