Fresh seafood, kitschy shops, and deep-fried Oreos are just a few of the things you'll find along the boardwalks that hug America's shorelines, but they're not all carbon copies. Some boardwalks are quirky, some family-friendly, while others are geared toward thrill-seekers. No matter what, the best boardwalks offer unforgettable experiences on the waterfront, with great entertainment, food, and aquatic life. From Chicago to Texas, from Los Angeles to New York, these are America's best boardwalks.
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Atlantic City Boardwalk
Where: New Jersey
As the oldest in the nation (established in 1870), Atlantic City's five-and-a-half-mile boardwalk is an American icon. Having undergone a complete restoration after Hurricane Sandy, this boardwalk has been restored to its former glory. From dollar pizza to some of the finest caviar in the world, you can find something for all tastes here. Begin at the towering Revel Resort and head west; you won't miss the protruding Steel Pier amusement park, complete with helicopter rides and a Wild Mouse roller coaster.
Insider Tip: Check out Lucy the Elephant, a national landmark oddity that stands as a six-story wooden wonder. Guided tours take you in and around the structure to explore the history of this Atlantic City staple.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Atlantic City Guide
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Coney Island Boardwalk
Three miles of sandy beaches line the south Brooklyn neighborhood that practically invented the hot dog. Soak up the quirky vibe of old-world fringe as you grab some freshly spun cotton candy for your walk down the main strip. The Cyclone, built in 1927, remains a time-tested, hair-raising roller coaster that helped put Coney Island on the map. Indulge with a Nathan's Famous hot dog at the birthplace of the chain before heading over to the popular California Sea Lion show at the New York Aquarium. Easily accessible by public transit, the family-friendly boardwalk at Coney Island is a great way to spend a day at the beach.
Insider Tip: Every Monday in July and August, a 40-foot inflatable movie screen hosts the Coney Island Flicks on the Beach free screenings. This summer's movies include The Lego Movie, American Hustle, and Iron Man 3.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Coney Island Guide
Photo Credit: Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock
Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Virginia is for lovers-of the sun. The boardwalk at Virginia Beach is a popular three-mile stretch of quaint restaurants and beach-life staples running alongside to the world's longest recreational beach. A towering statue of King Neptune presides over the bustling walkway, making for a perfect photo-op. People watch from the comfort of one of the many rocking chairs available along the boardwalk before renting a surrey or a bike for a relaxing seaside ride. Be sure to check out the Virginia Legends Walk, honoring famous Virginians including James Madison, Edgar Allen Poe, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Insider Tip: Beach Street USA, the organization that oversees entertainment and festivals for Virginia Beach, brings the best music and activities to the Boardwalk each summer. Plan ahead to catch one of their many fireworks shows.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Virginia Beach Guide