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Nothing beats the seaside during summer days, except for perhaps the seaside during summer nights: the sound of skee ball machines, the aroma of funnel cake and the rush of rickety roller coasters. So, step off the grainy sand of the beach and onto the wooden planks of these five renowned boardwalks.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California
The closet international airport is in San Jose. Bus and shuttle services connect the airport with Santa Cruz, home to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has been praised as the best seaside amusement park in the world. Its many attractions -- from thrill rides to laser tag -- will keep you entertained all day. The must-ride attraction is the historic wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster from the 1920s, the fifth oldest coaster in the Untied States.
Ocean City Boardwalk, Maryland
Only a thirty minute drive along Route 50 from the Salisbury-Ocean City Regional Airport, Ocean City packs all the fun of the traditional boardwalk experience onto its three-mile promenade. Arabella Bowen, executive editorial director of Fodor's Travel, says the boardwalk has "nothing but sand and sea on one side, and everything else--hotels and eateries and shops--crowding every available square inch on the other."
The boardwalk boasts the Jolly Roger Amusement Park, Fun City Arcade and Ocean City Pier Rides. Thrasher's french fries covered in vinegar are an Ocean City staple. But don't forget to save room for Maryland's famous crab cakes.
Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach, California
Follow the 405 Freeway to Venice Boulevard. If you come to the Ocean Front Walk, you will encounter artists, bodybuilders and fortune-tellers -- maybe even a famous actor or two.
According to Travelzoo's senior editor Gabe Saglie, the boardwalk is extremely easy to access and perhaps the most eclectic beach destination in Los Angeles. The boardwalk has been home to creative types for decades. Known as a gathering-point for bohemians in the 1950s and 1960s, Venice Beach's famous boardwalk attracted hordes of Beat Generation poets. Shortly after, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek met here to form The Doors.
Today, this Los Angeles boardwalk still bustles with musicians, jugglers and other entertainers of all kinds. "The happening boardwalk scene along Los Angeles' Venice Beach is really its own particular cosmos," Bowen explained.
Coney Island Boardwalk, Brooklyn, New York
Before Walt Disney World, there was Coney Island, located in the southernmost part of Brooklyn and can be accessed via subway (D, Q N or F train to Stillwell Avenue) or bus from Manhattan. Although it no longer holds the mantel as the United States' most visited family-fun destination, its boardwalk has left an indelible mark on the history of American leisure.
Officially named Riegelmann Boardwalk, this New York hotspot offers Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, the Wonder Wheel Park, the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Museum. Luna Park, which opened in 2010, was the largest amusement investment that Coney Island experienced in decades.
You could once go on the borough's famous Parachute Jump, but the ride is now defunct and looms high above Coney Island. It currently serves as a symbol of the boardwalk, rather than an attraction itself. You can order a hotdog at the original Nathan's Famous or watch Brooklyn's minor league baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, at MCU Park (formerly KeySpan Park).
Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey
Philadelphia International Airport is only an hour-long drive from Atlantic City. Opened on June 26, 1870, the Atlantic City Boardwalk was the first of its kind, changing the American seaside experience forever. The wooden planks were initially placed to help prevent beach-goers from tracking sand into hotels and trains. Now, they are iconic, an enduring symbol that's been recreated all over the country. HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" has revitalized nationwide interest in the cultural development of this New Jersey landmark.
At four miles in length, the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the spiritual forefather to all others, is the world's largest. Along the boardwalk, you can indulge at a variety of shops, beach bars and casinos. Garden Pier is the cultural and artistic center of the city. It boasts the Atlantic City Art Center and the Atlantic City historical museum, where you can learn about the boardwalk's historic evolution and how it paved the way for the others on this list.