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Beach

Who Doesn’t Love a Boardwalk?

Amusement rides, arcades, funnel cakes, saltwater taffy and frozen custard. Boardwalks are about as American as apple pie. Andrew Skwarek rounds up the 7 best⎯get there before summer’s over

1. Coney Island, Brooklyn
New York’s iconic Coney Island boardwalk has been attracting locals and tourists for nearly 100 years, but this year the landmark welcomed the addition of Smorgasburg, which includes 12 vendors and a bar, as well as art walls curated by Jeffrey Deitch. Bite into a fresh roll at the Red Hook Lobster Pound stall or beeline it to Blue Marble for ice cream, but if it’s a killer dog you’re after, don’t miss Nathan’s Famous. Up for a thrill? Ride the legendary (and perhaps a little rickety) Cyclone roller coaster, which was built in 1927, or hop on the Wonder Wheel for a great bird’s-eye view.

2. Wildwood, New Jersey
In southern New Jersey, Wildwood’s boardwalk spans some 38 blocks and is jam-packed with bicycles, live music performances, stores and more than 100 rides. Cool off at the Raging Waters water park or go for a spin on the Wave Swinger at Mariner’s Pier. When hunger strikes, make your way to Alumni Grill for Wildwood classics like dodge balls (garlic mashed potatoes battered and deep fried with a side of honey jalapeño sauce). For dessert, get your sugar fix at Douglass Fudge.

3. Santa Cruz, California
Just 75 miles south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz’s boardwalk doesn’t disappoint. Take in Pacific Ocean views while riding the Giant Dipper roller coaster, spend a few hours at the Casino Arcade or challenge the family to a game of mini-golf at Buccaneer Bay. If you’re looking for some diet-buster eats, you’re in luck. Try a deep-fried Twinkie or Oreo, or visit Santa Cruz’s candy store, Marini’s at the Beach, for tasty treats like saltwater taffy and chocolate-covered bacon.

4. Venice Beach, California
Although recently dubbed Silicon Beach thanks to the arrival of tech giants like Facebook and YouTube, the Venice Beach boardwalk is still a people-watching utopia and home to L.A.’s wackier characters. Watch body builders pump iron at Muscle Beach, catch the Freakshow (yes, this is really a thing), or check out the boarders at the skate park. A couple blocks from the boardwalk Gjelina’s serves a standout brunch. Fuel up on Ricotta pancakes or baked eggs, then rent a bike and head north to the Santa Monica Pier for the carnival rides.

5. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
At one mile long, the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk might not be the country’s longest, but it’s one of the oldest, dating back to 1873. Spend the afternoon at Funland (a small amusement park) or the arcade, and don’t miss a trip to Dolle’s, a Rehoboth Beach institution that’s been turning out housemade fudge, caramels and saltwater taffy for more than a century. End the evening watching the sunset while listening to free live entertainment (more than 50 acts play each summer) on the Rehoboth Beach bandstand.

6. Ocean City, Maryland
Dating back to 1902, this colorful boardwalk was renovated in 2012, but it still has the same fun attractions, including Trimper’s Rides and the Jolly Roger amusement park. Bike the three-mile promenade and stop at cult favorite Thrashers Fries before continuing on to Fisher’s Popcorn and Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard. If it’s suds you’re after, the boardwalk is home to Ocean City’s first brewery, Backshore.

7. Atlantic City, New Jersey
In 1870 Atlantic City became the home of America’s first boardwalk, but it’s since grown into the gambling capital of the East Coast. The four-mile wooden walkway is lined with restaurants, bars, amusement piers and shops specializing in everything from high-end jewelry to iconic beach sweets. Play a round of mini-golf, relive childhood memories on amusement rides at Steel Pier, or flex that plastic at the Pier Shops at Caesars, full of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci.