Jersey Shore Boardwalks and Amusement Parks for Family Fun

A trip to the boardwalk isn't complete without a Kohr's frozen custard. Photo by Kevin Jarrett via Flickr
A trip to the boardwalk isn't complete without a Kohr's frozen custard. Photo by Kevin Jarrett via Flickr

Everyone loves a good trip to one of our favorite Jersey Shore beaches, but Jersey Shore boardwalks are where the real memories are made. Whether you make it a day trip or have weekend or week-long plans for a summer vacation, one thing you most definitely don't want to miss is time on the boardwalk.

From frozen custard and funnel cakes to rides and mini golf—and a few that feature water parks and toddler amusements—a boardwalk ups the ante on your usual trip to the beach. Boardwalks and the Jersey Shore go hand-in-hand, but if you are making only one trip this year, make sure it's to one of the best! Read on for our top picks for boardwalk fun and bookmark our Guide to the Jersey Shore for more help in planning your best visit yet.

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1. Atlantic City

Of course, much of the entertainment here stems from the casinos, but really, this boardwalk is for the water adventurer. Get surfboards, paddleboards, or windsurf instruction and equipment from boardwalk vendors. There's even a lighthouse to explore, the tallest one in New Jersey. Bring the kids to Steel Pier, a tightly packed pier loaded with rides and other amusements. AC boardwalk shopping is probably the best on the list, and of course, has easy access to the nearby outlets. Nab the boardwalk tram, or perhaps an iconic rolling chair, to navigate the length of the shore. Bonus: It's home to a FREE beach. Read about our trip to AC here.

2. Keansburg Amusement Park and Boardwalk

This lesser-known spot is full of family fun and amusements. You'll find the Runaway Rapids water park, games, and kiddie rides, plus all the classic food and treats, making this a great family-getaway boardwalk. What's unique about the water park is you can purchase a 3-hour ticket just for the water park, which is cost-effective for a morning or afternoon visit. But if you want to spend the whole day at Keansburg, a combination pass includes three hours at Runaway Rapids plus unlimited amusement park rides. Bonus: Another rare FREE beach.

Ocean City Boardwalk
Families can enjoy a surrey bike ride on the Ocean City boardwalk. Photo by Ocean City Summer Project via Flickr.

3. Ocean City

Boasting a 2.5-mile boardwalk, Ocean City is one of the most family-friendly beach boardwalks. Rent a bike and pedal safely in the bike lanes, enjoy a round of mini-golf, or take a break from the sun in the arcade or cool off in the OC Waterpark. Enjoy tasty treats like saltwater taffy and ice cream, or grab a real meal from Ike's Famous Crabcakes. Forgot to pack beach toys? There is also plenty of shopping along this boardwalk. Playland's Castaway Cove offers more than 32 rides, including roller coasters, but also several more mild ones for younger siblings. Further up the boardwalk, you'll find Gillian's Wonderland Pier with another 30 so rides, from log flume and high-flying swings to mini kiddie rides indoors. You can buy ride tickets and credits online for both parks, allowing you to skip the line and have more time for fun.

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Seaside Heights Boardwalk
Beach, boardwalk, and rides make a perfect vacation combination in Seaside Heights. Photo courtesy of Seaside Heights Boardwalk

4. Seaside Heights

This boardwalk has reasserted itself as a top entertainment zone after rebuilding from the destruction of 2012's Superstorm Sandy and a boardwalk fire nearly 10 years ago. Casino Pier offers updated classic rides, like bumper cars and Disk'o, as well as a massive Ferris wheel and the Hydrus roller coaster. Its Breakwater Beach Waterpark offers plenty of twisty slides, a lazy river, and some smaller thrills for little kids, including several family-friendly attractions such as flying elephants, crazy cabs, and a mermaid parade. Pre-purchase a SURF Card online, so you can simply swipe and go. The rechargeable card works at both Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach. There is plenty of pirating fun for the younger kids and games of chance for all ages. Thrill-seekers love the SkyCoaster, while a leisurely Sky Ride on the chair-lift-like ride that gently coasts above the beach is a must-do at least once for all. And like every great boardwalk, there's plenty to eat, tasty treats, and souvenirs.

RELATED: 70 Things To Do With Kids at the Jersey Shore

Wildwoods boardwalk
With so many rides and games, it's hard to decide what to do first at Wildwood Boardwalk. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

5. Wildwoods

This 38-block long boardwalk has it all. Water parks, great food, live entertainment, and several piers, including the popular Morey's Piers and not one, but two, water parks—Raging Waters Water Park and Ocean Oasis Water Park + Beach Club, that feature more than 100 rides and attractions—no wonder it's ranked as one of the best. Buy your tickets and passes online to save up to 40%. Coaster-loving families love the Runaway Tram designed to replicate the boardwalk's iconic Sightseer Tramcar, which is still in service after more than 70 years. Kids love to ride the little yellow boardwalk tram to transport you from one end to the other. Family festivities also feature an overnight Fall Beach Jam for those who like sleeping outdoors. Daily events include parades and crafts for kids. Try the Splash Zone Waterpark too! Bonus: The beach here is FREE, unlike most Shore towns that charge a fee to access the shore in the high season.

RELATED: Best Jersey Shore Beaches for Families: Sandy Hook to Cape May

Point Pleasant boardwalk
Hop on a ride at the popular Point Pleasant boardwalk. Photo by Margaret Hargrove

6. Jenkinson's Boardwalk and Aquarium in Point Pleasant

A highlight of this classic boardwalk is the aquarium, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The aquarium is home to some great sea life, including seals, sharks, and penguins (touch experiences are currently closed). Every Thursday, the boardwalk hosts a fireworks display, as well as movies on the beach Tuesdays at dark. Plus, there are tons of rides that are great for kids of all ages. An entire section of the amusement park is devoted to kiddie rides just right for toddlers and preschoolers. Don't miss the ropes course, plus the mini-golf courses, a funhouse, arcades, and 7D dark ride.

RELATED: Great Amusement Parks in New Jersey for Preschoolers and Toddlers

The splash pad on the boardwalk makes the Asbury Park boardwalk one of our favorites! Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

7. Asbury Park Boardwalk

Fantastic food, eclectic boutiques, and family fun can all be found at Asbury Park. The historic beachfront promenade is also splashed with Instagram-worthy murals ready for your family photos. Not to mention, this is the place that launched Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, so there's plenty of live music and concert series. The boardwalk offers many tasty food options, from beachside basics to more creative confections, such as the insane milkshakes at Coney Waffle. Asbury Park also boasts an impressive boardwalk splash pad for the kids—as of publishing, organizers were hoping for a July opening. There are mini ride-on cars and animals right on the boardwalk for tots, but you won't find big amusement park rides here. The vibe is more throwback and hipster cool.

This article was first published in July 2016 and has since been updated.

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