Everyone loves a good trip to the beach, but Jersey Shore boardwalks, with carnival games, kids' rides, and even water parks, are where the real memories are made. Whether you make it a day trip or have weekend or week-long plans to visit the beach, one thing you most definitely don't want to miss is time on the boardwalk.
From ice cream 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!
Families enjoy a a surrey bike ride on the Ocean City boardwalk. Photo by Ocean City Summer Project via Flickr.
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 salt water 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 on the boardwalk offers more than two dozen 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.
Back and better than ever, this boardwalk is reasserting itself as a top entertainment zone after rebuilding from the destruction of Superstorm Sandy. Even some classic rides have been updated, like bumper cars and Disk'o—and 2017 brought the return of a massive Ferris wheel and a brand-new roller coaster, the Hydrus, at Casino Pier. Its Breakwater Beach Waterpark offers plenty of twisty slides, a lazy river, and some smaller thrills for little kids. There is plenty of pirating fun to be had for the younger kids, and games of chance for all ages. Thrill seekers will love the sky-coaster, 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, plenty to eat, tasty treats, and souvenirs.
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Rides light up at night on the Wildwood Boardwalk. Photo by Kevin Jarrett via Flickr.
This 38-block long boardwalk has it all. Water parks, great food, live entertainment, and several piers, including the popular Morey's Piers and Raging Waters Water Park, that feature more than 100 rides and attractions—no wonder it's ranked as one of the best. Kids will love to ride the little boardwalk tram to transport you from one end to the other. Family festivities also feature an overnight "bunk down" for those who likes 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.
Of course much of the entertainment here stems from the casinos, but really, this boardwalk is for the water adventurer. Get surf boards, paddle boards, or windsurf instruction and equipment from the boardwalk. There's even a lighthouse to explore. 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: Another FREE Jersey beach.
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One of the many popular rides on the Point Pleasant boardwalk. Photo by Jackie via Flickr.
Jenkinson's Boardwalk and Aquarium in Point Pleasant
A highlight of this classic boardwalk is the aquarium, which has some great sea life including seals, sharks, and penguins, as well as a touch tank filled with sting rays. Every Thursday the boardwalk hosts a fireworks display, and it regularly plays summertime family movies. 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. A new ropes course opened in 2016, too.
Keansburg Amusement Park and Boardwalk
This lesser-known spot is full of family fun and amusements. Featuring a water park, games and kiddie rides, and all the classic food and treats, this is a great family-getaway boardwalk. What's unique about this one is that you pay by the hour or for a full-day, so if it's just a morning trip you can make it more cost effective. Bonus: Another rare FREE beach.
Asbury Park Boardwalk
Another recently revitalized boardwalk, you'll find art, mini golf, and an arcade museum at Asbury Park. Not to mention, this is the place that launched "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, so there's still plenty of music and concert series. A new addition post-storm is a selection of food trucks that offer a variety of dining options for even the pickiest eaters. Asbury Park also offers an impressive boardwalk splash pad for the kids (and lounge chairs) for the grown-ups. 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 but was updated for 2018.
Top photo: Food and amusements on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Photo by Kevin Jarrett via Flickr.