From the thrilling rides and the laughter at the midway to the soft serve ice cream, corn dogs, and saltwater taffy, there’s a reason why families flock to beaches boasting wooden planks and non-stop excitement, year after year. Take a stroll through the gallery below to discover our picks for best boardwalks to visit with kids of any age.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – Santa Cruz, Ca

The west coast’s last original beach boardwalk opened in 1907, and boasts not one, but two National Historic Landmarks: the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and the Looff Carousel. The mile-long, classic California attraction manages to mix modern and vintage for the perfect boardwalk experience, from the old-school sky gliders offering riders a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to classic midway games, and wild rides such as the Cliffhanger, and the Hurricane. Families can also relax on the sandy beach, or stroll down to Steamer Lane, a world-class surfing spot.

Where to eat: A must-do for visitors is grabbing sweet treats from Santa Cruz institution Marini’s Candies.

Good to know: The boardwalk has several eco-friendly practices in place: no styrofoam, solar-powered trash compactors, oil recycling, and more.

Online: beachboardwalk.com

photo: courtesy Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

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Which boardwalk is your favorite? Share with us in a Comment below. 

—Gabby Cullen