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.

Navy Pier – Chicago, Il

Navy Pier, celebrating 100 years in 2016, proves it’s possible to have a boardwalk experience without an actual ocean. The new stretch (the South Dock Transformation) of open space along Lake Michigan, offering breathtaking views of Chicago, is pretty awesome, and other updates, like the Centennial wheel, and new hotspot Polk Bros Fountain and Plaza, mixed in with the classic attractions means there will be plenty to keep visitors busy this summer. If you’re still craving the sandy beach experience, nearby Ohio Street Beach will satisfy!

Where to eat: Foodies can rejoice; the new dining experience at Navy Pier includes yummy bites from eateries such as Goddess and the Baker, and DMK Burger and Fish Bar, and Chicago institution Rainbow Cone, has opened a new shop (it’s second location since 1926!) near Riva Restaurant on the pier.

Good to know: Navy Pier has made transportation improvements, too: dedicated Uber and Lyft locations, new bike share and parking options, pedestrian pathway improvements, and more.


photo: Mark Chandler via flickr

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

—Gabby Cullen