What’s better than a roller coaster ride or boardwalk bites like hot dogs, soft-serve ice cream, and saltwater taffy? Enjoying them by the beach. Meet the 10 best amusement parks by the sea.
By Steve Millburg, David R. Hanson, and Jacquelyne Froeber
1 of 10Photo: Courtesy of Family Kingdom Amusement Park
Family Kingdom Amusement Park
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Retro attractions plus the latest theme park trends makes Family Kingdom Amusement Park, located right on the Atlantic ocean, a scenic and fun-filled adventure. The park is home to the 1963 Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster, the only of its kind in South Carolina, as well as an adjacent beachfront water park. With 37 rides, 500 feet of beach frontage, and 13 total acres, this thrill ride mecca is a Myrtle Beach classic; 843-626-3447
2 of 10Photo: Courtesy of Morey’s Piers
Wildwood, New Jersey Morey's Piers contains so many rides it takes three piers to hold them all. They vary from mild to wild, and include coasters with multiple inversions that give riders a unique view of the Jersey shoreline. During summer months, the piers are open until midnight; 609-522-3900
3 of 10Photo: Courtesy of Playland
Rye, New York Playland really does take you back to another era—specifically 1928. That's the year the park opened. Amazingly, much of it survives virtually unchanged. The Art Deco architecture, the beach and fishing pier, and the sheltering shade trees make this a special experience. Seven original rides remain from that first season, including the Dragon Coaster (you plunge into a dragon's mouth), as well as a considerably more sedate carousel; 914-813-7010
4 of 10Photo: Buyenlarge/Contributor/Getty
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz, California The park is built along a concrete boardwalk and a wide Monterey Bay beach full of volleyball players, sunbathers, surfers, and other fanciers of sand. There's a good selection of rides, including a 1911 carousel and the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster. Teens will delight in approximately a billion video games, plus minigolf and Laser Tag. Just down the beach, the Santa Cruz Wharf, a pier teeming with seafood restaurants, juts a half-mile into the bay; 831-423-5590
5 of 10Photo: Courtesy of Six Flags
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Just a few miles off San Pablo Bay, this park offers both aquatic entertainment and white-knuckle excitement. For the family, you can choose from a variety of shows starring tigers, elephants, dolphins, or sea lion.
6 of 10Photo: Bloomberg/Contributor/Getty
Santa Monica Pier, California
If you're on the other side of the States, the only place for pier fun is Pacific Park. The roller coaster and Ferris wheel offer spectacular views of Santa Monica Bay, especially at sunset. Smaller than the Southern California mega amusement parks, this vintage park is geared more for families than thrill-seekers; 310-260-8744
7 of 10Photo: Ali Majdfar/Contributor/Getty
Ready for a 75-mph ride? In its 133-year history as a place for fun, Cedar Point has become famous for two things: its scenic location on a Lake Erie peninsula and its roller coasters. The park runs 16 coasters, the largest collection in the world. The newest, Valravn, is also the world's tallest. Riders go up 223 feet and are held over an edge for four seconds before plummeting 214 feet at a 90 degree angle; 419-627-2350
8 of 10Photo: Robin Cerutti Photography/Getty Images
Hampton Beach Casino
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Since 1899, the two-story Hampton Beach Casino has been the epicenter of fun, with classic games like skee ball and miniature golf and shopping for old-fashioned sugar mints at Sanborn’s Fine Candies
9 of 10Photo: The Washington Post/Contributor/Getty Images
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Since 1962, Funland has been the go-to spot for twinkling carousel rides, bumper cars and rousing renditions of ring toss and beach-ball blast.
10 of 10Photo: Rachel Lewis/Getty Images
New York, New York
While many think of Coney Island as an amusement park unto itself, it's actually an entire destination comprised of amusement areas like Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel along with shops, businesses, and other organizations. But you have not lived until you've eaten a Nathan's Famous hot dog, taken a ride on the Wonder Wheel, and watched this iconic shoreline capital of summer playtime light up in neon as the sun goes down.