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Great family summer trips: On the boardwalk

From gorging on hot dogs at Coney Island to listening to music in Ocean City, Maryland, there's no shortage of fun for everyone. Find out where you and your family can walk the planks together.
/ Source: TODAY

Summer and boardwalks go hand in hand, and there’s no place more patriotic to celebrate the Fourth of July. From gorging on hot dogs at Coney Island to listening to the U.S. Army Band in concert in Ocean City, Maryland, there is no shortage of fun for the whole family. With traditional roller coasters and carousels as well as arcades, you can relive your own childhood memories or make some for your own kids when you walk the planks together.

Travel journalist Valarie D'Elia of takes us on a quick tour of four of the country's most beloved boardwalks:

Atlantic CityThe Atlantic City Boardwalk is the famed promenade dating back to 1870. It is the cherished blue property of Monopoly, the most popular board game in the world. Surprisingly, the most famous walkway on the East Coast was not built to be anything more than a solution to keeping the sand out of the ritzy beachfront hotels and the Camden and Atlantic’s railroad passenger cars.

Today, a rolling chair ride on the Boardwalk is an Atlantic City tradition.The oldest boardwalk in the U.S. is undergoing a startling renaissance and you can bet that you don’t have to be a gambler to enjoy it.  Multi-million-dollar hotel and residential expansions, celebrity chefs as well as dozens of upscale retail shops are transforming the once tacky Boardwalk into Vegas-style glitz.For those who want something in return for their money, head to the Pier Shops at Caesars, the site of the old Million Dollar Pier, which will provide you with a million-dollar wardrobe at a selection of 90 retail shops ithat includes A/X Armani Exchange, Bebe, Burberry, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Bahama’s Vilebrequin, and Tiffany & Co. The $175 million development also houses premier restaurants such as Buddakan, Trinity Irish Pub, Game On!, Phillips Seafood Restaurant, Sonsie, Souzai Sushi and Sake, and The Continental.

For a break on those same designer names, a development of outlets known as The Walk is located on Michigan Avenue off of the boardwalk. Restaurants feature expansive beach, Boardwalk and ocean views. Not to miss is the hourly Water Show that is free to the public.

The Marina district is seeing its share of skyline-changing construction as well. What will be the tallest hotel tower in the city is being built at Harrah’s. It’s part of a $550 million expansion that includes a Red Door spa with 24 treatment rooms, the 650-seat Waterfront Buffet and a huge indoor pool featuring a 90-foot-high glass dome over a 23,000-square-foot pool and tropical oasis with seven cabanas and a pool bar.

Atlantic City Boardwalk4 Miles LongTake Morning Bike Rides For FreeFree Jazz Concerts on Thursday NightsFamous For Salt Water Taffywww.atlanticcitynj.com

Coney Island
The rumors are swirling around like cotton candy on Coney Island that this is the last season for the Astroland Amusement park.The 80-year-old Cyclone will continue its rickety ride, even though the rest of Astroland Park will reportedly be disbanded to make way for construction on a controversial $2 billion Vegas-style amusement park to debut in 2011.The Wonder Wheel should also continue its rotation even as the revolution of progress and skyrocketing real estate values transform Coney Island. Coney Island is a New York City neighborhood in Brooklyn that features an amusement area that includes 35 or more separate rides and attractions; it's not a centrally managed amusement park like Disneyland or Six Flags.Coney Island is a seasonal center operating roughly between Easter and Labor Day. Rides and attractions are open all week long from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and then weekends from Labor Day until the end of September.

The beach and boardwalk are open all year round (although lifeguards are only on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day) and Nathan's Hot Dogs and the New York Aquarium are open almost every day of the year. The Coney Island Museum is also open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. all year round.

Coney Island2.5 Miles LongFree Friday Night FireworksFamous For Nathan's Famous July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest www.coneyisland.com

Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City is the picture-perfect boardwalk. From the tiny train that chugs along the three-mile promenade to the antique carousel that dates back to 1902, Ocean City has kept its sense of a bygone era while keeping its attractions fresh.The Boardwalk’s turn-of-the-century charm starts with the traditional wood walkway. An early-morning bicycle ride along the Boardwalk is a great way to begin every day in Ocean City. Numerous bicycle rental shops are conveniently located to get you on your way.From its early days the Boardwalk has always been a star attraction in the resort. Starting as boards laid in the sand and picked up each evening, it was later built as a permanent structure and now stretches three miles along the coast. Visitors entering Ocean City via the Route 50 bridge will see the beautiful Boardwalk archway on North Division Street, which serves as a welcome sign as they cross over the bay onto this special island.

A visit to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum at the very southern end of the Boardwalk is a great way to learn about the history of the town. Then take a seat on a bench overlooking the Inlet and watch the boats come and go. Eastern Shore seafood including crab cakes, Maryland fried chicken, pit beef barbecue, sizzling cheeseburgers, freshly baked pizzas and famous french fries are just a few of the menu offerings available along the Boardwalk.Visitors to the Boardwalk can take in all the sights and sounds by hopping aboard one of the Boardwalk trams, which operate from the Inlet to 27th St., a distance of almost three miles along the scenic Boardwalk.Trams begin operation at 10 a.m. and end at midnight seven days a week during the summer season.

The Fourth of July will be filled with family fun in Ocean City, Maryland, with two great ways to celebrate this special day. Jamboree in the Park offers action-packed activities the whole family will enjoy.  Beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing on until the evening’s fireworks display, an exciting slate of activities, including arts and crafts, children’s games, live music and picnic food are offered at Northside Park, located at 127th St. and the bay.

Jamboree also offers a battery of old-fashioned picnic favorites, including tug-of-war, sack races, three-legged races, intermixed with a challenging soccer shoot-out. The best thing about all the children’s activities is they’re free.

Those who prefer to spend the Fourth of July on the south end of town can enjoy Ocean City’s famous Boardwalk with its bright lights, wonderful food and family fun.

Bring your beach chair or blanket and claim a spot on the beach at North Division St. for a patriotic concert featuring the United States Army Band and Chorus at 8 p.m. Fireworks will fill the sky over the ocean beginning at 9:30 p.m.

Ocean City, Maryland3 Miles LongFree Wednesday Evening ConcertsFree Thursday Night BonfiresFamous For Thrasher's French Frieswww.ococean.com

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is located on a scenic mile-long beach bordering the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on California’s central coast, 40 miles north of Monterey, 35 miles from San Jose, and 70 miles south of San Francisco.

Conceived 100 years ago as a West coast version of Coney Island, this year it celebrates its centennial with  “100 Years and Millions of Memories.” Special events include free performances by the acrobats, contortionists, clowns, and jugglers of the Moscow Circus; also look for a new book, historic walking tour and birthday fireworks.

The 100-year-old park features a variety of rides, including two National Historic Landmarks designated by the U.S. Park Service: a classic 1911 Looff carousel, complete with 73 hand-carved wooden horses and two chariots and one of the last working ring machines in the country.The popular Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster was built in 1924. The park also offers a variety of children’s rides, games, arcades, laser tag, restaurants, an indoor miniature golf course, bowling, and entertainment for the entire family.

Like all boardwalks, Santa Cruz has its share of dining options.  Thirty restaurants and fast-food outlets serve hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, gyro and deli sandwiches, wraps, seafood, chicken, and baked potatoes.  Dessert items include giant ice cream cones, funnel cakes, cotton candy, and Marini’s famous salt-water taffy. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, plus weekends and most holidays in fall and spring.

Santa Cruz, California1/2 Mile LongFree Friday Night Bands on the BeachFree Moscow Circus, Sunday through ThursdayFamous For Deep Fried Twinkieswww.beachboardwalk.com

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