Best Historic Seaside Amusement Parks

Summer travel is in full swing and amusement parks are often at the top of the list of things to see and do. On the other hand, prices have risen so much at theme parks, it prevents many families from visiting. What’s more, mega parks are selling food items for as much as $100 and …

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The historic Wonder Wheel Ferris Wheel in Coney Island

Summer travel is in full swing and amusement parks are often at the top of the list of things to see and do. On the other hand, prices have risen so much at theme parks, it prevents many families from visiting. What’s more, mega parks are selling food items for as much as $100 and park hotel rooms aren’t cheap either. Fortunately, there are classic seaside amusement parks that won’t break your budget, with free admission and low cost options for food and entertainment.

Here is a look at 10 of the best historic seaside amusement parks in America.

Belmont Park

3146 Mission Blvd.
San Diego, CA  92109
(858) 488-1549

Date Opened: July 4, 1925

Belmont Park is a welcome throwback to local attractions like Sea World and San Diego Zoo. Bordering Mission Beach, this classic seaside amusement park is refreshingly affordable, with free admission and parking. Of course, Belmont Park’s signature ride is the Giant Dipper, one of the park’s original attractions.  Likewise, visitors will enjoy several other rides and snack bars, along with the historic Plunge pool facility.

Daytona Beach Boardwalk

1200 Main St.
Daytona Beach, FL  32188
(386) 253-0254

Date Opened: 1938

The history of the Daytona Beach Boardwalk dates back to the 1920s and the pier is even older. However, it wasn’t until 1938 that amusement rides finally appeared at Daytona. Accordingly since then, the Boardwalk draws large crowds, to enjoy arcade games and amusement rides like its landmark Ferris wheel. If that’s not enough, the Daytona Beach Bandshell will host live entertainment all summer long.

The historic Wonder Wheel Ferris Wheel in Coney Island, at one of the best seaside amusement parks in America
Wonder Wheel (credit: Randy Yagi)

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

3059 W. 12th St.
Brooklyn, NY  11224
(718) 372-2592

Date Opened: Wonder Wheel 1920, Amusement Park 1950

Located at one of the leading east coast amusement parks, Wonder Wheel opened to enthusiastic crowds on Memorial Day 1920. But there’s so much to do at Deno’s to fill an entire summer day. For instance, there are arcade games, thrill rides and affordable snacks like Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. What’s more, there are firework shows every Friday night, accompanied by karaoke performances. Last but not least, is the dazzling new roller coaster, the Phoenix.

Related: Suggested Carousels To Ride On National Carousel Day

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier

600 Boardwalk
Ocean City, NJ  08226
(609) 399-7082

Date Opened: 1929

With views as far as Atlantic City from its Giant Wheel, Gillian’s has been entertaining generations of guests. Located along one of Jersey’s best beaches, Gillian’s offers several amusement rides, most notably a 1926 carousel and a monorail. That’s not to mention delicious pizza, chicken wings and more at 6th Street Pizza and Grill.

Related: What to Order In Atlantic City for National Cocktail Day

Keansburg Amusement Park

275 Beachway Ave.
Keansburg, NJ  07734
(732) 495-1400

Date Opened: June, 1903

One of America’s oldest, Keansburg Amusement Park predates its namesake borough. Like other Jersey Shore parks, Keansburg has undergone multiple changes over time. However, Keansburg Amusement Park is a Jersey Shore favorite, drawing crowds all summer. In fact, its sister property, Runaway Rapids Water Park can oftentimes be even busier.

The historic Cyclone wooden roller coaster on a cloud day in Coney Island, New York
The Cyclone (credit: Randy Yagi)

Luna Park

1000 Surf Ave.
Brooklyn, NY  11224
(718) 373-5862

Date Opened: Coney Island Cyclone, May 30, 1927, Luna Park May 29, 2010

Located on the former Astroland site, Luna Park is a more modern seaside amusement park. Furthermore, it has no connection to the original 1903 Luna Park. On the other hand, Luna Park features the world-renowned Coney Island Cyclone. Subsequently, Cyclone continues to captivate new generations of riders with its wild twists and turns. Besides this NYC icon, there is another vintage ride, a B&B Carousel completed in 1909.

Main entrance to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, arguably the world's best seaside amusement park
Santa Cruz Boardwalk Sign (credit: Randy Yagi)

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

400 Beach St.
Santa Cruz, CA  95060
(831) 423-5590

Date Opened: June 22, 1907

The admission-free Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is widely considered the world’s Best Seaside Park. Overlooking Monterey Bay, the Beach Boardwalk is renowned for its picturesque beach and rare historic attractions. This includes two National Historic Landmarks – the Giant Dipper roller coaster and Looff Carousel . Additional highlights are a miniature golf course inside the historic Plunge and Cocoanut Grove ballroom, dating back to 1907.

Related: Hotel Paradox – For Santa Cruz Lodging & Dining

Santa Monica Pier/Amusement Park

200 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA  90401
(310) 458-8901

Date Opened: Santa Monica Pier, September 9, 1909, Pacific Park, 1996

Santa Monica Pier did not have any attractions when it first opened to the public. In fact, it wasn’t until 1916 that the Looff Hippodrome and amusement park opened to the public. More than 100 years later, the Hippodrome continues to anchor the pier and Pacific Park.  The only West Coast amusement park on a pier features classic arcade and amusement rides like the West Coaster. However, the star attraction is the Pacific Wheel, the world’s only solar powered Ferris wheel..

Steel Pier Amusement Park

1000 Boardwalk
Atlantic City, NJ  08401
(866) 386-6659

Date Opened: June 18, 1898

The east coast and in particular the Jersey Shore, has the largest cluster of seaside amusement parks in America. However, the Steel Pier is by far, the oldest still in operation. Located along Atlantic City’s Boardwalk, Steel Pier once boasted theaters, ballrooms, arcades and world class entertainment. Today, the original structures are gone, notably the main building destroyed in a 1982 fire. In its place are popular arcade games, amusement rides and plenty of snack options.

Trimper’s Rides

South First St. & Boardwalk
Ocean City, MD  21842
(410) 289-8617

Date Opened: 1893

Trimper’s Rides is the world’s oldest family owned amusement park in continuous operation. With a prime spot on the southern end of the boardwalk, Trimper’s is acclaimed for its collection of rides, particularly its Herschell-Spillman Carousel. What’s more, there is plenty of delicious boardwalk-style food, like candied popcorn and saltwater taffy.

Related: What to Do at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey

About The Author:

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS Radio, Engadget and He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University.