Going on Faith

OCT-NOV 2016

The Magazine for faith-based travel planners.

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going on faith [ october | november 2016 ] 28 T H E W I L DWO O D S , N E W J E R S E Y Imagine the adrenaline high of riding a giant monster truck on the beach with all the roaring sounds and power that goes with it. The Wildwood Boardwalk offers this noisy experience along with about two miles of shops, eateries, arcades and amusement parks. "The only way I can describe it is the scents, sights and sounds of pure sen- sory overload," said Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement. "It takes you back to what a Jersey boardwalk was like in its heyday. It hasn't changed much, except there are new attractions each year." With more rides than Disneyland, The Wildwoods draw 250,000 people on the boardwalk during its peak season. The Wildwood Boardwalk remains one of the country's last great seaside promenades with three amusement piers and two water parks. Since its modest beginnings as a 150-yard walkway in the 1890s, the board- walk has become a symbol of Americana pop culture, with doo-wop-style archi- tecture preserved in many structures. The Sightseer Tram Cars always make an impression with guests and are known for their classic announcement, "Watch the tram car, please." Originally built for the 1939 World's Fair, the cars have ferried guests up and down the boardwalk since 1949. The wholesome atmosphere especially appeals to church groups. "I think we're the only boardwalk with an active chapel that conducts services throughout the day," said Rose. "The Boardwalk Chapel seats about 100 to 125 people, with a pastor that is very dedicated." Even the Wildwood Boardwalk retains some quiet from the hours of 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., when the city allows bikes on the boardwalk. Groups can rent bikes, stop for breakfast and continue alongside the beach for an up-to-six-mile round-trip ride. www.wildwoodsnj.com LONG BEACH, WASHINGTON With dune grasses on one side and the Pacific's thundering waves on the other, the Long Beach Boardwalk creates the illusion of complete isolation despite its location a short walk from town. "It's really a natural, serene experience as opposed to a carnival boardwalk," said Drew Foster, marketing communications coordinator for the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. "It's different from other boardwalks in that it isn't lined with businesses or rides. It's lined with interpretive panels and nature." This popular boardwalk often appears on lists of America's best boardwalks despite its divergence from other more active sites, since the half-mile trail offers stunning panoramas and wildlife-viewing opportunities at a very accessible loca- tion. Church groups walking the short boardwalk can watch for interpretive panels to point out shipwreck locations, wildlife and the North Head Lighthouse. Visitors should also watch the skies for eagles, peregrine falcons and colorful kites, as the boardwalk hosts the annual Washington State International Kite Festival each August. Guests looking for a longer hike can follow the connecting eight-mile-long Discovery Trail, which commemorates the beach where Lewis and Clark finally reached the Pacific Ocean. The trail runs through forest groves and overlooks and ends in downtown Ilwaco, Washington. After the tranquil walk, groups can experience the excitement of nearby Long Beach's downtown. "Long Beach is your quintessential childhood beach town," said Foster. "There's everything from seafood to saltwater taffy and ice cream shops. We have go-karts, bumper cars and carnival rides." www.funbeach.com M Y RT L E B E AC H , S O U T H C A RO L I N A To breathe new life into its Grand Strand beachfront, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, built a 1.2-mile-long boardwalk in 2010 that now serves as its uncon- ventional downtown. "What I love about the boardwalk is that it is located in the nostalgic part of Myrtle Beach," said Ursula Grant, meeting and convention sales manager for the Myrtle Beach CVB. "The original beach arcade is still open. It takes you back to childhood fun." The downtown centers on Plyler Park, which hosts events such as Hot Summer Nights. Running from June through the end of August, the summerlong celebra- tion features live concerts, a carnival and weekly fireworks displays. Numerous attractions lie farther down the Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Boardwalk, among them Family Kingdom amusement park. The park is easily spotted for its massive Skywheel, Slingshot and Twist 'n' Shout rides. Restaurants, souvenir shops, and roaming stilt walkers, jugglers and bagpipers add to the walk's festive feel. Groups can choose among typical carnival foods or opt for more upscale places like the Pier House Restaurant. Though all these attractions may give the impression the boardwalk is overrun with activity, different portions of the boardwalk can seem like an escape. "It's a great spot for church groups that want to relax and get some dinner," said Grant. "You can get away from the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach." From the boardwalk, groups can also quickly access Myrtle Beach's other top attractions, such as golf courses and Broadway at the Beach's 350-acre entertain- ment complex. www.visitmyrtlebeach.com S A N TA C R U Z , C A L I F O R N I A At the end of the 1800s, Santa Cruz, California, local Fred W. Swanton had a vision: a Coney Island of the West. His idea materialized in 1907 with the opening of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has become one of the last classic seaside amusement parks in the country. Today, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk continues to entertain guests on a stretch of northern California beach that con- tinues to grow. "The park has been there for 109 years, so we're really proud of our history," said Chuck Ryder, director of sales for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. "We have a mix of old history as well as new rides brought in every year." Two beloved rides designated National Historic Landmarks still bring smiles to riders each day. The 1911 Looff Carousel takes guests round and round to the tune of its original 342-pipe organ, which dates back to 1894. The other historic treasure, the Giant Dipper roller coaster, is not only an iconic image of the board- walk but has also been featured in several movies, including "Sudden Impact," "The Lost Boys" and "Dangerous Minds." Groups can learn more about the kitschy boardwalk's history on the second floor of the entertainment center Neptune's Kingdom, where free exhibits chron- icle the site's first 100 years. The park also offers a Historic Walking Tour bro- chure, plus 18 interpretive signs. The park delivers more than a history lesson, however. Its focus is producing laughs and screams at its various attractions and rides, including the Haunted Castle, the Casino Arcade and Neptune's Kingdom, which houses mini golf, pool tables and other indoor fun. The park regularly welcomes faith-based groups at events like the Boardwalk Beach Blitz, where regional youth ministries gather to encounter God and fellowship with other teens. Church groups can choose from a number of park packages, including an all-day ride wristband, a private buffet area and private beach games. www.beachboardwalk.com

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