A lone figure walks the sand along the beach at Hampton. He ll soon have company. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
A lone figure walks the sand along the beach at Hampton. He ll soon have company. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI

Popular beach towns Salisbury and Hampton already check off many of the same boxes as a classic boardwalk.

There's the smell, a distinct mix of briny ocean air mixing with fryer oil.

There's the main strip of shops, arcades and restaurants, many with outdoor seating in view of the sea. There are the rows and rows of small beach houses, sand- and pastel-colored siding, just a minute's walk from the water.

Salisbury and Hampton -- the former in Massachusetts, the latter in New Hampshire -- separated by a five-mile ride along the coast, are longtime favorite vacation spots for residents of Greater Lowell. And with the days growing longer and warmer, the beachside communities are gearing up for another summer season.

A new boardwalk is on the way in Salisbury as part of a large-scale revitalization project. It will run more than 600 feet along Ocean Front South, creating new opportunities for pedestrians and businesses.

Construction started last fall, and the boardwalk will likely open to the public in June, according to a recent article in the Newburyport Daily News. The town is also looking to revitalize the central Broadway Mall.

Hampton's main strip runs about a mile along Ocean Avenue with the beach, on one side and a row of businesses on the other. Most attractions are concentrated within walking distance, which is one of the town's greatest amenities, according to John Kane, marketing director for the Hampton Beach Village District.


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You either love  beach pizza  or you hate it.
You either love beach pizza or you hate it.

"You can do all these activities and never have to move your car for the entire week once you get here," he said.

A handful of old favorites in Hampton closed before the start of this season. The famous shooting gallery in the casino complex will not reopen following the death last year of the woman, Elizabeth Moreau, who ran it. Ashley's Gift Store and the old McDonald's also closed.

Kane said he did not yet know what would replace those businesses, although the new amenities will likely open this season.

Despite the closing of McDonald's, there are a number of food options along Ocean Avenue, from sit-down restaurants to old-fashioned fast-food counters.

Bernie's Beach Bar, with its patio and reggae-pumping Caribbean vibe, is a popular watering hole for young adults.

Skeeball at Playland Arcade in Hampton. Collect tickets at the arcade all summer and cash them in for prizes. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
Skeeball at Playland Arcade in Hampton. Collect tickets at the arcade all summer and cash them in for prizes. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI

Another standout -- at least visually -- is the famous Blink's FryDoe. Its two locations along the strip are hard to miss, with bright orange buildings and awnings, and fried dough is always a popular boardwalk treat, with Blink's offering dozens of sinful toppings.

In Salisbury, the competing pizza duo Cristy's and Tripoli serve up slices virtually next door to one another.

Seaglass, located inside the Blue Ocean Music Hall building, offers a more traditional restaurant experience featuring large windows overlooking the water.

For a break from the sand and sea, both Salisbury and Hampton have a number of indoor amenities. Hampton's Casino Ballroom has concerts and shows scheduled through October, including headlining performances by Barenaked Ladies, The Beach Boys and comedian Norm MacDonald.

The popular strip at Hampton, with the equally popular Blink s FryDoe. Above: If it s fine dining you re looking for, you ll find it at Seaglass, with a
The popular strip at Hampton, with the equally popular Blink s FryDoe. Above: If it s fine dining you re looking for, you ll find it at Seaglass, with a grand view of the ocean in Salisbury. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
In Salisbury, Blue Ocean offers dates with Jefferson Starship, Rusted Root and a number of popular cover bands.

Both have several arcades as well. A steady cacophony of whirs, blips and beeps fills the inside of the Playland Arcade in Hampton, which caters to a wide age range, with games as old as Asteroids and as new as Flying Tickets, a simple game clearly emulating the 2013 mobile craze Flappy Bird. Salisbury's main area has two locations of Joe's Playland across the street from each other.

Hampton's annual festivals, including the Seafood Festival, can grow so popular that lodging gets booked years in advance, Kane said. Another popular event is the annual sand-sculpting competition, which brings in entrants from all corners of the globe.

Q*bert and other old-school games await your quarter at the Playland Arcade in Hampton. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
Q*bert and other old-school games await your quarter at the Playland Arcade in Hampton. SUN/CHRIS LISINSKI
 

"The best in the world come here for this competition," Kane said.

Kane emphasized Hampton's numerous summer events that are free and open to the public, including beach-volleyball tournaments, a Miss Hampton Beach contest (won by Lowell's Brooke Riley last summer), weekly movie screenings on the beach and various fundraising efforts.

All of that, Kane said, is part of an effort to make the vacation spot as accessible and welcoming to families as possible.

"It's about family, family, family, family," Kane said.

And that's another thing Salisbury and Hampton have in common.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.