Best beaches for families
By Elina Bolokhova
From Ideas That Spark
Summer is synonymous with spending time seaside. We've gone ahead and taken the guesswork out of finding a beach that's just right for your family. Here are five sandy locations that offer something for everyone:
1. Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Located just an hour from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is a great escape for families who need a break from non-stop park-hopping. This stretch of sand was first made popular by the sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie," and it earned the moniker "Space Coast" for serving as the site of NASA's space shuttle launches until 2011. Pay a visit to the Ron Jon Surf Shop -- the largest surf store in the world with 2 million annual visitors -- and the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum to get your collective cowabunga on. Then sprawl out on the pristine white sand, collect seashells, throw a line off the fishing pier and get some much-deserved R & R. Access to the beach is free year-round, with beach rentals and showers available.
2. Old Silver Beach, Mass.
It's no secret that Cape Cod has been a beach vacay go-to for years. Out of the Cape's offerings, Old Silver Beach in Falmouth is the ideal location for families with small children. Little hands can mold the soft, white sand into castles. The warm water is shallow thanks to a south-end sandbank and there are rock pools filled with minnows, crabs and other little critters for kids to discover. If you're looking to teach your children to swim, this may be the place to do it. Parking during the peak summer season costs $20 for the entire day.
3. Coney Island Beach, N.Y.
If you find yourself in New York City during the summer, take the subway train down to Coney Island. It might not have picturesque white-sand beaches, but the attractions make it worth the trip. Feeling brave? Take a ride on the historic, 87-year-old Cyclone roller-coaster before exploring the newly resurrected Luna Park Amusement Park. You can also visit the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States, catch a Brooklyn Cyclones game and let the tykes take in some history at the Coney Island Museum. Don't leave without trying a Nathan's Famous hot dog at the franchise's original location.
4. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
It's easy to be a beach bum at Myrtle Beach: With 60 miles of shoreline, you won't be hard-pressed to find a place to sprawl out. But with so many other activities, you might feel a little guilty about spending your entire day on a beach towel. The little ones will jump at the chance to see large cats at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species or watch a live alligator feeding at nearby Alligator Adventure. Or you can tour a real castle, like the Mediterranean-inspired Atalaya Castle, which boasts 30 rooms and offers tours for a small fee.Need some nature beyond the standard sand and surf? Head over to the Brookgreen Gardens, the country's first sculpture garden. When the sun sets, make your way to Broadway at the Boardwalk for live entertainment, theater shows and carnival-style rides.
5. Virginia Beach, Va.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists Virginia Beach as the world's longest recreational beach. Spanning 3 miles, the accompanying boardwalk is truly not to be missed. Take a stroll to enjoy the nautical sculptures decorating the side streets -- the crown jewel is the famous 34-foot bronze statue of King Neptune. Virginia Beach is also a fantastic place to keep kids active, since they have their choice of amusement park rides, bike rentals or water sports. To catch a stunning panoramic view, climb all 191 steps to the top of Old Henry Lighthouse. When you get tired of being out in the sun, stop by the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center to admire 800,000 gallons of marine habitats and over 300 hands-on exhibits.
Elina Bolokhova is a freelance writer, editor and digital content strategist. The former Parenting.com editor has been published in Parenting and Babytalk magazines, as well as on CNN, AOL and Yahoo. She specializes in lifestyle writing, with a focus on beauty, food and travel.
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