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Between remote learning, canceled activities and shuttered play spaces, families could surely use a break right now, so planning a relaxing, vitamin D-packed beach getaway might just what the doctor ordered. If you’re looking ahead to a beach that delivers not only on sun and sand, but also on kid-friendly amenities, these top picks are your best bets for a waterfront weekend of family fun.
Coronado Beach: San Diego, CA
It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to this beach that starts near the famed Hotel del Coronado—the inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz—and stretches north to Sunset Park. The wide shore is readymade for sandcastles and kite flying.
Brighton Beach: Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn’s Coney Island can feel overstimulating for kids, so opt for this next-door beach that’s more low-key. Easily accessible by subway, Brighton is perfect for a stroll along the nearly 3-mile-long boardwalk. Also take time to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of the surrounding neighborhood. The Eastern European enclave of Little Odessa is like a vacation within a vacation.
12th Street Beach: Chicago, IL
This beach sits on Chicago’s Museum Campus just south of downtown, so you can visit the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium or Field Museum of Natural History before lounging in the sand. Grab food from Del Campo’s Tacos, then burn off the calories with a bike ride around Northerly Island.
Kelleys Island State Park Beach: Kelleys Island, OH
Boasting calm, shallow waters, this remote Lake Erie beach is ideal for toddlers. A playground, picnic shelters and clean restrooms check all the major boxes for parents. And getting there is half the fun when you ride the Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line from Marblehead, which features views of the Marblehead Lighthouse and Cedar Point amusement park—both of which deserve a spot on your itinerary.
Sixty miles of unspoiled Atlantic coastline are just the beginning of the Southern charm you’ll find in this popular family vacation destination. The beach is a great place to find sand dollars and fossils—the perfect souvenir for adventurous kids and budget-minded parents alike. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, spend an afternoon at the seaside Family Kingdom Amusement Park and save room for seafood.
Sugary soft sand, shallow turquoise waters and a waterfront playground make this beach an easy sell for families. When you need a break from the heat, embark on the kitschy-fun Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise or catch the trolley to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Dolphin Tale stars Winter and Hope. Then return to the pier for evening festivities that include street performers, free outdoor weekend movies and spectacular sunsets.
Florida’s Central Atlantic Coast is like a ready-made field trip for families. For starters, there’s the beach itself: Enjoy a meal on the pier, cruise along the hard-packed sand on rented bicycles and go bioluminescent kayaking after dark. Cocoa Beach is also a convenient home base for exploring the area’s other family-friendly attractions, like Kennedy Space Center, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse and the Brevard Zoo.
Ko’Olina Beach Park: Kapolei, HI
Translated as “place of joy,” this jewel of a beach is sure to make your family happy. Young kids can splash safely in the gem-like lagoons, while older ones practice snorkeling or paddleboarding. Located on the island of Oahu about 25 miles west of Honolulu, it makes a great day trip from the capital city.
Stewart Beach: Galveston, TX
Families are in for Texas-sized fun at this beach that includes a playground, concessions and volleyball courts. And no visit would be complete without a trip to Pleasure Pier, a gulf-facing amusement park with rides that extend over the water. Round out your stay with a tour of the Victorian-era home known as Bishop’s Palace.
Leo Carrillo State Beach: Malibu, CA
If swimming doesn’t tire out your kids, then exploring this beach’s breathtaking rock formations certainly will. The kids will also get a thrill from watching the surfers at high tide. Nearby parking is a bonus.
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