Ocean City, New Jersey
It has all the ingredients for a rousing good time: eight miles of wide, lifeguard-staffed beach, a boardwalk lined with souvenir shops and snack bars, an amusement park, and a water park. It’s also free of any rowdiness because it’s free of alcohol.
Stay: The unpretentious Forum Motor Inn (609/399-8700 or theforuminocnj.com) offers large, clean, well-stocked rooms for much less than you’d pay a block away on the boardwalk. Rates range from $72 to $194 for double occupancy. To see available vacation rentals, visit oceancitynj.com.
Eat: Serving everything from scallops to grilled cheese, the Café Beach Club (609/398-7700 or beachclubhotel.com/restaurant.asp) is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with tables on the boardwalk. Everybody loves the saltwater taffy at Shriver’s (877/668-2339 or shrivers.com).
Shop: Leave the boys in the arcade while the girls visit Hello Dollies (609/399-2800 or hellodolliesdolls.com), a doll shop across from the Music Pier.
Local secret: Breakfast on homemade doughnuts at the open-air Oves restaurant (609/398-3712 or ovesrestaurant.com)—which also rents bikes for working off the calories.
More Kid-Approved Beaches
■ Long Beach Peninsula, Washington: Kites reign; there’s a kite festival in August and a kite museum, plus a sand castle competition in July (800/451-2542 or funbeach.com).
■ Napili Beach, Kapalua, Hawaii: The compact size and crescent shape of this northwest Maui beach keep kids always in view, and the swimming, boogie boarding, bodysurfing, and snorkeling keep them happy. “Low-key” sums up the Napili Kai Beach Resort (808/669-6271 or napilikai.com) and other quiet condo resorts that perch above the sand. Bonuses: great sunsets and a cove full of turtles.
■ Sanibel Island, Florida: Absolutely the best shell-gathering anywhere; try quiet Bowman’s Beach (800/237-6444 or fortmyerssanibel.com).
■ Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica, California: Wide beach with volleyball and surfing, plus an amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier (800/544-5319 or santamonica.com)