Sunlight warming your skin, cool water splashing against your ankles, the rhythmic crash of the waves and the laughter of splashing in them, the tang of salt in the air; the beach is a quintessential vacation experience for families. Here are some ideas to take your fun in the sun to the next level.
Tidepool exploration can be a great way to learn more about the ecology of our world’s oceans while providing a unique hands-on experience for the whole family. Use tide charts to time your arrival for low tide for maximum exposure, and take your time examining every nook and cranny for tiny hermit crabs, sea urchins, multicolored sea stars, and maybe even an octopus. Consider bringing along an observation journal so the whole family can practice categorizing and classifying what you see.
Families with older kids and a bit more of a budget may want to consider taking a class together to learn a new water sport. Surfing is an absolute classic for good reason, but if you worry you can’t hang ten, bodyboarding might be more your style—all you’ve got to do is hang on! And with stand-up paddle boarding only gaining popularity, now’s the perfect time to find a bay or cove and take a board out. Larger and sturdier than surfboards, paddleboards are so stable in the water that some folks even do yoga on them—but if all you do is paddle about with a kid or two perched beside you, that’s good times too.
Every toddler knows it’s not a day at the beach without a sandcastle, but why stop there? Get the whole family involved by setting up a little bit of friendly competition. Everybody can build their own, or you can choose to work in teams to create the longest tunnel network, or the fortress with the most turrets, or the silliest Seussian city. Collect shells and sticks for decoration and flags, and be sure to reward everyone for a hard day’s work with something that commemorates their castle’s achievement. Take some pictures, and then keep the video going for the next best part: what goes up, must come down! Make like Godzilla and destroy the joint, smoothing the way for the next city of sand.
Many state beaches offer overnight tent camping for families whose idea of a day at the beach includes sunset and sunrise. Get your bonfire started as the sun’s going down, and watch the western horizon for the infamous green flash that occurs at the stroke of sunset; by the time it gets well and truly dark, your fire should be hot enough for s’mores.
Under the Sea
Rent some fins and a mask for each swimmer in the family and head for a local reef or underwater preserve to make the most of your equipment, keeping your eyes peeled for coral, kelp, and all manner of undersea creatures from schools of shining fishes to seals, sea lions, and dolphins. These snorkel sites offer plenty of adventure for all.
You might be surprised at the number of beaches with bustling boardwalk attractions. Rollercoasters, zip lines, carousels, and climbing walls spring up amidst classic boardwalk games, buskers and street performers, laser tag mazes and arcades, and vendor stalls packed with fried food and sweet desserts in places as far-flung as San Diego, California and Ocean City, Maryland. Visit one of these places and you can have your surf and turf, all in one outstanding day.