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Favorite Family Beaches

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Bethany Beach, Delaware
Unless you live somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, you've probably never even heard of Bethany Beach. But families from D.C. and Philly have long been smitten with its all-American sands and small-town pleasures. Bare feet are allowed in the stores. Evenings, the sounds coming from the boardwalk bandstand may be courtesy of the U.S. Navy Commodores, the AARP Chorus, or various Elvis impersonators. And the roller coasters and water parks of Ocean City, Maryland (just south), and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (just north), are minutes away. Plus, farm country—and roadside stands piled with tomatoes and corn—is a quick drive inland. STANDOUT BEACH A stroll down Bethany's main drag, Garfield Parkway, takes you right to Sea Colony, where lifeguards patrol the shore and the boardwalk offers window-service hotdogs, French fries, and fruit slushes. DON'T MISS There's no sign outside Dickey's Frozen Custard (97 Garfield on the Boardwalk; 302/537-7992 ) so look for the mural of lifeÐsized dolphins and tropical fish next to the entrance. Head to Salt Pond Golf Club (400 Bethany Loop; 302/539-7525 ) for 18 holes (kids welcome) or to try the "all-natural" mini golf: grasses, sand traps, and water hazards but no cutesy windmills. STAY AT Sea Colony (Rte. 1 at Westway Dr.; 800/732-2656; www.resortquestdelaware.com ; condos from $690 per week; from $960 after June 26 ), the fourth-largest tennis resort in the country. It has 12 pools and 20 nearby golf courses, as well as condos, villas, and town houses on or near the beach. RENT FROM Long and Foster (1150 Coastal Hwy.; 800/228-8833 or 302/539-9040; www.longandfoster.com ). Two-bedroom houses within walking distance of the beach start at $1,500 per week; beachfront houses range from $3,000 to $5,500. ESSENTIAL EATING At Redfin (Coastal Hwy. 1; 302/537-0100; www.redfinseafoodgrill.com , dinner for four $60 ), which overlooks a salt pond, there's shrimp piccata and saffron sun-dried tomato risotto for you, fish-and-chips for the kids. Grotto Pizza (793 Garfield Pkwy.; 302/537-3278 ) delivers. THRIFTY NIFTY Go on a tax-free shopping spree at the Rehoboth Outlets (302/226-9223; www.shoprehoboth.com )—140 stores including OshKosh B'Gosh, Little Me, J. Crew, and Nautica. IDEAL OUTING Drive two hours and 15 minutes south to Chincoteague, Virginia. (Required reading: Misty of Chincoteague , of course.) Rent bikes and take a spin around the seven-mile-long island, and across the bike bridge to neighboring Assateague Island, home to 37 miles of beaches (for information, call 410/641-1441). As you pedal, keep an eye out for wild horses. —Leah Cumsky Whitlock

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Named after a cannon that washed ashore in 1846, artsy Cannon Beach is sandwiched between Highway 101 and the pounding Pacific. Its big selling points: proximity to Seattle and Portland (210 miles south and 80 miles west, respectively); wild, undeveloped beaches; four blocks of galleries and kite stores; and a highly competitive annual sandcastle contest (this year, June 14). LAY OF THE LAND The town extends for four miles along the Pacific, bordered in the north by Ecola State Park and in the south by Tolovana Beach Park. FIRST TOURISTS Lewis and Clark stopped by in 1806 to buy 300 pounds of whale blubber from the native Clatsop Indians. FAMOUS LANDMARK Haystack Rock, a 235-foot boulder, towers above the shore. At low tide during May and June, you can see black-and-white tufted puffins (try saying that 10 times fast!) nesting on its grassy north slope. Look for members of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (they're the ones setting up microscopes and spotting scopes—telescopes that work in daylight—near the rock); they'll teach you how to dig for crabs and clams and help you identify all the strange creatures you'll find in the shallow tide pools around the rock: bright starfish, sea anemones, sea slugs, and limpets. STANDOUT BEACHES The town beach is four miles long and broad, with soft beige sand and calm surf. Secluded and stunning Arch Cape lies five miles to the south. Five more miles down the coast, at Oswald West State Park, is Short Sands Beach, a horseshoe-shaped cove favored by families and surfers for its sandy bottom, reliable waves, and shelter from strong winds. Caveat: The water is a teeth-chattering 54 degrees—only kids and thick-skinned adults brave it. Pack wet suits. STAY AT The beachfront Surfsand Resort (Oceanfront and Gower Sts., 800/547-6100 or 503/436-2274; www.surfsand.com; doubles from $199 ), which has an indoor pool and a Jacuzzi, free ice cream on Saturdays, and a weenie roast on summer Sundays. It's also the site of the Puffin Kite Festival in April. The Ocean Lodge (2864 S. Pacific St.; 888/777-4047 or 503/436-2241; www.theoceanlodge.com; doubles from $219; $279 after June 21 ) caters to young guests, with sand buckets on arrival, a cookie jar in the lobby, and a library stocked with kids' games and books. RENT FROM Cannon Beach Property Management (877/386-3402 or 503/436-2021: www.cbpm.com ); a two-bedroom house with ocean views costs about $1,800 a week. ESSENTIAL EATING Locals line up for eggs Benedict (the vegetarian version substitutes spinach and tomatoes for the ham) and oatmeal waffles topped with strawberries and bananas at the Lazy Susan Café (126 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-2816; breakfast for four $40; no credit cards accepted ), where antique toasters and teapots hang from cedar walls. You'll find razor clams—breaded and panfried—on menus all over town; some of the best are at the Driftwood Inn (179 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-2439; dinner for four $85 ). SUGAR FIX Cannon Beach Cookie Company (239 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-1129 ) bakes starfish-shaped sugar cookies and scones made with marionberries, a specialty of Marion County, Oregon. Across the street at Bruce's Candy Kitchen (256 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-2641 ), saltwater taffy comes in exotic flavors like butter, blackberry, and molasses mint—all made in-house with a 1908 machine. OUTING Bring your binoculars to Ecola State Park , where several trails lead to stunning viewing points. Search the waves for whales, sea lions, and shore birds. ANOTHER WORLD Six miles beyond Ecola State Park is Seaside , a kitschy, buzzing beach town (and favorite destination of spring-breakers). Rent a five-person surrey bike and cruise the boardwalk lined with video arcades, corn dog stands, bumper cars, and an ocean-themed carousel. Your kids will also love the slightly run-down Seaside Aquarium (200 N. Promenade; 503/738-6211 ). RAINY DAY Tour the Tillamook County Creamery Association (4185 Hwy. 101 N.; 503/815-1300 ) to learn about the cheese-making process and sample Tillamook cheddar. PERFECT SOUVENIR A kite from Once Upon a Breeze (240 N. Spruce St.; 503/436-1112 ). —Jaime Gross

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