From the sprawling 35-mile long Virginia Beach on the east coast to the eclectic Venice Beach in California, American beaches draw millions of body surfers, sun worshipers, and sandcastle builders every year. America is such a water-sport country that experts now recommend that parents begin swimming lessons for their kids as early as 1 year old! It sure makes the choice of vacation destination easier.
During the winter, some of America's beaches are perfect for a December dip, while others offer quiet seclusion during the quiet months. Here are ten of America's most popular beaches, worth a visit at any time of year.
Venice Beach, California
While the average winter water temperatures aren't quite warm enough for swimming, daily daytime highs in the upper 60s and low 70s make Los Angeles' Venice Beach perfect for rollerblading, working on your tan, or a game of volleyball. Stop by the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym or stroll along the landmark Venice Canals. A promenade lined with funky shops, eateries, and lodgings runs the length of the two-and-a-half-mile beach.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Powder, white sand, and teal green waters make Florida's Emerald Coast one of our country's favorite beach destinations. Located at the eastern end of this stretch of paradise along Florida's Gulf Coast, Panama City Beach draws a range of visitors throughout the year. If the kids are in tow, a six-mile area along the beach boasts seven amusement parks, including Shipwreck Island Water Park, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, and Gulf World - a world-class aquarium and sea life habitat.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Most people think of casino gambling, Miss America, and saltwater taffy when they hear Atlantic City. But, Atlantic City also has a four-mile-long beach with two piers, a 60-foot wide boardwalk, and easy access to over a dozen casino hotels. Watch the sunrise after a long night of winning (or losing) at the tables, or work off last night's visit to the buffet with a morning jog along the beach. Lodging prices drop in the winter, even as many hotels continue to book world-class entertainment throughout the colder months.
Okay, let's be serious. You really want to get away from the frigid temps that blanket most of the country during winter. How do palm-tree lined beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and daytime temperatures in the upper 70's sound? The Florida Keys longest island - Islamorada - delivers all that and more. Most Islamorada resorts offer a tropical paradise feel, thanks to beachfront locations on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Islamorada restaurants serve up everything from pizza to Conch Fritters, and, of course, the world's best Key Lime Pie.
Miami Beach, Florida
From the unique vibe of South Beach to its north end's soft sands, Miami Beach offers the perfect mix of sand and surf, nightlife, and attractions to fill out even the longest winter break. With hundreds of lodgings in every price range along its nine-mile boardwalk, you will never need to walk far to catch a few rays. An average December ocean temperature of 77 degrees makes swimming possible at any time of year. The South Beach section has dozens of clubs and restaurants overlooking the beach, as well as the world's largest Art Deco district.
Vero Beach, Florida
Notice a pattern? An informal survey by Tripadvisor recently revealed that Florida has 10 of the top 15 most popular beaches in the United States. That said, Vero Beach offers visitors a perfect mix of classic Florida charm, exciting attractions, and gorgeous oceanfront. Downtown Vero Beach has various shops, restaurants, and plenty of spots to grab a cold one. If baseball is your passion, several major league teams, including the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals, and the Houston Astros, have spring training facilities less than an hour's drive from Vero Beach.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Located at the state's southeastern most point, Hilton Head, South Carolina boasts 60-miles of bicycle trails, 12-miles of beachfront, and a laid-back Low Country vibe. Visitors to Hilton Head enjoy significant discounts on lodgings, fewer crowds, and daily high temperatures anywhere from the mid-fifties to the high seventies during the winter months. The small island has 12 golf courses, including the Harbour Town Golf Links, which hosts a PGA tournament every April.
Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
Mica in the sand gives gorgeous Coronado Beach a unique silver glitter. Located in the resort city of Coronado, the four different beaches that make up the Coronado beachfront - Glorietta Bay Park, Coronado City Beach, Tidelands Park, and Centennial Park stay warm enough for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing year-round. Just steps from the beach, the Hotel del Coronado offers Victorian themed luxury accommodations with stunning ocean views. Nearby attractions include the San Diego Zoo, Seaworld, and the USS Midway Museum.
If you do visit the Emerald Coast, be sure to stop in Destin as well. Destin earned the nickname of "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village" thanks to record-sized catches in numerous fish species. Enjoy spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico along Florida's scenic route 30A as you drive west from Panama City Beach. Stop for lunch in Seaside - the backdrop for Jim Carrey's 1998 hit film "The Truman Show." Along with several pristine beach areas and excellent fishing, Destin also has a bustling harbor front with some of the world's best seafood restaurants.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Along with the country's longest beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia, has some of our nation's most popular attractions within an hour's drive from its downtown. The area enjoys winter temperatures warm enough to bike on its three-mile boardwalk, as well as to take a stroll on the beach, or browse one of the town's many unique shops. Low prices on most Virginia Beach hotels make it the perfect base for day trips to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, and Colonial Williamsburg.