For many US families, rites of summer include hailing ice cream trucks, playing (or at least watching) baseball and taking trips to the beach. While the first 2 activities similar in most places, beach-going can lead to a host of eclectic experiences, depending on where your family vacations. Here are 5 fun ways to spend a summer day at the beach.
Crabbing in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts
Most New Englanders who summer on Cape Cod frequent the wave-ridden ocean-side beaches that line Cape Cod National Seashore. For a quieter experience, however, take the family to the calmer beaches along Cape Cod Bay, and be sure to bring a trowel to dig for crabs that burrow in the sand. Some of the least populous beaches on the east side of the "elbow" are in and around Eastham; First Encounter Beach, for instance, is popular among locals. Though the crabs that can be found here (they're called rock, or peekytoe, crabs) aren't necessarily meaty, kids and grownups alike love the process of looking for breathing holes and digging for treasure.
Kite-flying on Long Beach, Washington
The beach at Long Beach, WA, is a perfect spot for flying kites. For starters, (as its name suggests) the beach is long, wide and relatively flat. More important, because the town sits on a peninsula in the southwest corner of the state, wind is always whipping off the Pacific, providing ideal conditions for keeping canvas kites aloft. Kite-flying in these parts is so renowned that local chambers of commerce band together to sponsor the Washington State International Kite Festival every year. Long Beach itself is even home to the World Kite Museum, an informative facility started by kite enthusiasts in the 1980s that also sells hundreds of specimens for those visitors who come unprepared.
Exploring dunes at Silver Lake, Michigan
Lakefront beaches are just as spectacular as ocean beaches -- especially when they come with giant sand dunes waiting to be explored. Such is the case with the Silver Lake Sand Dunes area, situated along Lake Michigan just west of US-31. The area boasts the only dunes east of Utah to allow motorized vehicles in the summer, which means they are a favorite spot for families with kids old enough to zip around on Go-Karts, dune buggies and ATVs. Snowboarding fans like surfing down the dunes, too -- go figure, but the technical term is "dune surfing." At the end of every summer, the area also is home to the annual Apple & BBQ Cookoff Festival.
Surf-casting Playalinda Beach, Florida
You don't have to head out on a boat to fish from the ocean; at least not when the family is vacationing near Cape Canaveral National Seashore and Playalinda Beach. This stretch of shoreline -- located in the shadow of the Space Shuttle launch site -- is renowned in fishing circles as a destination for surf-fishing, a type of fishing in which one casts into the water from the spot where waves break on shore. Up for grabs in this part of the world: pompano, black drum and whiting, among other fish. Fishing is best roughly 2 hours before or after high tide. While you're out there, keep your eyes peeled for bottlenose dolphins cavorting in the warm water.
Tidepooling south of San Francisco, California
Life abounds in the pools left behind by the retreating tides at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, CA. Here, in the cracks and crevasses of the rocky shore, beachcombers can find everything from colorful sea anemones to skittish hermit crabs, prickly sea urchins and tiny shrimp. On certain days, the area also is climbing with California sea lions, many of which bob their heads above the water's surface like periscopes. Families can explore the tidepools independently, or they can take a guided interpretive hike led by local rangers and docents. While the area has tidal pools year-round, the pools are most accessible on days with the lowest tides of the year.